COVID-19: Essential Information

Staffing and Workforce Planning

June 19, 2018

Dear Colleagues,
One of the primary responsibilities of my role, and of the Board of Trustees to whom I report, is assuring the financial sustainability and health of Middlebury. As our recent graduation and Reunion weekends reminded us, we are extremely fortunate in many ways. But like many colleges across the country, we are also not immune to rising costs and a challenging competitive environment, as well as new demands being placed upon us. We need to educate students for a future where change occurs at an even more rapid pace than today.
One of the principles of Envisioning Middlebury is that we exercise responsible stewardship of our resources. To do this, we need to make financial decisions that support our foundational goals of pursuing knowledge in our classrooms, creating new knowledge in our scholarship, building community through service, and imagining a future that is strategic and yet remains true to Middlebury’s deepest values.
As you know from our updates and open meetings, we have made tremendous progress over the past two years in reducing our operating deficit through sensible and pragmatic approaches. We’re in the process, through our partnership with the Green Mountain Higher Education Consortium, of introducing next-generation enterprise resource planning systems for our Offices of Finance, HR, and Advancement, which will save us an estimated $7 million over the next five to six years, compared to going it alone. To invest in the educational programs as well as in our people—both faculty and staff—we need to evolve in our approach if we are to continue to succeed. The final stages of that financial sustainability work are often the hardest, and we are approaching that time period now.
Fundamentally, this means we must align our staffing, our budgets, and our processes with our strategic aspirations for liberal learning at Middlebury. To do this, in the coming fiscal year we will increase our focus on workforce planning— a strategy to identify work we can stop doing and ways of working we can streamline and improve. Workforce planning is based on employees’ everyday experiences of the workplace and can be done only in conversation with people who do the work. At Middlebury, over the course of the next several months, we will look at every corner of our operations. And after that careful review, we will develop a specific plan for the future work of every unit and administrative office at Middlebury. This effort will include a review of the size and structure of the senior administration and support staff.
Faculty and staff compensation, including benefits, amounts to about 68 percent of Middlebury’s total operational costs, or more than $170 million. If we are to balance our budget, we cannot sustain that level of compensation expense. And so, as part of our workforce planning effort, we plan to introduce an elective, incentive-based separation plan for staff as well as a set of elective, incentive-based retirement and separation plans for faculty in Middlebury and Monterey later this year. We will be in touch very shortly with more detail on these plans. At the same time, it is important to say that we remain committed to a salary structure that is competitive and equitable. We have made some progress in that area, but more work remains to be done.
Since I arrived at Middlebury, I have approached the issue of systemic operating deficits straightforwardly and with transparency. David Provost, our executive vice president for finance and administration, has provided frequent updates on our financial state to many of you. David and Karen Miller, vice president for human resources, will be providing more detail about the workforce planning process and the elective separation plan in the weeks and months ahead. The key will be employee engagement, where people’s ideas and experiences in imagining a sustainable future state of work are not just welcome—but necessary.
While no specific decisions have been made, I am keenly aware that some of the conversations and decisions in the months ahead will be challenging ones. I am confident that as a community we will work through this period of transition in the Middlebury spirit of fairness and compassion, of shared responsibility, and always with the best long-term interests of the institution in mind. 
I thank you in advance for your support and collaboration, for your ideas, and for your deep commitment to Middlebury’s educational mission.
Laurie Patton,