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Next Steps on Workforce Planning and Incentive Separation Plan

June 27, 2018

To: All Middlebury Staff
 
Subject: Next Steps on Workforce Planning and Incentive Separation Plan
 
We write today to follow up on President Patton’s email of last week and to provide some additional details about Middlebury’s workforce planning efforts and the elective, incentive separation plan that will be introduced later this year for staff.
 
Starting this month, and building on the work that was done in some areas this spring, Human Resources will begin working with vice presidents and managers across the institution to begin workforce planning activities with the goal of developing specific plans for the work of each office and department. Workforce planning is a process of analyzing our workforce, identifying our future needs, and developing solutions to address the gaps between the two. Our goals are to ensure we have a workforce positioned to advance the institution and to reduce the overall size of our workforce. Utilized effectively, workforce planning ensures that we adequately and responsibly plan and address, rather than just react to, operational and environmental changes with financially sound strategies. We want to emphasize that workforce planning does not mean increasing the workload for fewer people. It means prioritizing work and stopping less important work so that the workload is sustainable.
 
We have an opportunity to meet this challenge collaboratively. Leaders of the institution and managers will be charged with advancing the process, conducting organizational assessments, and collaborating with stakeholders. The work and planning efforts will be rigorous and intense, and many of you will be involved directly. The realistic future state we seek can be achieved only through a rich community conversation.
 
This conversation will happen in the following way: Each vice president will lead these conversations in their area, with the support of a project team composed of managers and key staff members who have insights into particular areas of work. Throughout the process, these project teams will look for ways to engage other staff in this conversation, not only to gain further insight, but also to ensure that our thinking and decisions are shared through this process. The process moves through five distinct steps: 1) defining the future state; 2) analyzing the current workforce; 3) identifying any gaps; 4) developing a strategy, priorities, and a plan; and 5) executing the plan.
 
The explicit goals of this exercise are to find new ways of working and to reduce our overall staff headcount. While we do not enter this process with a set of specific, predetermined targets by department, we hope to shrink staff compensation costs, before benefits, across the institution by $8 million, or about 10 percent from today’s level. In addition to reductions in staff, the recommendations that emerge from the process may lead to tweaking positions and organizational structures in some areas and implementing wider reorganizations in others. 
 
At this point, we anticipate that incentive separation offers will be made in two phases. The first phase will occur this fall, likely in October, and will begin with a relatively small number of departments that are under consideration for shared services. The second phase will take place in the spring, most likely in April, and will encompass the rest of the institution following the completion of workforce planning throughout the fall and winter. In all cases, the offers will consider the position rather than the person in that position to ensure that we focus on the work we do and abide by antidiscrimination laws.
 
Many of you will recognize that this is a different approach from the one Middlebury took during the economic crisis of 2008–2009. At that time, Middlebury offered a series of “open” voluntary programs, some designed specifically for retirement and one for any interested employee. While that is a common approach taken by many institutions in times of financial stress or structural change, there are problems with it, some of which we experienced following the 2008–2009 buyouts. Because the institution cannot control who leaves, it sometimes loses employees it most needs to retain. Certain departments may be affected disproportionately. And in some cases, people who leave must ultimately be replaced, so the cost savings are fleeting. Middlebury has added 159 staff since the completion of the buyouts in 2008–2009. We believe the approach we are taking now is more strategic. Only by redesigning the work—not by simply reducing staff—can we achieve long-lasting change.
 
We are hopeful this approach—workforce planning followed by elective, incentive separation packages—will enable Middlebury to realize the $8 million in staff compensation savings we need. At the same time, we will continue to seek operational savings wherever we can. We will contemplate an involuntary reduction in force only if we do not meet our goals.
 
The savings we must achieve cannot and should not be achieved solely through a reduction in staff. Later this year we plan to offer incentive plans for faculty at the College and Institute. Because Middlebury has more than one model for employing faculty, those plans will differ. But on both campuses we will pursue a goal of achieving meaningful financial savings while preserving our educational mission.
 
We appreciate the difficulty of the personal decisions many of our fellow Middlebury community members will confront in the coming year. We are committed to upholding President Patton’s expressed desire that our community 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.”
 
We are attaching a set of FAQs that we hope will answer most of your questions. Your department managers and Human Resources also will provide more information as the offer and decision dates for the incentive separation plan approach this fall and early next year.
 
We are grateful for all of your effort on behalf of Middlebury’s educational mission, particularly as we work together to meet the challenges ahead.
 
Thank you,
 
David Provost
Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration
 
Karen Miller
Vice President for Human Resources and Chief Risk Officer