Frequently Asked Questions
No. This is not like an across-the-board percent raise. Some people may see a significant increase, and some may see nothing or something relatively small. All based on the new methodology and tied to market. More to come next month on each part of this approach.
No, all staff positions are being reviewed for market.
The staff compensation project is for staff on US payroll only. The Mercer study did not cover market data for locations outside the US (it also did not cover US territories). We will work separately to build and support our staff colleagues in locations outside of the US.
No. Positions in Monterey and in Washington D.C. will have a 15% geographical difference added to them.
Compensation will be based upon the location of the anchor function.
This is not a specific factor in the new system. The new system is looking at the market along with an employee’s ownership and impact in their role. However, tenure in role helps to build an employee’s ability to have high levels of ownership and impact, in many cases, so it can play into the overall picture.
Generally, all positions will be treated the same regardless of funding source.
Yes, every position is being reviewed and transitioned to the new structure, regardless of when it was filled.
This work is only for staff compensation. Student employee compensation is a separate area of work.
This is out of scope for the staff compensation program rolling out in July but is certainly something HR can partner with Academic Affairs to review.
Q How do we map from the current structure that has bands and levels to the new structure that has grades?
We don’t. The structures are completely different as they are based on a different philosophy and approach.
The skills assessment is intended to be an opportunity for managers and employees to discuss the employee’s career progression, not their performance over the past year. We have sunset the APS system and currently do not have a performance system, but managers are encouraged to discuss opportunities to grow and learn with their staff, in a timely manner. Regular performance discussions should be an important time to have ongoing discussions not only about what is happening in real time but how all of us as staff can understand and develop in our roles, meaning how our career is progressing in terms of impact and ownership. Career progression is a long term evolution that will move at different paces and towards different end points for each staff member.
Past annual performance summaries are not a factor in the new structure nor will there be adjustments based upon past performance. Future salaries will depend solely on the market and skill matrix. If someone will not receive an increase it is simply that an increase is not warranted given our programs focus on market and career progression. As the market moves over time we would likely see it catch up to those rates and at some point increases would resume.
Q Is there a plan to recognize employees that earned 'exceeds expectations' in 2020 and that did not see an increase tied to that achievement?
No, there were no increases in that fiscal year and we will not be returning to make any adjustments in pay.
Q Can you explain how jobs will be placed in the grades? Are the new grades the same or different than OP 1, 2, 3?
The new grades will be entirely different than OP 1, 2, 3 and the other structures. We are not mapping from the old to the new system—think of it as from a blank piece of paper as we reimage how we approach staff compensation. The new system is based on market data and roles that we could directly tie to the market. From there, the HR team assessed other roles where we didn’t have sufficient market data to map them within the new structure. To do this, we looked at positions with similar market influences; similar knowledge, skills and abilities; similar level of responsibility, and career paths.
Each staff member will receive an individual communication via email with the grade placement of their role, their skill matrix level and their FY23 pay rate. These went out on June 22.
The grades are defined by the market, which means what similar employers are paying for similar roles. This is a different approach then our former system that had a framework based on the job content. Because of this, there are no ‘definitions’ across the board.
Q How/when can we find out the levels in which other positions in our department/office are placed and what other positions at the College are in our same level?
This information is not currently available because we have transitioned to a new tool for recruiting (Workable) and are working to sunset PeopleAdmin (which has supported recruiting as well as job descriptions). Once we build a new approach to storing, publishing and updating job descriptions publicly grades will be included there. We anticipate having this available in the new job description library later this fall.
Q Is the placement of a non-benchmarked job (like the Supervisor of Mud Season Sap Collection) really individual agnostic? Or do you take into consideration the individual in the role?
The first step around role is completely agnostic to individual in the role. The role is based on the job description, requirements of the position, scope of the responsibility, etc. This structure is designed to avoid any situation where one person would be favored over another in the same role.
VP’s, and other leaders supporting the process, will be have the opportunity to review and validate the proposed grade for each role within their area and to provide additional market data sources.
We used current job descriptions to benchmark and map positions into the new structure. If a job description is outdated, the Hiring Manager will be able to submit revisions after we complete the transition to the new structure. It is important to understand that the comparison with market is based on the primary focus of the job and changing job titles, updating individual responsibilities, adjusting education/experience requirements in general will not impact the placement using market data.
Please have your manager reach out to their HR Business Partner to request and discuss the correction.
Q I’m curious how this will impact the ‘merit raises’ we have had for years, which really are more like a COLA (cost of living). Will across the board COLA still happen each year or two, or will those increases happen in some other fashion?
COLA increases will go away. We will evaluate the market each year and adjust the grades (ranges) as needed to stay competitive to the market. These will, of course, take into account inflation, market dynamics, peer institutions and others market changes but will not be tied directly to a COLA percentage across the board. Individual employees will see a shift in their compensation on a year-to-year basis if the market changes, if their position in the skill matrix changes and/or if they have a new role or promotion. We will share more about different scenarios for movement year over year.
Yes. The market accounts for inflation generally and we are basing our ranges on the market data. We are not explicitly tying the rates to inflation trends but they do impact the market data.
Q Is it safe to assume that there will be COLA adjustments along the way, as well as market adjustments, so that people will see some growth in their income?
No. We are moving to a system that will only be based on market, so it will not explicitly include COLA broken out in any way across the board.
We’ve never had a specific COLA raise; we have had across-the -board increases based upon our available compensation budget. The new structure will use labor market data that captures a number of market pressures and dynamics.
We’re going to apply judgement to the market data. There are compliance and legal regulations against artificially holding down wages or colluding with other organizations.
Q How old is the market data that is being used to figure these levels? The market this year is more competitive than in past years.
The market data is from 2021. We are monitoring any significant shifts but working with what we have to get this into operation and continue to adjust from there. We also have a step in the role out process where we are asking each functional area to weigh in on if there is additional market data to consider as we go through this process and it can be added into the process.
Q May we have access to Mercer study findings for our individual offices? To see if they align with our own solid data from various associations, etc. thanks to membership surveys?
Yes! During the review process for roles and placement, there is a clear place where department leadership will see which roles we have market data for and what the market midpoint is. Department leaders will be invited to share any additional market data to help validate the market position.
No, there is a significant amount of information that has been analyzed along with the collaboration with managers and leaders then the institutional review which resulted in the grade placement. Sharing that full data set would not tell the full story of how grades were set. We shared details in the March materials about the Mercer study.
The Mercer data defines the market as other private or independent higher education institutions that are similar to Middlebury when compared by total operating expenses and enrollment. The primary comparison group used to obtain market data included schools in our geographical area.
Q Do you have any data you can share that reflects how the market has changed over the past 5 - 10 years?
Having a structure based upon the market is new for Middlebury so we don’t have market data based upon past years.
Each year we will consider the best sources for data based on our institutional needs, with higher-ed being the primary market. Costs of surveys change annually so we can predict what that will be.
We compare our jobs to the jobs in the market. If a new manager role (or any other type of role) is created we will look for a comparison in the market.
Yes. There were a combination of factors that contributed to the comparison groups. If another organization has a significantly different operating budget they would fall in a different group and were not included.
Mercer helped us to define perimeters to ensure that we were looking at comparable institutions. Those perimeters were operating expenses, student enrollment, geography, and affiliation. We used both primary and secondary comparison groups (which together totaled 105 similar institutions) to ensure we had adequate data.
We followed the recommended best practices of our consulting partner Mercer when determining our approach to defining market. Given how many different types of positions exist at a college or university we are more likely to have the most matched benchmark positions when we compare ourselves with other institutions.
The comparison groups that we used considered geography as a parameter. So, the baseline rates you see for VT factor in cost of living for employees who work in the surrounding area.
Q Why are the peer schools for staff market comparison different than those used for faculty market comparisons and different from our peer liberal arts colleges?
The factors that influence where students attend college are very different from those that drive college operational and budget issues. For compensation comparisons it is standard practice to consider budget size, student size and geography.
The market data is always based on the most recent data available. This is best practice and is the same method used by our peers.
Q In the past, Middlebury's goal was to pay staff at the 80th percentile of the market. What is the goal now?
In this new structure the market medians are used to create the ranges. This is a sustainable best practice that allows the new program to include an annual market analysis and adjustment. Although the 80th percentile was the initial reference point in the market, given that the ranges were not adjusted to keep pace with changes, this approach should be much more successful in ensuring that wages at Middlebury are competitive and keep pace with the market.
We did not. Our comparison groups were defined by operating expenses, student enrollment, geography, and affiliation (private/public).
Yes. Mercer helped us to define perimeters to ensure that we were looking at comparable institutions. Those perimeters were operating expenses, student enrollment, geography, and affiliation. We used both primary and secondary comparison groups (which together totaled 105 similar institutions) to ensure we had adequate data.
Where an employee falls within the range will depend upon their level of ownership and impact in their role. It is possible for a salary to exceed the midpoint of the grade range. Role placement within the structure will be reviewed on an annual basis and be adjusted as appropriate based upon market changes.
Increases will depend on both the market and skill matrix. The actual impact cannot be known until both steps are complete. First the role is placed in a grade based on market, then to set the rate the individual’s position in the skill matrix is determined, this drives the rate of pay. If someone is currently making more than the amount derived by this process they would not get an increase this year.
Yes. Each role will have a range that is established with a minimum and maximum. The specific rate within that range will be set by the structure we’ve shared. There will be an upper limit or cap. The specific rate will not be able to exceed the top of the range. We will review this structure every year, so ranges may shift year over year. The only exception to this is that no wages will be going down as a result of this structure - so any employee that is higher than the range during this shift in approach will not see a change in pay this year. Their rate will remain the same until the market catches up and the maximum exceeds their rate of pay.
Q Will there be one time annual payments to staff whose compensation is beyond maximum of the grade as a way to acknowledge their effort and performance without increasing their salary?
For FY23, the priorities are to reach market, apply the skill matrix and provide remaining funding for leadership discretionary adjustments. All three of those goals were met. There is no additional funding to provide bonuses for those over the new maximums of our market based ranges. Those above these new maxes are being paid beyond what our program is seeking to provide, but no one’s pay rate is going down. Each year the market will be reviewed and ranges will be adjusted, it is possible that ranges will “catch-up” to these people and they will again received increases. There is no plan going forward to do one-time payments for those over the maximum of the range.
Generally, no. However, if an employee is having performance issues they should expect feedback providing clear guidance, along with tools/training, time and the resources to get back on track. If they are not successful is resolving a performance issue it may be necessary to consider another more suitable role or, if there is a serious problem or unwillingness to address performance issues other steps may be taken through our corrective action process.
Q How does the hours an employee works (i.e.; limitations on hours per day, overtime, holidays) affect an employee's increase?
It doesn’t. Increases will depend on both the market and skill matrix. First the role is placed in a grade based on market, then to set the rate the individual’s position in the skill matrix is determined, this drives the rate of pay, not the hours that a position is scheduled to work.
The first step around role is completely agnostic to individual in the role. The role is based on the job description, requirements of the position, scope of the responsibility, etc. This structure is designed to avoid any situation where one person would be favored over another in the same role. Increases will be based upon the market and skill matrix. If no increase is warranted it is because the position is already being compensated appropriately based upon those factors.
Q What is the process for completing the skill matrix and who will be making those decisions? Will I have input?
SLG members have been charged with managing the process because Middlebury is a large and there are many different management structures there may be some variation in how the process unfolds. HR has asked that SLG members work together with their leadership teams to assess career progression in the skill matrix for the employees in their area. The responsibility for the assessment lies with the management team and there should be a discussion with the staff member about their placement once our institutional collection and review process is complete.
Yes. Managers will complete a skill matrix each year. This will be an opportunity for managers and employees to discuss the employee’s career progression.
Q What will the process for future skill matrix assessments look like and when will that process occur?
Managers should be in regular communication with staff about their work and career progression and the skill matrix is a resource for these conversations. As a part of the annual compensation process we will follow the same three step process discussed for FY22. Step1: We will update market information for Roles; Step 2: we will collect skill matrix information about individuals and Step 3: If available, discretionary adjustments may be made.
We will be turning our attention in the coming year to a new institutional approach for performance management and will share more information as it is available. In the meantime, you are welcome to reach out to your HR Business Partner or others in HR if you have concerns about your supervisor or would like to discuss specifics and additional support.
Q Can you explain what “provides leverage within and across the organization” in the Skill Matrix means?
This sentence was meant to describe an individual’s ability to influence outcomes – e.g. develop and “use” (leverage) relationships with others to obtain results or support for projects/goals; develop strategies, both individual and across departments, to deliver results, etc.
There is no appeal process regarding your skill level but managers and department leaders are available to discuss your placement.
The July 1, 2022 rates have been set and will not change this year as long as an employee remains in their current role.
The new system is looking at the market along with an employee’s ownership and impact in their role rather than length of time in a role.
We are committed to raising the base pay for staff in entry level positions. It was an important choice to raise the hiring minimums of both grades 1 and 2 to the same level in order to support economic stability, increased loyalty and retention. We have kept the structure with the two grades because in future the market may move separately. We will still complete the analysis for role and place into grade 1 and 2 separately, but then we have increased both of them higher than the market. Please see the table that shows the original market data for grade 1 and 2 and you will see that both are higher than they would normally be. This reflects our commitment to increasing beyond market for entry level positions to ensure that we are paying fair and competitive wages.
We will share more about discretion as we finalize the structure. Please expect an update in the May information share to all staff.
The final step in the process to set rates was to provide senior leaders with a small pool of money to distribute to individuals at their “discretion.” This means they reviewed all of the FY23 rates for the employees in their area and had the opportunity to apply additional pay.
Q My raise is made up of only a discretionary adjustment per the letter that went out. Does this mean that, after market research was conducted, I would not have gotten a raise otherwise?
Yes, that is correct.
Yes, each year the amount available for staff compensation is assessed along with other financial considerations. For FY23 the College is making a significant increase to that amount to support the effort to make market adjustments and effectively catch-up to market. We will share the final details in July.
Q Will HR be sharing the percentage of staff who receive a compensation increase as a result of this new system and the range of increases?
Each Vice President will have a complete list of FY23 pay rates including information on those who will not receive an increase. We will share general details about increases with the broad community through our regular updates.
Q If Leading is only 60%, and at best in the future 75%, how does someone achieve the entire range of the grade?
Discretionary additions will allow staff to go beyond the percentiles associated with leading. Keep in mind that annual market checks will be completed so those amounts are likely to change over time.
Q Can you explain what is meant by "The goal is to get the Leading category to 75% of the range" from where it is now at 60%?
The primary goal was to have an updated market based system. The market median of each range is the mid-point. Those still developing in their careers (learning and growing in the skill matrix) will be paid rates that are approaching the midpoint, those thriving will be paid at the midpoint. In order to provide the opportunity for discretionary adjustments to pay, there was not not enough money this year to pay those leading at the initial goal of 75% of the way to the max rate. Instead, we could achieve 60%. Paying beyond the market is appropriate for those leading but we could not go as far this year as initially planned. We hope to revisit this in FY24.
We have new market based ranges. The method for placement in the ranges is based on the skill matrix, not length of service. It reflects major steps in a career progression (learning, growing, thriving, and leading). It is not unusual to be at a given point in a career progression for multiple years.
Q My letter states I may be eligible for an increase in the future. I would like to know definitively if I remain at thriving next year if I will receive a raise?
If you remain in the same role and same skill matrix level you will eligible for a market adjustment based on the labor market trends. We can’t make a commitment today about next year’s market.
Q After the past couple of years, how was the timing decision regarding implemention of this new approach decided?
The institution made a commitment to align salaries with the market and to update the staff structure as of July 1, 2022. Although across the entire system 86% of staff received increases - indicating in most cases that their positions and/or pay rates were below market, for the remaining 14% the result of the analysis was that their pay was at or above market given their placement in the skill matrix. There will be opportunities for increases in the future as we have made a commitment to evaluate and adjust the market each year.
That is understandable. Although across the entire system 86% of staff received increases- indicating in most cases that their positions and/or pay rates were below market, for the remaining 14% the result of the analysis was that their pay was at or above market for given their placement in the skill matrix. There will be opportunities for increases in the future as we have made a commitment to evaluate and adjust the market each year.
The hiring range will be between minimum and midpoint of the new grades based on the assessment of the skill matrix of the candidate (where they are in their career progression). This is the same way pay rates were set for existing staff. With our new market ranges we are optimistic that our salary offers will be competitive.
In order to manage any compensation system there needs to be definitions of full time. Given Middlebury’s long history and the addition of the Middlebury Institute, we have three types of work arrangements. The base line definition of full time impacts schedules, CTO accruals and ultimately the calculation of budgets and pay. However, on an individual employee level the differences are not significant because everything is ultimately built on an hourly foundation and is consistent by work group. Let’s start with MIIS, all work relationships there are based on a 7.5 hours day/1950 hours per year full time definition. So if a .5 FTE salary is stated for a MIIS employee it is based on half of the total hours of 1950. In Vermont we have two different definitions, 2080 hours per year (8 hours per day) for areas that have operations beyond normal business hours such as dining, facilities and public safety, and 2015 annually (7.75 hours per day) for administrative areas.
This work is around getting compensation right and having tools to have transparent, honest and clear individual conversations about where people are. Other parallel, important work will also compliment this, like developing our approach to professional development, coaching and feedback.
Q How will recent increases at UVM impact Middlebury's compensation and how do we avoid losing valuable staff?
Labor markets and the economy more broadly have been shifting considerably in the past year and activities at UVM are a good local example. The recent contract at UVM is focused on a subset of the staff population and does not fully represent all employees. We are proud that our new approach to staff compensation encompasses all part time and full time benefit eligible staff. We are making a historic investment in staff compensation here at Middlebury and believe we offer a compelling work opportunity here in Addison county.
Q Will continuing education and professional development funds be available again through HR (paused during COVID)? Both of these are important to help employees chart paths forward to progress in their careers at Middlebury in this new matrix.
Yes. All funds have already been restored in Fall 2021. Please reach out to HR@middlebury.edu if you have questions on this.
Do you have a question that wasn’t covered or a follow up to what was shared? Please email Jenna Quenneville, Compensation Specialist, at Jenna@middlebury.edu and we’ll get back to you. We’ll also continue to update our FAQs with questions so everyone has access to this information.