FAQs

You asked and we answered.

Your questions and comments are vital to this process. Below is the list of frequently asked questions and their answers. We have organized them by categories that correspond to parts of the proposed policy. If you can’t find the question that’s on your mind, use the form on this page to contact us.

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Submit your questions concerning the Great Place: HR Redesign and include your email if you would like a direct reply.

Question 

Background

In 2005, the Commonwealth of Virginia adopted the Restructured Higher Education Financial and Administrative Operations Act designed to support continued excellence in higher education in Virginia. Referred to as “restructuring,” the act gives Virginia’s public colleges and universities greater flexibility and internal control of administrative operations such as finance, facilities, information technology and human resources. Three tiers, or levels, of autonomy were created. Tier III refers to the institutions granted the highest level of autonomy. The Tier III institutions are Virginia Tech, the College of William & Mary, the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University. In 2006, three of the institutions — Tech, William & Mary and UVA — went forward with creating a new HR plan that would be more flexible, dynamic and responsive to the needs of a university workplace and its employees. VCU is beginning the Great Place: HR Redesign now. Other administrative areas, such as finance and procurement, are also taking advantage of the Tier III status to improve operational effectiveness.

Why now? It’s time for the university to modernize its human resource practices to be more responsive to the university’s and employees’ needs. The state classified system is not the type of “best in class” HR program that today’s — and tomorrow’s — higher education workforce is expecting and deserves. VCU employees told the university what you wanted in the Great Place Initiative survey. The kinds of programs you asked for — career development and advancement, market and merit-based pay — these are the kinds of programs that can be adopted under the restructuring authority. As can be seen by the other three universities (UVA, Virginia Tech and William & Mary) that underwent HR restructuring in 2006, it is possible to implement new HR programs that reflect more updated HR practices while still retaining the strengths that public employment is known for (typically excellent retirement and health benefits and fair process of progressive discipline). In short, Tier III authority is an opportunity to keep what we like and change what we don’t like.

Other advantages of a new HR plan include the opportunity to better support growth in research, reduce legal liabilities and invest in effective management through increased training and accountability.

When will it go into effect? The new HR plan is scheduled to become effective in January 2018. However, this date is the beginning of the new plan, not the end of this work. The current HR structure didn’t happen overnight, and it will take time for the advantages of the new HR plan to be realized.

Employee Group

1. What is the proposed employee group and what does it mean?
The proposed employee group is "university and academic professionals." Most non-teaching and research employees would fall into this new employee group under the proposed policy. VCU would no longer hire classified staff and only use contracts for senior level administration. 

2. If I’m classified, can I remain classified?
Classified staff hired at VCU before July 1, 2016 will have a choice. You may remain classified staff, or you will be given the opportunity to change to the new HR plan if you wish. The enrollment period is next year -- January to March 2018. It is your decision, and we will provide you details to help inform your decision.

3. If I’m AP faculty, will I have the choice to retain my current HR plan? 
The procedures accompanying the proposed policy recommend that many A&P faculty be converted to university and academic professionals in conjunction with the June 2018 contract renewal cycle. Some university and academic professionals would also have a faculty affiliate appointment to reflect academic responsibilities such as teaching, serving on a dissertation committee or serving as a PI on a grant. Additionally, some current A&P faculty with primarily academic responsibilities may be more appropriately designated as T&R faculty. The HR Redesign project office is working with the Faculty Senate to design a review process whereby some A&P faculty could apply for consideration to become “term” T&R faculty. Other A&P faculty serving as academic administrators such as deans, vice provosts, associate deans, etc., may be returned to T&R faculty with an administrative assignment.

4. Why are A&P Faculty positions being moved into the new employee group?
In the Great Place Initiative Survey, A&P faculty requested improvements such as better career advancement opportunities, market-based pay ranges, more meaningful performance evaluation, and enhanced professional development. The new employee group is designed to address these improvements for everyone while also reflecting VCU Core Values of inclusion and a sense of community, where each members’ contributions are valued and respected. 

5. How will librarians be impacted by the proposed policy? A recommendation has been made that librarians transition to term T&R faculty as part of the Great Place HR Redesign. Under this approach, librarians would remain part of the university faculty, so there will be no change in their benefits, terms and conditions of employment, their role with the Faculty Senate, and no change in promotion policies and procedures for librarians.  

6. Will A&P faculty still be able to work 9 months even though they will no longer be considered faculty and will not be under contract? Or will all employees be 12-month and the flexibility only remains with T&R? Changing to the new employee group would not necessarily result in an automatic change of the work period for those A&P who currently work 9 months.

7. What staff are considered to be executives and senior administrators? Executive and senior administrators are a specific type of University and Academic Professional that includes the senior officers of the university, such as president’s cabinet, members of the president’s professional staff, senior leadership, and direct reports to the deans. This does not include academic administrators such as provosts, deans, or vice provosts who are considered T&R faculty serving in an administrative assignment.

 

 

Paid Leave

1. Will our paid leave policies stay the same? We know that our generous leave packages are among our greatest recruitment and retention tools. The proposed policy suggests enhancements that allow employees more flexibility in how they use their leave.

2. How many days/hours of leave are proposed for university and academic professionals? Leave accrual and maximum carryforward is based on years of service as per the following table. Note: A&P Faculty currently accruing 39 days per year will be grandparented at that rate until they reach 20 years of service. Amounts shown apply to full-time employees.

Years of ServiceDays per YearHours per YearMax Annual Carry Forward
 0-3  28  224   224
 4-6  30  240  240
 7-9  32  256  256
 10-14  34  272  272
 15-19  36  288  288
 20-24  40  320  320
 25+  42  336  336

 

 

3. Is personal and family leave and sick leave incorporated into the leave balance in the new plan? What about holidays? The proposed leave accrual amounts include personal, family and sick leave but do not include paid holidays. Paid holidays will continue to be awarded separately just as they are now. Employees would still be expected to cover additional time off for winter closing, if necessary, from their accrued leave balance.

4. Will leave accruals be the same for VSDP and traditional plans? Yes.

5. Will A&P faculty who convert have the same leave plan? Yes, the proposed leave plan would apply for all those in the new university and academic professional employee group. A&P faculty who become university and academic professionals would be subject to the same proposed paid leave plan and all of its benefits. However, former A&P faculty would be grandparented in at their current accrual rates (39 days) until they reach 20 years of service, at which time they will be at the same accrual rate as other university and academic professionals. This ensures that converting A&P faculty do not experience a reduction in their leave accrual rate.

6. What happens to current leave balances if you switch to the new plan? Annual leave will be rolled into the new leave balance and will be subject to the proposed carryforward and cash out-provisions. Accrued sick leave from employees currently in the Traditional Sick Leave Plan will be banked if needed for use in the future.

7. Will there be any kind of grace period for the first year for employees who covert and carryforward a large annual leave balance? The proposed policy doesn’t currently include a provision for that. In that scenario, the employee has a year to use the leave before it will be cashed out.

8. Are all 12 weeks of parental leave (6 weeks short-term disability and 6 weeks child-rearing) paid at 100% or is payout based on years of service like it is currently for short-term disability? Yes, the proposal is for 100% pay.

9. Does parental leave option include both fathers and partners? Yes it does. We tried to design a paid leave plan to meet the more modern definitions of a family.

10. If a classified employee enrolls in the new plan effective July 1st, 2018, how will their leave be handled? Will they receive a pro-rated amount of PTO and keep the balance of their annual leave until the end of the year? The employee will accrue leave as they currently do from January to June. Then on July 1, 2018 they will receive a prorated allotment under the new leave plan. Their annual leave balance will be rolled into the new allotment.

11. What about community service leave? Is that included in the new leave policy or will that still be separate? The policy proposes an enhanced community service leave and it is considered to be separate from the annual leave allotment.

12. Can you please clarify the parental leave? Will the full 12 weeks be paid, or just the first six as it is now? Also, how will staff members who have been employed in the 0-3 year time frame accrue enough parental leave to cover all 12 weeks if they are only allotted 28 days of leave? Is parental leave going to be separate where employees are automatically granted enough hours to cover them in addition to the 28 days they already receive? Yes, the policy proposes 12 weeks of paid leave (Six weeks through short term disability and six weeks of parental leave.) Parental leave will be a separate leave category than the annual leave allotment.

 

 

Compensation

1. Are market ranges going to be available?

 

 

 

Yes, market ranges will be published online as part of a more comprehensive compensation management section on the Human Resources website.

2. Are we going to get raises if we switch?
No, employees who select the new HR plan will continue at the same salary.

3. By what process will salaries be increased to their market ranges? About how long will this process take?
The proposed compensation procedures provide three ways an employee’s base pay can increase over time - merit, promotion, and career path advancement. Merit will be based on the overall rating in the performance review process. Career path advancements will come from the career development plan section of the performance review. Promotions can be either “competitive” through the current job search process or “noncompetitive” through the career development plan. Pay increases will be awarded as the budget allows. Managers will determine the size of an increase based on the employee's qualifications, experience, and their current pay relative to the appropriate market range. There would no longer be caps on salary increases as found in the state classified system.  

4. Are we still using recognition awards?
Yes, in the compensation section of the proposed policy, the use of salary incentives to recognize and reward employees is encouraged. The recommendation is to increase the amount of bonus an employee may be awarded in a fiscal year up to $5,000 or 10% of base pay, whichever is greater.  

5. Can you get more than a 10% increase in a year?
Yes you could. There are no caps on salary increases in the proposed compensation policy. It allows more flexibility for managers to work within the posted market ranges. In addition to merit and promotion increases, we anticipate the use of smaller (3-5%), more frequent salary increases as employees move through their career paths.

6. Because the emphasis seems to be shifting to merit-based increases, is there a guarantee that you will receive a raise in pay if you consistently perform at a high achiever level?
The purpose of a merit-based pay system is to reward employees for their level of performance. The plan is for managers to evaluate performance on a scale (e.g., one to five) and, accordingly, have the flexibility to offer increases within a range (e.g., zero to five percent) that correlates with the evaluations. Candidly, there are no guarantees in a “pay for performance” model, however the expectation is that over time the high performers receive higher salary increases. It is also important to note that annual salary increases are not the only reward for high performers. The new HR model will also include pre-defined career paths. High performers would also be eligible for promotional opportunities as they advance through their careers. 

7. Under the new plan, are promotions and/or position changes limited to minimum salary posted or 15% increase? There are no caps on salary increases in the proposed compensation policy. It allows more flexibility for managers to work within the posted market ranges.

8. How will current inequity of salaries in departments and across campus be addressed? The proposed market-based salary ranges will provide a new, yardstick against which salary decisions across the University can be made and evaluated. There are two employee types impacted by the new market ranges - classified staff and A&P faculty. The current state pay bands for classified staff are too broad to provide that level of analysis. For A&P faculty, each position is evaluated as "one of a kind" so there is no framework against which to compare. The market ranges would give us a new pay structure, common for both groups of employees, to help managers make better individual decisions and to help the institution better assess the impact of those decisions from a university-wide perspective. The new pay structure becomes the common measurement tool to identify the most compelling discrepancies and to prioritize the allocation of future salary increases.  

 

Alternative Work Arrangements

1. Will there be an education component for managers about alternative work arrangements that promote their use?
While there is a telecommuting policy currently in place and there are many positions across the university that would qualify to telecommute, it is not widely used. The committee working on this has developed some terrific resources for employees and managers to better support the use of alternative work arrangements.  In addition to the proposed policy and procedures that will be out for comment, they are developing "how-to guidelines." We are planning a robust curriculum of management training for all these new policies as part of the new leadership development programming.  

The key to all these working is how the policies and programs come together.  So, for example, having a "goal-based" performance review process begins to change the working relationship between employees and managers to focus more on outcomes. That begins to change thinking by both parties to be less about managing attendance or presence and more about managing results and that in turn helps open up alternative work options for how the work gets done. While we are focused now on the details of each particular proposal, the ultimate goal is how they all come together to create the kind of culture change we envision in the "Great Place" initiative.  It's about working together to make VCU an even better place to work.

2. If a manager denies a request for an alternative work arrangement, even when all factors indicate it is an eligible position, will employees have a process for appealing that decision?
As currently drafted, the decision to grant an alternative work arrangement is at a manager’s or department’s discretion. The policy as proposed does not include an appeal process. However, the committee working on this has developed some terrific resources for employees and managers to better support these options. In addition to the proposed policy and procedures that will be out for comment, they are developing "how-to guidelines." We are planning a robust curriculum of management training for all these new policies as part of the new leadership development programming.  

3. Is the Alternative Work Arrangements policy for everyone?
No, it would only be for university and academic professionals (those in the new employee group). Classified staff who choose to remain will still be covered by the state policy and will not lose access to any current telecommuting agreements made under that policy.

Career Development

1. What’s a career path? The foundation of the new HR plan is a universitywide job structure that groups jobs by function using a standard set of job titles. Most titles have three levels (e.g., Accountant I, Accountant II, Accountant III). Each job title has a unique market range. Career paths provide opportunities for employees to advance through their careers by moving across the market ranges through proposed stages of emerging, proficient, accomplished and expert, as well as advancing up through the job title series as they gain competencies and experience. Career advancement in the same job is called promotion in place. There will also continue to be opportunities to receive promotions across the university. Different career tracks are designed for individual contributors with deep subject matter expertise distinct from those who aspire to a supervisory, management or leadership role.

2. What’s a career community? Career communities are how employees who are doing similar work or who have similar career interests across the university connect regularly to network, share information and determine best practices. The career development committee is designing a mentoring program with resources and support for both mentors and mentees. Career communities are the structure around which these career development opportunities will be provided in the new HR plan.

3. How do I get my manager to support my career development? In the proposed policy, the expectation is for employees to engage in and managers to support the career development process. The updated performance management process provides the infrastructure to implement this new expectation for both employees and managers. The career development planning phase will document agreed upon career development opportunities in which employees will participate. The draft policies specify that managers are expected to support employees in pursuit of their career interests, to adopt practices that promote career development throughout their area and to allow employees participation in appropriate developmental opportunities. Managers will be evaluated on these expectations in their own performance review. It is important for the employee to be clear on what their career development interests are and work collaboratively with their supervisor to determine their strategic goals for the position and define ways to develop their goals.

4. What happens to the tuition waiver if I switch to the new plan? There are no proposed changes to the current policy on tuition waiver/tuition reimbursement.

 

 

 

5. What happens if your department doesn’t have the money or resources to advance your career development? Career development can take many forms and they don’t have to be expensive. There are books that one can read, internet-based listservs to participate in, free online courses through Lynda.com, and low-cost webinars. In addition, the new career communities being created across the university are intended to provide new cost-effective resources for employee professional development. With so many employees across VCU doing similar work or having similar career interests, the career communities can host brown bag lunches, invite guest speakers, and sponsor on-site annual conferences.

6. What is a promotion in place? The new HR plan is being designed around a series of flexible career paths in the various job families around the university. An exciting new feature that is part of that design is the ability to receive "promotions in place" as employees engage in career development, become more proficient in their current role, or learn new skills and grow their role. In our current HR system, promotions typically require employees to wait for jobs to open and then to apply for and compete for the promotion as an applicant through the employment process. Often, this means that employees must leave one job for another to advance in their career. At VCU, we want to retain our valuable employees by offering them promotions within their career path without having to change positions.  That's not to say that there won't still be times when the right "next move" for an employee would be applying for a different position, but the career paths are meant to provide another option that's not currently available.

 

Performance Management

1. Will my performance evaluation be a 360-degree feedback review? 

 

Not at this time. As part of the proposed performance management policy, a new online tool is being implemented that all employees will use for tracking and documenting  performance and completing  reviews. Performance reviews will be based on cascading goals and competencies. Departments that currently include a 360 component in their review process may continue to do so but there are no immediate plans to adopt that practice universitywide. However, the use of 360 feedback is included in the proposed leadership development policy.  

2. Will all employees have to complete a self-review at the end of the performance cycle? The proposed policy requires that all employees complete a self-review as part of the overall performance review process. The online performance management tool will provide a mechanism for the employee to document progress and accomplishments toward goals throughout the performance management cycle. This information will provide more content to support a comprehensive performance review and be valuable for completing the self-review that begins the annual review process.

3. What is Performance Calibration and what role will it play in the performance review process? The practice of performance calibration refers to the steps taken to make sure that managers apply an appropriate and consistent set of standards in using the performance ratings. At the beginning of the performance cycle, the calibration process provides an opportunity for managers to meet and share an understanding of how they will use the performance cycle. Performance calibration meetings at the end of the performance cycle provide a process in which managers come together to discuss employees performance ratings thus ensuring more objective and consistent assessments in relation to other employees with similar job performance.

4. What resources are going to be available to support this process?
VCU is implementing performance management software that will be used by employees and managers to set goals at the beginning of the year and document progress throughout the year. Training is being deployed to help employees and managers.

5. What will prevent departments from pre-determining, in order to distribute limited budget funds, a limit on the number of “high” evaluation ratings within the department? In this case, it won't matter if an employee exceeds expectations because the rating will be political/fiscally motivated policy rather than accomplishment motivated. Included in the performance management program are definitions of the ratings. In the goals section, each goal will be individually discussed and assessed.  In the competency sections, there are sample behaviors that describe more specifically what each looks like to meet expectations, exceed, or need improvement.  These guidelines will help make the assessment of goals and competencies more reliable and more consistent across raters. The overall rating is a combination of the goal and competency ratings.

The other "check and balance" in the proposed policy is a new process called "calibration." Calibration occurs at the school level for academic units and the division level for administrative units. During calibration, second level reviewers look across the organization for fairness and consistency of ratings.  

 

Leadership Development

1. How will we assure buy-in from senior leaders?

 

 

Senior leadership has been closely involved in every step of the Great Place: HR Redesign project. They are fully engaged in the process and are supportive of the recommended changes. Targeted communications have been addressed to them specifically and will continue to be utilized throughout the implementation. In addition, the new HR plan includes the identification of competencies critical for effective leadership at VCU. These leadership competencies will serve as the basis for a new leadership development curriculum to foster and develop managers' skills and abilities. They will also be part of the manager’s annual review.

2. Will employees have the opportunity to evaluate their managers through a 360 review?
The proposed policy recommends the use of 360 feedback as part of the new leadership development curriculum to help those in these challenging leadership positions develop their skills and competencies and live up to their fullest potential. This process would be incorporated into the manager’s performance and career planning to hold them accountable and help them excel in the VCU core leadership competencies.

Employee Relations

1. How will disputes or claims be handled?
The proposed policies provide for both informal and formal dispute resolution processes. If the employee’s concern cannot be resolved informally, a new three-step formal process is available. The third and final step in the formal process is review by a peer panel. The panel would be staffed by a non-voting chair with expertise in employee relations to assist panel members in conducting a timely and fair hearing. The panel findings and recommendations are submitted to HR for issuance of the final decision.

It should be noted that current classified employees who choose to convert to university and academic professionals have a choice of accessing the state grievance procedure or the new grievance procedure. New hires and A&P Faculty who convert will be subject to the new grievance procedure.

2. How are the members of the peer review panel be selected? Are they volunteers?
There will be a nomination process. The procedures for the nomination process are still to be determined.

3. Currently A&P faculty are given notice based on years of service for non-continuance. Will they still receive the same amount of notice?
The proposed policy eliminates the use of annual contracts for most all in the new university and academic professional group. Only executives and senior administrators would have employment contracts and serve “at will.” University and academic professionals would complete a one-time initial probationary period (Note: those current A&P Faculty with more than one year of service will be considered to have successfully completed the initial probationary period). After completion of the probationary period, employees would be covered by the new policy sections on performance management and employee relations. That is, they would expect any performance deficiencies to be addressed through performance review, progressive discipline and due process. There are recommendations in the new policy to provide a severance benefit for employees laid off in the case of a workforce reduction.

Budget and Finances

1. For departments that have smaller budgets, where is the extra money going to come from to give merit based increases? Much like the university has done with Teaching and Research faculty for years, the merit-based process for university and academic professionals will be contingent on the performance rating of individual employees, and will require the discretion of the unit/managers to manage their budget. For example, historically all classified employees with an acceptable (performer) performance rating automatically received the same percentage increase. However employees in the new HR plan will receive varying increases based on their performance rating. Someone who has received an extraordinary performance rating may be eligible for a higher than average increase while a satisfactory performer may be eligible for a lower percentage increase. It will be up to a school/unit’s leadership team as to how to manage and allocate their pool of money within any guidelines issued by the state or university.

2. Where do the market ranges come from? We utilize the data from a market pricing software tool which houses the results of the salary surveys that the university purchases and/or participates in to benchmark the job and establish the market median. The market median is used as the midpoint for the developed ranges.

3. Have you discussed the fiscal impact on the university from the new leave plan? Yes, from an initial review the VCU Controller’s office has reported that there are no significant financial impacts from the proposed changes. We have also engaged with a financial firm to do a deeper dive into the financials and validate those initial findings.

4. How will the new budget model affect the HR Redesign? While both of these happening at about the same time means significant change for the university, it is appropriate that they be done together. Schools/colleges will have the increased flexibility under both the HR plan and the new budget model. So for example, if a school creates a new program or to improve efficiency in an existing program, it may generate additional revenue. The dean could then elect to reinvest that revenue to support personnel, program, or operational priorities. 

Employment

1. How does a recruitment waiver work for career advancement/promotions in place? A search may be waived in the following situations: If the manager and employee agree on the criteria necessary for the employee to advance through his/her career path as part of the career development plan documented in the performance review process, as the employee subsequently achieves those established milestones, he/she can be "promoted in place" through the agreed upon career path without a search being conducted.  

2. What is an “open rank” job posting? The new job structure for University and Academic Professionals is built by grouping jobs into job families using a standard set of job titles. Each job title has a unique market-based pay range. Most job titles will have three levels (for example Accountant I, Accountant II, Accountant III) that create a job series.  Level 1 is typically entry level,  Level 2 is mid-career, and Level 3 reflects extensive experience, much like you will see faculty searches conducted for an Assistant, Associate, or full Professor - with the final rank determined based on the credentials of the selected candidate. This strategy could be used for University and Academic Professional positions. A search could be conducted for an Accountant I, II, or III allowing applicants from a wide range of experience to be considered. The selected finalist would be placed in the appropriate job title based on their individual qualifications.  

3. What's the difference between a search committee and an interview panel? Search committees are typically involved in the early stages of the process. They provide input into the type and scope of search, desired qualifications, sources of potential applicants, and actively recruit potential applicants. In addition to conducting interviews, search committees often help plan campus visits and may also conduct reference checks.  Interview panels are typically involved only at that stage--they participate in the interview and provide feedback on the applicant's performance.

4. How is it determined if a search is internal, local, regional, or national? The scope of the search is determined based on what will most likely be needed to find and build a diverse pool of highly qualified candidates. In some cases that may be possible to do within the University (internal) or the Richmond community (local). For others, it may mean widening the scope to include recruiting across the mid-Atlantic region or even nationally.  

Enrollment

1. When can I enroll in the new plan?
Our current focus is collecting feedback on the proposed policy. As we move closer to the enrollment opening date of January 1, 2018, more resources will be available to help you make the decision that is right for you and your career. These resources will include side-by-side plan comparisons, web resources, a new HR plan highlights brochure, group presentations and one-on-one consultation opportunities.

2. What happens to my benefits if I switch?
While the proposed policy enhances the leave program, other benefits - retirement, health insurance, workers comp, life insurance, etc. - will stay the same. If you opt into the new plan, you remain a state employee with the same retirement benefits, though exempt classified employees in the new plan will also have the option to switch to the VCU Optional Retirement Plan (ORP).

3. If I stay classified during the enrollment period, will I have another opportunity to convert?
Yes, VCU is required to provide an enrollment option at least every two years. However, we can do it more often if we chose. Other Tier III institutions eventually went to “rolling” or “open” enrollment where employees can elect to switch at any time. Whether or not VCU can do this more often than every two years will depend on how the implementation of this first enrollment period goes.