Pitt staff set to receive new job classifications, salary ranges this summer


TPN File Photo

A pile of cash.

By Jack Troy, Senior Staff Writer

The Compensation Modernization project has entered its second phase after six years of on-and-off progress toward overhauling how University staff members are classified, paid and promoted. 

Pitt will implement the new structure, including a catalog of approximately 1,300 positions, revamped job families and narrowed salary ranges, this summer. The University will not make the specifics of the structure available to members of the Pitt community until mid-July, according to University spokesperson Jared Stonesifer. 

To prepare for the switch, Pitt Worx underwent a scheduled outage from April 11 to April 17 to transfer the new data into these systems. 

The project is part of ongoing efforts to improve retention, development, work-life balance and working conditions for employees, as outlined in the University’s Plan for Pitt and Shaping the Workplace initiative. Compensation Modernization aims to simplify the job catalog and pay grade system, benchmark pay to market rates and clearly define opportunities for career growth. 

“Staff administration personnel from across all units dedicated many hours reviewing the job catalog and job mappings and provided us with valuable feedback that shaped the final product,” project lead Shahfar Shaari said. “Our collective effort will benefit staff for years to come by allowing more agility to adapt to market conditions and more flexibility in career and reward decisions.”

While the project doesn’t guarantee any salary increases, a FAQ from the Office of Human Resources assures that no employees will see a pay cut — even if their compensation was found to be above market rate. The Compensation Modernization Steering Committee, composed of staff and supervisors from several administrative and academic departments, will recommend strategies for “internal pay equity, market competitiveness and fiscal responsibility in phase two,” according to PittWire. 

Potential changes will only impact staff members not represented by a union, which excludes maintenance and custodial workers as well as law enforcement. 

This final leg of the project will help staff members and their supervisors navigate the new structure and identify opportunities for career development. This guidance will only be available for entry-level employees. However, Pitt plans to later expand it to executive positions, and may share these resources with represented workers, according to Stonesifer.

The timeline for phase three has yet to be finalized, Stonesifer said. Vice Chancellor of Human Resources James Gallaher Jr. told the University Times in November that the project still has three to five years until completion. 

Compensation Modernization, previously called Total Rewards, kicked off in 2017 with Pitt sending job analysis questionnaires to roughly 6,800 staff members. The project languished under Human Resources Director Cheryl Johnson until her successor, David DeJong, reaffirmed the University’s commitment in 2019. 

The COVID-19 pandemic and DeJong’s promotion to senior vice chancellor for business and operations in 2021 further complicated work on the project. Gallager took on the role following DeJong’s departure and has seen the project through its first phase. 

The current job classification system dates back to 1999 and “limits the capacity for flexibility, mobility, recruitment, retention and career development,” Stonesifer said. 

Several staff members affiliated with union organizing efforts have expressed frustration over a lack of career advancement opportunities, including Carla Johnson, a lab manager of 23 years. 

Despite taking on duties associated with a more senior role, Johnson said her lack of an advanced degree has prevented her from moving further up the job ladder. 

Johnson said she’s felt out of the loop on the project’s progression, but she plans to attend an information session held by Pitt in May. 

Dylan Nagy, a data analyst for the School of Public Health and member of the staff union organizing committee, said the prolonged timeline and limited communication from Pitt has eroded employee morale regarding Compensation Modernization. Still, Nagy would like to see the project succeed. 

“I think with how slow the process has run and how little communication we’ve received on it, I think there’s some cynicism on the staff,” Nagy said. “As staff, we want to see our employer doing the right thing for us and making us happy. So we’re rooting for it.”

Pay and advancement opportunities have been leading issues for staff union organizers since the United Steelworkers went public with the campaign in September 2021. The Steelworkers also represent faculty and support graduate students in their own unionization efforts. USW spokesperson Jess Kamm said “real, meaningful change” on these issues requires collective bargaining. 

“Pitt staff continue to have many productive conversations with their coworkers and look forward to filing for their election as soon as possible,” Kamm said. “It’s clear from these conversations that pay is one the primary concerns, and the existence of the Compensation Modernization project indicates that the administration also understands the urgency around wages and working conditions.”