Office of the Chancellor

2005-06 Annual Report

Section 1

2005-06 Annual Report

July 20, 2006
TO: Chancellor Michael Drake
RE: Chancellor's Advisory Committee on the Status of Staff

The Chancellor's Advisory Committee on the Status of Staff (CACSS) has been actively pursuing issues related to the welfare of staff throughout the 2005-06 academic year. In addition to its regular monthly meetings, the committee constituted several productive subcommittees on Communications, Data (on ratios, hires and separations, as well as their history), Human Resources, and Employee Retention and Development, whose reports are appended. Along with ongoing projects, the work of these subcommittees resulted in a new CACSS website, with links to several campus resources; a proposal for a Leadership Academy to address the projected need for MSOs and assistant deans in the near future; two focus group meetings in the fall, one of which addressed misperceptions on advancement, the other, faculty-staff relations; a Career Development Forum in the fall; and two Neighborhood Meetings in the spring to which staff throughout the campus were invited. These efforts were largely tied to the Committee's concern to find specific ways to address those recurrent issues that have surfaced over the past four years since CACSS was first formed. Because we and many others believe that there are numerous positive aspects of University employment, it seemed to the Committee important to identify those recurring problems so that they can be dealt with systematically.

The issues themselves fall into a few major groupings that together have significant implications for the retention of staff. These are particularly noteworthy in view of the increase in separations and the drop in faculty-staff ratio charted by the Data subcommittee. One issue is the perceived lack of opportunity and training for career development, a topic that CACSS and Human Resources individually and together are attempting to address, but which will also need the continued attention of the various levels of administration. More and better information is being communicated through meetings, such as the focus groups, Career Development Forums, through websites, and articles in the UCI News. Moreover, monies have been allocated by UCOP to HR to develop a "Career Coaching" program. Although this will not eliminate the need for at least a full-time position to deal with managerial/staff training (which, we understand, all our sister campuses possess), it will help to provide guidance to staff throughout the campus The discontinuation of the LEAP program has added to negative perceptions about institutional support for staff development. At both Neighborhood meetings this spring, the elimination of this program, which permitted staff to take reduced fee or free extension courses in the evenings, was voiced again and again, and its very success was highlighted by the fact that the funds initially allocated to the program were quickly exhausted. At a time when staff salaries are considered to be increasingly inadequate (this will be discussed below) and in view of the fact that night classes are largely not available on the general campus, the importance of such programs as LEAP play a significant role in allowing staff to see themselves as realizing their potential.

Related to career development and staff training is another recurrent problem – staff supervision. Exit surveys conducted in the last year pointed to supervision as one of the major factors affecting turnover at UCI, and dissatisfaction with supervision was voiced emphatically at the second, and most well attended, of the Neighborhood Meetings. Indeed, it was suggested that were exit interviews to be given more widely, the degree of dissatisfaction with supervision would be even greater. In this context, a number of observations and suggestions were made at the meeting that may be worth repeating:

  • Information regarding the online exit questionnaires should be publicized more effectively.
  • Information from exit interviews should be reported to departments affected.
  • Human Resources should keep data on turnover in the individual units, if it does not already.
  • Attention should be paid at higher levels of administration to those departments/units in which mass departures occur.
  • There should be anonymous evaluations of managers yearly (input from their subordinates).
  • Staff who appeal to OEOD with complaints of "general harassment" but who do not belong to protected categories have no recourse other than mediation, which is perceived inadequate owing to the "power differential."

Compensation, not surprisingly, is a recurrent concern among staff. In spite of recent salary increases and the strategic plan for staff salaries projected for the next years, there is a widespread perception that the University's salaries for staff are below market, and we understand that it is becoming very difficult to fill positions, a situation exacerbated when vacated positions are returned at lower salary levels. At the Neighborhood Meetings, the issue of compensation prompted a variety of comments, some directed at the salaries themselves, which, while increased, must now cover higher costs for parking and healthcare. Others were concerned that merit is being recognized by incentive awards, which do not affect base salary. Many staff argue the need for greater salary ranges, since the present system is perceived as disadvantaging loyalty at the expense of efficiency by encouraging staff at the top of their range to seek positions elsewhere as the only means to improve their salaries. Although the benefits associated with University employment were generally highly praised, the desirability of fee remissions for the children of staff continues to be raised in the context of compensation.

Two additional matters were discussed at various times during the year and both relate to workload. With increases in the student and faculty population, there needs to be some assurance that increases in staff will also occur, since the data suggests that the opposite is occurring. Planning also needs to be done to anticipate the impact on staff of a full summer session, not only taking into account increases in workload, but also lost opportunities to "catch up" and prepare for the coming academic year.

Recommendations:

  • Restore the LEAP program, if at all possible.
  • Investigate ways to enhance the performance evaluation process, especially as it relates to supervision.
  • Continue to pursue the strategic salary plan for staff salaries in order to bring them more closely in line with the present market.
  • Develop a mandatory supervisory training course. A shorter version of the current "Effective Supervision" series would be a valuable refresher for longer-term employees who may have gone through the more extensive series, but could benefit from updates, and would be beneficial for academic supervisors as well.
  • Increase staffing to accompany increased student and faculty growth. Attention to campus infrastructure support is critical. While we recognize the importance of increased efficiencies, this alone will not alleviate the severe stress created by workload issues across the campus.
  • Continue emphasizing communication with staff. The increased communication to staff over the past year or so has been greatly appreciated. Results of a recent uci.brief user survey indicated its credibility and usefulness. In fact, some have suggested that uci.brief could be utilized even more fully to announce events and seminars presently being communicated individually by some units. Continue e-mail updates from the Chancellor, which have also been well received.

We have welcomed the opportunity to serve on this important committee. We believe that staff are critical to the success of our university, and we appreciate your commitment to making UCI a stimulating and rewarding place to work for all who are employed here.

Sincerely,

Linda Bauer
CACSS Faculty Co-Chair 
School of Humanities

Janai Hendra
CACSS Staff Co-Chair
School of Physical Sciences