Frequently asked questions
What is the new employee group and what does it mean?
The new employee group is "University and Academic Professionals." Most non-teaching and research employees fall into this new employee group and are covered by the new HR policy “Working@VCU: “Great Place” HR Policies”. VCU no longer hires classified staff and only uses employment contracts for senior level administrators.
If I’m classified, can I remain classified?
Classified staff hired at VCU before July 1, 2016 have a choice to either remain classified staff or enroll in the new HR plan. You can enroll in the new plan at any time. It is your choice. HR is available to assist you by providing information to help you make an informed decision.
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.
How does switching from classified staff to University and Academic Professional impact my ability to move within State service?
University and Academic Professionals are state employees earning state service. Should you enter state classified employment at another state employer after converting to University & Academic Professional employment at VCU, your time still counts towards your total years of state service. However, VCU leave will not likely transfer to a classified position and you may be required to complete a classified probation period.
Can you receive more than a 10 percent increase in a year?
Yes you could. There are no caps on salary increases in the 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 percent), more frequent salary increases as employees move through their career paths.
Are we still using recognition awards?
Yes, the use of salary incentives to recognize and reward employees is encouraged in the new HR plan. The maximum amount of bonus an employee may be awarded in a fiscal year is $5,000 or 10 percent of base pay, whichever is greater.
By what process will salaries be increased to their market ranges? About how long will this process take?
The compensation procedures provide three ways an employee’s base pay can increase over time - merit, promotion, and career path advancement. Merit is based on the overall rating in the performance review process. Career path advancements come from achieving milestones in the career development plan that is part of the performance review process. Promotions can be either “competitive” through the current job search process or “noncompetitive” through advancements in the career development plan. Pay increases are awarded as the budget allows. Managers determine the size of an increase based on the employee's qualifications, experience, and their current pay relative to the appropriate market range. There are no longer caps on salary increases as found in the state classified system.
Are market ranges available to review?
Yes, market ranges are published as part of a more comprehensive compensation management section on the Human Resources website.
Are we going to get raises if we switch?
No, employees who select the new HR plan continue at the same salary. However, there are three ways an employee may receive a salary increase in the new plan - merit pay, promotions, and career path advancements.
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. Under the new HR plan, managers evaluate performance and have the flexibility to offer increases that correlate with the evaluation rating. Candidly, there are no guarantees in a “pay for performance” model, however the expectation is that over time higher performance receives higher salary increases. It is also important to note that annual salary increases are not the only reward for high performers. The new HR plan l also includes predefined career paths. High performers are also eligible for promotional opportunities as they advance through their career path.
Under the new plan, are promotions and/or position changes limited to minimum salary posted or 15 percent increase?
There are no caps on salary increases in the new HR plan. Managers have the flexibility to offer salaries within the posted market ranges.
How will current inequity of salaries in departments and across campus be addressed?
The market-based salary ranges provide a new yardstick against which salary decisions across the university can be made and evaluated. The current state pay bands for classified staff are too broad to provide that level of analysis. The market ranges provide a new pay structure to help managers make better individual decisions and 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.
Are employees whose positions are funded through grants eligible for merit increases?
Employees paid from grant funds would be eligible for merit pay. The new HR policy specifically states that this applies "regardless of the source of funds from which the salary of the employee is paid."
What will my new market-base pay range be?
Prior to enrollment, you can review a side-by-side comparison and login to the myVCU portal to view your placement in the new job family as well within a market range.
What is the difference between pay bands and salary ranges?
When the Commonwealth of Virginia last updated its compensation structure in 2000, it collapsed all the different salary ranges into a handful of “pay bands.” The pay bands were made extremely wide to fit all the state job titles into these few pay bands. The new VCU job family structure does just the opposite. It has a separate market-based pay range for each job title. Job titles are “stacked” using a 1,2,3 and Senior 1, 2, 3 structure to create a job series or a career path. Employees are able to advance in their career moving across and up through these market ranges through “non competitive” (i.e. no search) promotions in place. To better compare the state pay band to the VCU market ranges, compare the entry level salary for the “1” level job title and the maximum for the Senior 3 level job title. See examples (PDF).
Will there be an education component for managers about flexible work arrangements that promote their use?
While there is a telecommuting policy currently in place and there are many positions across the university that qualify to telecommute, it is not widely used. Along with the new HR policy, there are new resources for employees and managers to better support the use of flexible work arrangements. The new leadership development program includes a robust curriculum of management training that addresses all sections of the new HR policies including flexible work arrangements. The key to making the plan work lies in how the policies and programs come together. 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 specific section of the new HR policy, 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.
If a manager denies a request for a flexible work arrangement, even when all factors indicate it is an eligible position, will employees have a process for appealing that decision?
The decision to grant an alternative work arrangement is at a manager’s or department’s discretion. There is no specific appeal process. However, there are new resources for employees and managers to better support these options.
Is the Flexible Work Arrangements policy for everyone?
No, it is only for University and Academic Professionals. Classified staff who choose to remain classified are covered by the state policy and do not lose access to any current telecommuting agreements made under that policy.
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 six levels (e.g., Accountant 1, Accountant 2, Accountant 3, and Senior Accountant 1, 2, 3). 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. There are four stages to move across a career path - emerging, proficient, accomplished and expert. Employees can also advance up through the job title series as they gain competencies and experience. Career advancement in the same job is called promotion in place. There 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.
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. Career communities provide a structure around which additional career development opportunities are offered. A mentoring program with resources and support for both mentors and mentees is also being included in the career communities.
How do I get my manager to support my career development?
In the new policy, the expectation is for employees to engage in the career development process and managers to support their employees’ development. The policy specifies 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. The updated performance management process provides the infrastructure to implement this new expectation for both employees and managers. Managers are evaluated on these expectations in their own performance reviews. The career development planning phase documents agreed upon career development opportunities in which employees will participate. It is important for the employee to be clear about their career development interests and work collaboratively with their supervisor to determine their strategic goals for the position and define ways to develop their goals.
What happens to the tuition waiver if I switch to the new plan?
There are no changes to the current policy on tuition waiver/tuition reimbursement.
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 VCU Linkedin Learning, 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 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.
What is a promotion in place?
The new HR plan is designed around a series of flexible career paths in the various job families around the university. An exciting new feature 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 the classified 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 careers. At VCU, we want to retain our valuable employees by offering them promotions within their career paths 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 is applying for a different position, but the career paths are meant to provide another option that's hasn’t been available.
Before making a decision to switch to the new HR plan will the employee know what stage of career development they will be at (emerging, proficient, advanced, expert) as university and academic professionals?
All classified employees have access to a side-by-side comparison as well as their job placement in the new job structure and market range through myVCU portal. However, the assignment of career development stages is part of the career planning and goal planning between employee and manager that occurs as part of performance management.
How do career paths work?
The HR policy supports career and personal development through movement through career paths. The new universitywide job structure groups jobs by function using a standard set of job titles. Most titles have six levels (e.g. Accountant 1, 2, 3; Senior Accountant 1,2, 3). Each job title has a unique market range. The market ranges stack to create career paths. Employees can move across and up through the market ranges as they gain competencies and skills documented in their career development plan. Movement across the salary range is accomplished in four stages defined as emerging, proficient, accomplished and expert. Career paths provide opportunities for employees to advance through their careers by moving across the four stages and up the job levels as they gain competencies and experience. See the infographic (PDF).
Will my performance evaluation be a 360-degree feedback review?
Not at this time. Performance reviews are 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 leadership development program.
Will employees have to complete a self-review at the end of the performance cycle?
Yes. All employees complete a self-review as part of the overall performance review process. Talent@VCU provides a mechanism for the employee to document progress and accomplishments toward goals throughout the performance management cycle. This helps provide more content to support a comprehensive performance review and is valuable for completing the self-review that begins the annual review process.
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. The calibration process provides an opportunity for managers to meet and share an understanding of how they will use the performance ratings. 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.
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 or fiscally-motivated policy rather than motivated by employee accomplishments.
Definitions of the ratings are included in the performance management program. In the goals section, each goal is 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 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" is a new process called "calibration." Calibration occurs at the school level for academic units and the division level for administrative units. See Question 3 above for more information on performance calibration.
How will we assure buy-in from senior leaders?
Senior leadership was closely involved in every step of the Great Place: HR Redesign project. They were fully engaged in the process and are supportive of the changes. Targeted leadership communications throughout the project will continue to be utilized. In addition, the new HR plan includes the identification of competencies critical for effective leadership at VCU. These leadership competencies serve as the basis for a new leadership development curriculum to foster and develop managers' skills and abilities. They are also part of the manager’s annual review.
Will employees have the opportunity to evaluate their managers through a 360 degree review?
360 feedback is designed 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 will be incorporated into the manager’s career development plan to hold them accountable and help them excel in the VCU core leadership competencies.
How will disputes or claims be handled?
The new HR policy provides 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 is 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 converted are subject to the grievance procedure in the new HR policy.
How are the members of the peer review panel be selected? Are they volunteers?
Panel members are selected through a nomination process.
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 is contingent on the performance rating of individual employees and requires the discretion of the unit/managers to manage their budget. For example, historically all classified employees with a minimum of a fair performer performance rating automatically received the same percentage increase. However, employees in the new HR plan 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.
Where do the market ranges come from?
Market data comes from salary surveys that the university purchases and/or participates in to benchmark the job and establish the market median (average). The market median (average) is used to set the midpoint of the range.
Have you discussed the fiscal impact on the university from the new leave plan?
Yes, both internal and external experts reviewed the new leave plan and their input was considered when the policy was approved.
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 and colleges have increased flexibility under both the HR plan and the new budget model. For example, if a school creates a new program or improves efficiency in an existing program, it may generate additional revenue. The dean now has options to reinvest that revenue to support personnel, program, or operational priorities.
This sounds great but how will the new plan be successful if there is no new funding for pay increases?
There are two ways salary increases occur (1) annual salary increases done in conjunction with the budget process where all schools/units are subject to the same amount and same guidelines; and (2) "off cycle" salary increases to recognize changes that occur during the year. Other FAQs have responded to how the annual salary increase process is impacted by the new HR plan. Funding for the career development increases envisioned for University and Academic Professionals comes from the second source of funds. A historical analysis of "off cycle" salary increases awarded at VCU over the past seven years reveals the university spends about $4 million per year on these types of increases. This is not new money; it comes from reallocation, turnover and efficiency gains. The analysis further reveals these increases occur consistently, even in the years of state or university budget cuts (there were budget reductions in four of the seven years included in this analysis). The same percentage (14 percent) of Classified Staff and A&P Faculty receive "off cycle" increases each year, although the average increase for classified staff is half (7 percent) the average for A&P Faculty (14 percent). The new career development program for University and Academic Professionals provides for smaller, more frequent increases than what happens currently. Funds previously used for “off cycle” increases will support most employees receiving a career path promotional increase of 3-4 percent every two-three years. See the HR Redesign Compensation Historical Data (PDF) information for data on both these off cycle increases as well as VCU's use of one-time bonuses.
How does a recruitment waiver work for career advancement and promotions in place?
As an employee achieves established milestones documented in a career development plan, he/she can be "promoted in place" through the agreed upon career path without a search being conducted.
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 six levels (for example Accountant 1, Accountant 2, Accountant 3; Senior Accountant 1, 2, 3) ) 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 can now be used for University and Academic Professional positions. A search can be conducted for an Accountant 1, 2, or 3 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.
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 the interview stage. Interview panel members participate in the interview and provide feedback on the applicant's performance.
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.
How does the new plan help ensure the employment of a diverse workforce?
Two ways. First, the search process itself is more streamlined and more flexible which helps VCU respond more quickly and be better able to meet the needs of diverse candidates. Second, in modernizing the policies themselves, VCU is a more attractive employer in today's competitive marketplace. For example, the adoption of career paths impacts the employment policy with the new option of "open rank" searches. That is, a position can be recruited for as an Accountant I, II, or III depending on qualifications. This expands the pool of potential applicants and increases the likelihood of a more diverse applicant pool. Having the career path advancement available is likely to attract and retain top talent so employees don't feel the need to go to another employer to advance their career. Another example of making VCU a more attractive employer is the proposed leave benefits. The leave benefits have been benchmarked by an external firm to be "best in class." Offering generous leave accruals, full annual accruals at the beginning of the leave year, along with parental, caregiver and community service leave come together to make a very appealing leave benefit.
When can I enroll in the new plan?
Beginning January 1, 2019, you can enroll in the new HR plan at any time. Please note the effective dates are quarterly. Resources are available to help you make the decision that is right for you and your career. Log on to myvcu portal to see your placement in the new job structure as well as to review a side-by-side plan comparisons. For additional questions, please contact your HR Professional.
What happens to my benefits if I switch?
While the policy enhances the leave program, other benefits - retirement, health insurance, workers compensation, life insurance, etc. - stay the same. If you opt into the new plan, you remain a state employee with the same retirement benefits, though some classified employees moving to the new plan also have the option to switch to the VCU Optional Retirement Plan (ORP) based on their position.
If I choose to stay classified for now, will I have another opportunity to convert?
Yes, you can opt into the new plan at any time. Please note that effective dates are quarterly.
When will the new plan be effective for me?
The effective date is quarterly, based on when you enroll. Please see the effective date chart for more details.
I manage an exempt employee (University and Academic Professional) who is not reporting leave for time away from work stating she’s using the “half day” in the university leave policy that she’s entitled to. Is that allowed under the new leave policy?
In the university leave plan, exempt University and Academic Professionals typically only report leave time for absences of a half day (four hours) or greater. Non-routine or occasional absences of less than half a day (four hours) are considered incidental and not reportable. However, those four hours are not an entitlement and are subject to review by the employee's manager. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), exempt employees are paid a regular salary and are not paid based on the number of hours worked. They are expected to meet operational needs and are evaluated on results achieved, exercising professional judgment regarding the work that needs to be done and meeting expectations of dependability, conscientiousness, reliability and trustworthiness. For these employees, meeting the responsibilities of the position is emphasized over working a specific number of hours. While a standard work week for full-time exempt employees may be established based on a 40-hour schedule, they are expected to work as many additional hours as necessary to complete their jobs. It’s not unusual for exempt employees to work well beyond that typical schedule and when they do, the additional hours are not tracked, they do not result in overtime pay or in compensatory time off. The four hour reporting increment is designed to reflect the flexibility of an exempt employee’s work schedule and to help balance the demands of these additional expectations. It is important to keep in mind that the policy limits these non-reportable absences to “incidental,” “non-routine” or “occasional.” Regular or scheduled absences such as twice-aweek physical therapy appointments or time off every other Friday afternoon are reportable as leave under the policy. Assume in all cases, the exempt employee is a University and Academic Professional with a typical work schedule of Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For example:
- An exempt employee has a doctor’s appointment that requires the individual to be out of the office for an hour and 25 minutes during the middle of the work day.
- Typically, no leave is reported.
- An exempt employee leaves one afternoon at 3:30 p.m. to pick up a family member from the airport.
- Typically, no leave is reported.
- An exempt employee is not feeling well and leave works at 11 a.m.
- Five hours of leave is reported. (Five and not six hours are reported because the employee does not need to report leave for the lunch period.)
- An exempt employee has a doctor’s appointment that requires the individual to be out of the office for an hour and 25 minutes during the middle of the work day.
It’s important to note in the examples above, even if the time away does not meet the threshold for leave reporting, the employee still must inform their manager of their absence. Also note, the four-hour reporting increment only applies to University and Academic Professionals under the VCU “university leave” plan. The Commonwealth of Virginia requires Classified Staff who are exempt employees to report leave in 15-minute increments. While any work schedule flexibility under the circumstances described above is ideally determined mutually by the manager and employee, ultimately, it is management’s duty to hold employees responsible and to be fair. There is no policy language that can substitute for good management. The cornerstones of the exempt working relationship are clear expectations from the manager, professional accountability of the employee and good communication between the two.