More Merit Money

March 9, 2000

Carol J. Schlueter

Yvette Jones calls it a "real commitment to rewarding outstanding performance." Scott Cowen says it is "directly related to the strategic plan." It also will bring a much-needed salary boost to the July paychecks for the university's most productive faculty and staff.

This new program is Tulane's universitywide merit awards, made possible by a $1.5 million allotment for the coming fiscal year and a plan to grow the total commitment to $10 million over the next five-year period. Jones, senior vice president for planning and administration, said, "It's a major infusion of resources into the base salaries of employees, and it is intended to help us retain high-performing faculty and staff."

Distributions from this new merit pool will not be one-time pay or bonuses, but will be part of permanent salaries. These enhancements will be in addition to the 2 percent salary-pool increases that are to be distributed by department heads.

The program was developed by Cowen and executive cabinet members Tony Lorino, senior vice president for operations and chief financial officer; Paul L. Barron, interim senior vice president for academic affairs; Jack Grubbs, special assistant to the president; Paul K. Whelton, senior vice president for the health sciences; and Jones.

First, they decided that the program needed to be "fair and principled in the distribution between faculty and staff," Jones said. As a result, of the $1.5 million available beginning July 1, $900,000 will go to faculty and $600,000 to staff. This is based on the percentage of payroll currently distributed between faculty and staff.

She added that, in addition to participation in the merit pool, staff will be receiving another benefit next year. The decision was made earlier to increase the staff retirement benefit by one-fourth of a point to 7.75 percent, which is the percentage of a staff member's salary that the university puts toward his or her retirement. This increase for staff will cost Tulane $150,000 yearly.

For faculty, the criteria for the new awards will be to focus on top performers whose salaries are below the current job market. Staff members will be considered for awards if they scored higher than a "3" on the recent performance evaluations and rank in salary in the bottom two quartiles of their job grade in the compensation plan.

Cowen and the senior administrators will work closely with deans and vice presidents in the decision process for the new awards. Seventy percent of each pool of money for faculty or staff will be distributed to administrators at the vice president or dean level, and they will recommend employees in their areas for the increases.

For example, of the $900,000 set aside for faculty merit awards, 70 percent will be distributed to deans, based on a formula geared to the size of the faculty group and salary pool. Jones said that the remaining 30 percent of each pool will go toward resolving problems with inequities that surface in comparing Tulane salaries in certain types of jobs to salaries paid for those jobs in the overall job market.

Evola Bates, vice president of human resources, added, "There are some categories of jobs where there may need to be a total adjustment in terms of the compensation plan." For example, where there are "hot jobs" that are highly competitive in the marketplace, Tulane may need to increase staff salaries in those types of jobs to avoid losing skilled staff members.

The 30 percent allocation in the faculty pool could be used to correct disparities between what certain Tulane schools or departments pay faculty members and what peer schools and departments are paying for similar positions. Jones was to distribute a memo outlining the plan to all administrative council members in early March. Award recommendations must be completed in time for the April 1 deadline for submitting 2000-2001 budgets.

The president has made "people" issues (including compensation and rewards) the highest priority in his new strategic plan for Tulane. Cowen said, "We will start our program by addressing the compensation issues related to our most productive faculty and staff in relationship to those at peer institutions. Over time, we will attempt to address these issues for all deserving faculty and staff."

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000