An essential element of the university’s success is its people. As an institution, we need to continuously examine how our employees are supported and connected to our community. This month, I’d like to share an update on a particular initiative that I believe demonstrates our university’s commitment to our whole community.
This past October, I charged a task force led by CHRO Katherine Erwin to examine work-life issues for front-line service staff at CU Boulder. These employees play a valued role in the life of the university, and we need to improve our ability to attract, develop and retain employees in these positions and provide a welcoming working environment.
These positions fulfill a variety of important support roles across our campus, and I asked the task force to focus on the positions where the university is facing significant market, recruitment and retention challenges, ranging from entry-level animal care to custodians and security personnel.
The task force found four areas of emphasis for study and recommendations: salary, career development, transportation/parking and tuition assistance. An online and i>Clicker survey was developed and presented to employees in these positions. The surveys were also made available in multiple languages, to facilitate comprehension for English as a second language (ESL) survey-takers. More than 300 employees participated in the survey.
When asked which of the four areas was most important to them, our colleagues identified salary, followed by career development and parking/transportation. Many of the respondents indicated that they would like to continue working at CU Boulder and hope to see themselves developing proficiencies to move up the ladder in their areas or branch out into other careers in trades or professional fields.
As these positions have been historically hard to fill and experience turnover, yet the people who are in them are expressing an interest in continuing to work for our institution, what can we do to bridge the gap and keep these valued employees with CU Boulder?
The task force proposed a four-year prioritized list of recommendations based on the survey findings, addressing the four emphasis areas and the needs identified. I am committed to these recommendations, and the first year of the implementation received funding approval by the Board of Regents in the upcoming year’s budget. In this first year of implementation, we are committed to the following actions.
First, we have set the CU Boulder minimum wage for permanent front-line service employees to $12.10 per hour, starting at the beginning of our next fiscal year. Any eligible employee with an hourly rate less than $12.10 will receive an increase to the new minimum beginning July 1, 2017.
To avoid salary compression issues, any eligible employees who are in similar jobs but are already making above the new hourly minimum will receive an average of 5 percent increase if their jobs are not already being reviewed for a higher promotion or reclassification. Employees in these positions will receive a letter from Human Resources or their home department detailing the increases in their salary.
Next, in collaboration with the International English Center, we will be offering up to three courses each semester for our ESL community. These courses will be made available at no cost to staff members in the identified job classifications, and we are setting the expectation that supervisors will work with their employees and unit management to allow time for interested employees to attend these classes.
Further addressing the career development needs of these employees, we will also be expanding a Facilities Management pilot project that has been providing computer and smartphone literacy workshops to their front-line service worker community.
Facilities Management and Housing and Dining Services will also expand an apprenticeship program where interested employees can train for skilled roles in those organizations, and phase in new and needed skilled labor positions over the next three years. Human Resources will also provide a dedicated advisor to help these front-line employees with professional and educational development decisions.
Finally, to address the transportation challenges and costs for this particular employment group, recognizing that many do not live in or near Boulder, the university will provide a subsidy to reduce the cost of Vanpool ridership as a means to commute to campus.
There are many elements to a successfully functioning university, and the role these employees play in keeping our institution running should not be understated. I look forward to the implementation of these changes as reflections of our values and further steps toward making CU Boulder an employer of choice.
Many thanks to our front-line service employees for the work you do; I value your contribution to CU Boulder.
Senior Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer