Compensation Modernization Frequently Asked Questions

Who does this initiative apply to?

This initiative applies only to Penn State staff members. Faculty and technical service positions are not within the scope of this project. Non-staff members who supervise staff members are encouraged to stay up to date with the initiative to understand how the staff members they supervise may be affected.

Will this initiative affect my pay? What will be done if market analysis shows salaries need to be reviewed or adjusted?

At the end of the initiative, unit leaders and Human Resources (HR) will have a complete view of market values for job types across the University. If positions are being compensated below market value, units will have the opportunity to work with HR to create actions plans for adjusting salaries to meet market value. Please note that HR does not intend to decrease any salaries as a direct result of this initiative’s outcomes, even if data shows some positions are compensated above market value.

Please understand that funding for positions varies by unit. Understanding the value of positions across job families does not automatically grant every unit the funding it needs to meet market benchmarks. In the event a unit cannot reach the target compensation for a position, HR will work with that unit to create an action plan to reach market value over time.

Will staff receive clear guidance as to how to move forward in their careers?

Having a complete picture of job architecture grants HR the ability to offer managers and staff members visibility into how roles are classified and related to one another. Staff and managers will be given access to resources on career ladders and lattices, which show potential paths an employee can take to advance their careers through upward promotion or lateral movement. Staff can expect a new web resource to guide them through possible career tracks at Penn State based on their current position.

It is important to recognize that not all staff members wish to be promoted into a higher-level position or become supervisors in the future. New job architecture and career development resources will allow for better visibility into lateral options staff members can pursue and will not strictly focus on upward movement.

Career development activities will be a dual responsibility that involves both the employee and their supervisor. Supervisors will receive new resources to partner with their staff in identifying growth opportunities, and staff members will be responsible for discussing their career goals with their supervisors and carrying out development plans.

Who is involved with this initiative?

This initiative is a joint effort between Penn State HR and Segal, a national human capital consulting firm with extensive experience in higher education. Work is divided between a design team and a delivery team within HR. The efforts of these two groups are overseen by an Executive Steering Committee, made up of senior leaders and executives from across the University. Implementation of changes is coordinated by HR’s Compensation and Classification team as well as HR Strategic Partners and Consultants.

Why has Penn State hired a consultant for this initiative?

This initiative is a transformative effort that has the potential to positively impact Penn State’s ability to attract the best talent and retain its highly valued staff members. HR has entered a collaborative engagement with Segal for the duration of this initiative. The experts at Segal have worked with hundreds of higher education institutions and bring expertise to help Penn State address current and future issues and concerns around staff compensation and career paths. Project team members within HR work to adapt Segal’s compensation expertise to Penn State, and Segal undertakes the extensive research and development of deliverables. Completing such a tremendous initiative in-house would take much longer and would not have the benefit of being informed by past compensation work at other higher education institutions.

What is the desired outcome of this work?

The goal of this initiative is to create comprehensive, modern compensation and career structures and processes. With these new structures and processes, Penn State will aim to attract top talent and retain staff members through better service, new career resources, and increased transparency.
Key areas of focus include:

  • Offering visibility into career paths for staff members;
  • Establishing a compensation philosophy, a formal framework that describes Penn State’s overall approach to employee compensation;
  • Updating job documentation;
  • Benchmarking the majority of staff jobs;
  • Analyzing pay structure and levels;
  • Updating how compensation decisions are made;
  • Providing comprehensive, transparent, and streamlined compensation and career services to managers and their staff.

How has HR used feedback from the Penn State community?

HR and Segal have taken care to document feedback and identify important patterns and themes within it. The project team approaches each work step with the questions, concerns, and perceptions of our community in mind.
Some of the project areas where community feedback is heavily applied include:

  • The development of Penn State’s new Compensation Philosophy, a comprehensive framework that describes Penn State’s overall approach to employee compensation
  • Training materials
  • The development of comparison groups and markets for the purposes of determining pay equity
  • Communications and transparency efforts, including Penn State Today/Penn State News articles, mass emails, and web resources

How can staff members stay up to date with how this initiative is progressing?

HR will work to provide periodic updates to the Penn State community via email and Penn State News articles, as well as through this website. Communications on the initiative will aim to inform the community of key project milestones, alert staff members and managers of changes to compensation and career processes, and share training videos and other resources with managers and staff.

How will changes that result from this initiative be implemented?

At the end of this initiative, HR’s Compensation and Classification team will utilize new job architecture in the classification of jobs. Information gleaned from the market review will allow for a clearer understanding of a position’s value when a hiring manager is ready to make an offer. This information will also inform unit leaders of benchmarks for current salaries. The release of training resources and career development information will allow managers to begin more informed conversations with staff members who wish to advance in their careers.

Individual units will be responsible for making decisions based on market information. HR will partner with units in utilizing new information and structures.

What role will managers play in the implementation of the initiative?

Managers’ typical duties will not be disrupted by the results of this initiative. However, managers can expect to have increased visibility into compensation and career processes within HR. HR will partner with managers to streamline compensation elements of recruitment and retention, such as extending offers and conducting job reviews. Managers will also be key reviewers of new staff job profile and level assignments. Overall, this initiative aims to improve processes already in place while redesigning job architecture and evaluating the compensation of staff positions related to market value.

In addition, managers will have access to new resources designed to assist them in supporting their staff’s interest in career development. The redesigned job architecture will help managers and staff members become more informed about what other roles may be suited to their development interests, whether that means promoting upward or moving laterally. Managers will be given more support in how to begin and sustain development conversations with their staff members, as well as support staff members who are looking to advance their career.

What is the University doing to retain staff talent?

Penn State seeks to retain staff talent through a combination of base salary, benefits, professional growth and development opportunities, mission/values, and culture.

Base salary – Salary provides a competitive foundation for pay and reflects an individual’s role, skills, experience, performance, and potential advancement.

Benefits – The University provides a complete and competitive package of health and retirement benefits, generous time off programs, income protection options, an employee assistance program, and a tuition benefit for employees and their dependents. Penn State’s benefits go above and beyond many of its peers, offering employees more time off, generous retirement contributions, and much more. Employees can learn more about the value of their benefits with the Total Compensation online tool

Professional growth and development opportunities – Staff are provided with and encouraged to take advantage of professional development and growth opportunities within their role, area, or across the University. Penn State HR offers numerous online and in-person development opportunities.

Mission/values – As a premiere higher education institution, Penn State educates students from around the world and supports individuals and communities through integrated programs of teaching, research, and service.

Culture – Penn State strives to provide staff members with a collegial work environment, a community atmosphere, and flexibility in work arrangements.

The Compensation Modernization Initiative aims to make improvements within the context of compensation and career development.