Compensation Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if a new job profile or level needs to be created?

Employees should be mapped to a profile and level that best represents the work they are performing. However, there can be instances that necessitate the creation of an additional profile or level. Unit HR can work with the Compensation team to explore the need for additional profiles. 

Which surveys and industries were used for benchmarking job profiles?

Human Resources utilized several distinct salary surveys from both higher education and industry. These surveys are highly regarded, and many of them are used by competitors in both education and general industry sectors. Most jobs were aligned to the national level as this is where we compete for talent. For other jobs that we compete locally to fill, a regional data cut was used.

How can a position be reviewed if it is in the wrong job profile?

Please consult with your manager and/or unit HR to help determine if a reclassification review should be submitted for your position. These reclassifications, which seek to change someone’s job profile, are submitted to and reviewed by the Compensation team. 

Why are “supervisors” and “advanced professionals” salary banded the same?

While the University values supervisory responsibilities, a supervisor is not always paid higher than those in the underlying profile. For example, a rather junior supervisor could oversee an employee with 30 years of experience, with both performing similar work. Another example could be a supervisor overseeing an employee with a highly specialized skill set or role. The salary grades are assigned to both profiles based on the market, which considers the work performed by the position. Since both the Supervisor and Advanced Professional levels perform very similar work as independent contributors, they are evaluated first on the predominance of the work. The Supervisor can then be reviewed for the supervisory work performed.

Will salary grade maximums be increased over time?

The University has committed to undertaking periodic reviews of its staff job profiles, with a goal of reviewing every profile over a two to three-year period. In addition, Human Resources will undertake a review of the entire salary structure every three to five years. During these reviews, it is possible for a job profile to move to different grades within the structure or for salary grade maximums to increase.  

Was cost of living considered when defining salary grades?

Penn State regularly analyzes the cost of labor using an external survey data source to determine the impact on market pricing and/or salary structures. To account for differences in the various talent markets that exist at the Commonwealth Campuses, as well as other implications of operating in various locations, adjustments may be made to the national general industry market data and/or the higher education markets.

If my pay is at or above the max of my salary grade, does that mean I will no longer receive merit increases?

Employees that are over the maximum of their grade may receive a lump sum payment for any merit increases, until they move into another grade and/or position. Human Resources will continuously evaluate the salary grades assigned to profiles to ensure the University remains competitive in accordance with our compensation philosophy.

How can Penn State motivate and retain staff if their pay is at the max for their salary grade?

All organizations assign a maximum amount that can be compensated for a job. The maximum represents the all-out value an organization is willing to pay for a job. This is not a reflection of the value of the person in the role, but a statement of how the compensation for a particular role compares to the larger market and is defined in our Compensation program. While some organizations have a hard cap, our program institutes a soft cap that allows employees to still receive the value of the increase in the lump sum payment.

Other elements of this new program can help some staff compensated at the maximum of their grade. For one, the staff promotion process is an opportunity for growth. Many employees will have the opportunity to be promoted to the next level within their job profile. An employee’s job doesn’t have to change like it did before for this to occur.

The new structure is also meant to illuminate career paths so staff can have a better sense of the other career opportunities within the University that build on their current experience.

Lastly, if a market review suggests that the market value of a job has increased, a job may be re-graded to a higher salary grade within the structure.

How can an employee be submitted for a promotion?

A promotional process has been developed that will allow managers to promote an employee to a higher level within that employee’s job string (e.g. Support>Intermediate Support>Senior Support). Employees may be eligible for promotion if they have successfully demonstrated the majority of the characteristics of the next level. Promotions begin with a recommendation by the Manager and are finalized by the unit in consultation with HR. The Compensation team will review changes in exemption status and non-management to management tracks. This process is expected to occur annually, and the first promotional process will begin in November 2024.

The road map for Penn State’s future prioritizes “supporting employees in their career paths.” How will this work be supported by HR?

After the implementation of the new salary grades and related salary adjustments, HR will work to release new career development resources designed to increase staff visibility into the various growth opportunities they can seek as they advance in their career. More information will be shared later this year. 

How is this program equitable when each business unit, college, or campus has differing budget challenges?

With better defined profiles and levels, narrower salary grades, and clearer guidelines for pay administration, there will be less variability for equal jobs. The Compensation team will review job postings, perform internal equity analyses, and regularly audit the health of the overall program. These changes, in aggregate, will help the University better monitor equity and effectively address any equity issues that are identified. Units, colleges, and campuses facing equity challenges are encouraged to reach out to the Compensation team for assistance in addressing these concerns.