Frequently Asked Questions
Please check back frequently, as responses to many of the questions will expand as additional information becomes available. Please contact the Office of Human Resources at Willamette University if you still have a question that has not been answered below.
How will the new classification system benefit the University?
Updating the system and job descriptions will provide us with a clearer understanding of the different jobs and levels of jobs we have in the University, allowing us to make better internal comparisons for compensation purposes. It will also facilitate better matching to similar positions in the job market. The end result will be up-to-date and current data from which we can build job descriptions into a single format.
What are the primary goals for this program?
As with many HR programs, the ultimate goal is to be able to recruit and retain a well-qualified staff that can help Willamette fulfill its educational mission. We hope the new system will foster better transparency and understanding of pay, and promote consistency across the University in managing pay.
What is a PDQ?
PDQ stands for Position Description Questionnaire. This is the basic tool most organizations use to conduct job analysis for purposes of determining the internal worth of a job, what job family a job belongs in, and what level the job belongs at within a pay system. Willamette is using a web-based survey program to gather this information for use by Sibson consulting in conducting job analysis.
How do I access the PDQ?
If navigating from your e-mail, you will find the Position Description Questionnaire link in the announcement e-mail.
You can access the PDQ directly from this link.
What will I be asked to do in the PDQ?
The PDQ asks you to provide basic information about the essential functions of your job as it is performed now, including what percent of time you dedicate to each function and task. There are also some questions about the degree of decision making in the job and the degree to which work is performed with or without supervision.
What will I need to start?
Just some time set aside to complete the survey and your employee identification number are needed. It may also be helpful to have a copy of your latest job description.
Below is the link to the job descriptions, which are arranged by department:
You may also want to go through the appropriate Powerpoint that lists the questions that will be asked of you in the PDQ:
Once I start the PDQ can I save it and complete it later?
If at any point while completing the survey you want to save the results and continue the survey at some other point in time, please click on the “click here to save and continue survey later” button located at the very top of the screen. After saving, you will receive a link via email that will direct you to complete your PDQ at a later time.
Why is there only space for six essential functions? I think I have more.
Often times, people get confused by the definitions of “duties” and “functions”. The PDQ process is not intended to generate an exhaustive list of specific “duties”. It is typical in job analysis processes to narrow the number of essential functions to five or six primary broad-based responsibilities. If using a job description to define essential functions, think about the heading a group of interrelated duties might fall under to define the actual “function”.
I am uncertain about the answers to some of the questions? How should I get help?
Contact the Human Resources office at 6210, or talk to your supervisor about the question. Ultimately, you’ll need to give your best answer if you are still not sure. Your supervisor, HR, and Sibson consulting will be reviewing all responses as well and if anyone feels the answer is incorrect, it will be discussed with you.
What is the process from here?
Once an employee completes a PDQ for his/her position, the supervisor will review the submission and discuss any discrepancies in their understanding of the employee’s duties with the employee. If there is still disagreement, further discussion will be initiated with the involvement of Human Resources.
Who approves the final position description?
Together, HR and supervisors have final approval on the accepted position description. In all cases, the description must be reflective of the actual work being performed. In some cases, processes and work distribution may need to be re-evaluated and changed to ensure the job description reflects the actual work intended by the supervisor/department.
What will Sibson do with the final position description?
Once all staff positions have an approved description, Sibson will be analyzing all of the PDQ submissions to establish new job classifications and job families before moving to the market analysis phase of the project. Reclassification requests after close of the project will follow a similar process of submission of a new PDQ, which will be a consistent part of the new processes for performing classification and compensation reviews going forward.
For the positions we have that are vacant, does someone need to enter those PDQs into the portal?
For vacant positions, a PDQ submission should be done by the supervisor of the position.
How do I get an electronic copy of my job description?
Human Resources has set up a link to all position descriptions from the comp/class website at the following URL:
Note, HR has an extensive backlog of old descriptions. In some cases, what we provide in the file of job descriptions may not be the most recent, either because we didn’t upload a new one to our records, or it was never submitted to us in electronic format. If the description does not appear to be the most recent, please contact HR so that we can search in our archives and other records, or contact your supervisor to locate it.
How will the classification system support the hiring and retention of excellent staff?
Hiring and retaining outstanding staff is core to our Compensation Philosophy, which is pending approval and will be shared on our website for this project. A classification system is a system of defining jobs and levels of jobs to be able to make internal distinctions between positions and benchmark to the market appropriately. Coupled with the compensation system and practices that will be established for determining hiring rates and range progression plans, the classification system will serve as the underlying foundation for this goal.
Can you make some general comments with regard to your view of merit-based pay in a university system, and specifically comment on the role merit is to play – if any role at all - in our new comp system?
At this point, we have not determined how merit pay might be incorporated into the plan, but there was a strong sentiment during the stakeholder meetings last fall that there should be. Many employers in recent years have had trouble maintaining merit pay systems because of tight salary budgets since the recession. We will be developing a short- and long-term plan for how employees will be rewarded within established pay ranges.
Does this mean I might get a pay increase?
There is no way to tell at this point whether pay increases will be warranted for any position. While the grading system currently in place for Classified staff has its design limitations, it is well-benchmarked to the market. There are many jobs that will be sufficiently graded such that there will be little or no movement. That will be determined through the study and development of our program. Where pay increases are recommended, Willamette will be developing a plan to implement such pay increases in as equivalent a way as possible, and likely over a number of years.
What “labor markets” will our positions be compared to?
For these purposes, the best labor markets are those employers from which you often attract new employees and to whom you lose employees.
Sibson Consulting will use a number of survey sources, including the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) surveys, based on operating budget and student FTE, as well as local cross-industry surveys for jobs that don’t require higher education experience and are more impacted by local markets. For local and regional searches, Sibson Consulting used Towers Watson survey instruments and Mercer surveys. We will also use some specialty surveys for the law and business schools in particular as CUPA –HR doesn’t provide a means to narrow survey data to positions within these schools which often have unique needs in recruiting qualified talent.
Will my department continue to be able to hire and reclassify jobs during this period? What if my department wants to change my job duties now?
Willamette University needs to continue to operate during the course of the study, particularly in recruiting and retaining a qualified workforce. While there is need to limit changes during this period, we will consider the nature of the need and determine an appropriate course of action on a case by case basis. Retention of talent is important while we develop our program.
Will this plan result in any pay cuts or demotions?
Arnie Yasinski, our Vice President for Financial Affairs, at the forums last fall, committed that this project and resulting new program will not result in pay cuts. In some cases, we may alter position titles as a result of the study. In all cases, we commit to reviewing the impact of title changes on the incumbents in the job. Challenges with recommended changes in titles, in some cases, may be handled by assigning what are called “classification titles” with some flexibility in operating title.
Will this study be used to eliminate or consolidate positions?
No. The study is not intended to result in elimination or consolidation of positions. It may result in consolidation of classification titles. Having new and accurate position descriptions can also result in better understanding of how “duty creep”, the unintended change in the nature of work in a job, has changed the original intent of a job.
What are you not telling us? What is the hidden agenda?
Transparency through this entire process is important to the University leadership, consultants and HR. We will make every effort to communicate thoroughly and honestly throughout the project. If we don’t know an answer, that is what we will say. If it is something that has yet to be properly vetted or truly is confidential, that is what we will say.
What are the steps involved if an employee does not believe their position is ending up in the appropriate category? What is the review process?
Employees may request a review of their assignment into the job category framework and salary structure, and the specific process to request a review will be available on the project website. In all cases, we commit to providing information on how a classification assignment was made and will be open to new information that may alter the original assessment, if applicable.
Are any departments or positions exempt from participating in the study and new system?
First of all, this system is intended only for continuing exempt and non-exempt staff positions (current Classified, Administrative, and Professional). Faculty classification is not a part of this project. All departments will participate, however, most temporary jobs, some grant funded jobs, and other non-continuing or non-regularized positions may not be included in the program.
How will job titles be descriptive enough to make Willamette competitive in attracting the best candidates?
Job families are a function of grouping for ease of administration. The families do not determine job titles, nor do they determine the level of pay offered to the roles within them. Instead, individual positions’ job scope and responsibilities will determine the competitive pay practice for any given role. Flexibility around target pay for a given job will allow Willamette to attract the very best talent into key positions and provide a structure for award pay based on individual qualifications, assessed performance, and commitment to Willamette.
Will each classification have a pay cap or pay maximum?
While this is yet to be determined, it is likely, as in most classification and compensation systems, that there will be pay range maximums. Market analysis will be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure our ranges remain competitive.
After going through the benchmarking and internal comparison (job-leveling), what happens to individual employees whose position classification and resulting salary range is less than the current range?
The Project Team and Steering Committee have not yet finalized policy and practices relating to plan administration but it has been decided that in no case will any current staff member suffer a pay cut as a result of the implementation of the program.
What are “benchmark jobs”?
Benchmark jobs are those that have a substantial portion of their work that is comparable to positions found at other higher education institutions or other organizations. This allows us to compare the pay for a given job.
Is benchmarking based on the job summary or the job title?
Benchmarking matches were based on the comparison of the position profile summary with the position summaries provided by market survey jobs. Titles can vary from organization to organization, so it is critical that we look at actual duties in making comparisons.