What’s in a Title? The Title and Total Compensation Study

August 29, 2017 By Antony Hebblethwaite

Twenty-five project teams made up of more than 250 employees are helping to build a new job titling and total compensation structure at UW–Madison. The new structure will help employees make better choices about career advancement at the university and provide managers with improved tools to make pay and promotional decisions for employees.

The Title and Total Compensation Study, a joint project with UW System, is now entering the campus engagement phase. The initial round of campus forums will begin in September/October and give employees an opportunity to learn more about the study and provide input.

The review of titles and total compensation at UW–Madison will result in a new structure of relevant and market-informed titles and pay scales. The current structure can get in the way of career advancement opportunities for employees at UW–Madison.

“Employees working in financial specialist positions often struggle to find a career path for themselves,” says Jason Jankoski, assistant dean for human resources at the College of Engineering. “When financial specialists feel a lack of mobility in their jobs, we increase our potential to lose critical talent to other organizations. This study will help us build defined, long-term career paths for financial specialists who want to advance into more specialized areas.”

Dana Coshenet, who works as an accountant at the School of Medicine and Public Health, also hopes that the Title and Total Compensation Study will address difficulties in career mobility for University Staff who want to apply for Academic Staff positions. The potential loss of leave time for long-term University Staff employees limits their interest in making this type of career move.

“The current titling structure creates barriers for employees,” says Coshenet, who has worked at UW–Madison for 29 years. “For example, the accountant title is very broad. As a grant accountant working in the research areas of UW, a title aligned to my specialized job duties may help me advance to similar research-related positions in my department and across campus.”

The Jobs Framework

The Jobs Framework under development as part of Phase Two of the study will provide an overall organization of jobs for purposes of salary, career progression and performance management. Components include job families, sub-families, and job levels.

  • Job families group together jobs involving similar types of work and requiring similar training, skills, knowledge and expertise (e.g., Libraries and Museums).
  • The sub-family is a subset of a job family and describes a specialized function (e.g., Data and Digital Library Services within Libraries and Museums). Each job family and sub-family includes a job level.
  • The job levels are unique to the job family and sub-family and provide advancement opportunities.

This fall’s campus forums will focus on providing information about the study and gathering employee input on job families.

The Study Benefits

Because job families and sub-families cross boundaries between schools, colleges and divisions, the Title and Total Compensation Study is intended to provide employees with a clearer way to advance more effectively in their careers. Another goal of the study is to give employees greater understanding about how their current job family, sub-family and level relates to other positions on campus. Managers can also use a consistent structure of job families and sub-families across campus to understand the skillsets and experience of applicants when making decisions about hiring for a position.

After the Jobs Framework is developed, employees’ jobs at UW–Madison will be mapped to the framework. Managers and employees will assist in this mapping process early in 2018 by updating their position descriptions in an online system.

The results of the Title and Total Compensation Study will help UW–Madison sustain and grow its outstanding workforce. No employees will lose their jobs and employee base pay will not be reduced as a result of the study. The study results will provide guidance on how to implement a key goal in the university’s strategic framework to “ensure our ability to attract and retain talent by making progress toward competitive compensation relative to our peers and market medians.”

The study is expected to be completed in March 2019.