Open Forum Notes

Open Forum Overview

March 27, 2014 Open Forum (Room 202, J. Walter Wilson)

November 19, 2013 Open Forum (Room 101, 200 Dyer Street)

October 29, 2013 Open Forum (Hillel Conference Room)

July 23, 2013 Open Forum (McKinney Conference Room, Watson Institute)

August 20, 2013 Open Fourm (Conference Room 1113, 121 South Main Street)

Open Forum Notes

SAC alumn interested in being more connected to SAC

A SAC alumn conveyed interest in being involved with the current membership of SAC. He feels disconnected on what is happening on campus since he completed his term on SAC. Is there a possibility for SAC alumni to be involved with the current membership? Is it possible to integrate old members with new members? The opportunity to add value and do more with the current membership would be welcomed by this SAC alumni member. This concern has been logged as Issue #03-06 on the SAC feedback page.

Concern that Excellence Awards do not reflect excellence beyond required job

The Excellence Awards are to recognize staff members for their contributions toward making Brown a better place to work. It is understood the awards are given to employees who have done above and beyond their job description. Concern was raised that it appears to some employees that a few of the awards are being awarded for what appears to be part of the employee’s job description. Has Brown lowered the bar to achieve these awards? Is the award really worthy of excellence? It seems there are more awards now that single out people for just doing their jobs. What have the nominees done to be considered excellent? Is it possible to put a summary of the achievements in the award book explaining exactly how the award was earned? Is it possible to list the names of committee members reviewing and deciding on the winners? This would improve overall employee morale. This concern has been logged as Issue #03-07 on the SAC feedback page.

Concern with equity and consistency among job titles, descriptions, and grades

An employee expressed concern with varying grade levels and inconsistent job titles between positions. Job titles are slightly different and some grade 6 positions are being paid less for higher-level work than some grade 7 positions. For example, a grade 6 level position such as an administrative coordinator may have higher-level duties listed in their job description than a grade 7 level position, such as a lifeguard, or even other administrative assistants in a different department. Some of the confusion may come from HR posting only the job summary instead of the full job description. It was noted that you could call HR and request the full job description. There are many variations in job grade and titles between departments. How does HR investigate these grade levels and equity issues? Is there an intense review of job descriptions before HR posts positions? When a job is posted, is there a review between departments by HR? Is it HR’s job to ensure the posted positions are equitable? This concern has been logged as Issue #03-08 on the SAC feedback page.

Frustration with salary disparities among similar positions in different departments

Is it the department manager’s responsibility to work with HR on job audits or does the chair decide when to proceed? A department manager feels like her hands are tied when she wants to support a staff member with a job audit and the chair does not feel it is warranted. The department manager cannot be an advocate for the employees she supervises and feels frustrated. Furthermore, there are concerns for her own job safety when she pushes the issue of a job audit on behalf of an employee. The department manager wants more transparency by HR to understand how job criteria are evaluated with assigned grade levels. For example, Administrative Assistant versus Administrative Coordinator are two different job titles but doing similar duties. Why not have one approved title? When viewing job descriptions, it is confusing. It lowers morale when you see inconsistencies in job grades and titles. Employees are asking themselves, why work in this department? Why not apply for another job, even though they are happy with their current position. Employees at Brown know that it is possible to make more money doing the same job in a different department. The department manager encourages her staff to apply for other positions and in doing so hurts the overall mission of the department because new people need to be trained and may not do the job as well as the person who left. These issues are frustrating to both the employee and the department manager. Amazing staff members leave departments they love because they are not making the same money as the person in the next department. It feels likes a revolving door for department managers having to train new people. It feels like we are always circling back to the minimum. It slows the work down because starting over is difficult. Brown needs to compensate people fairly. This puts a strain on the department. This is a shared concern across departments at Brown. If people were compensated fairly, the outcome would be people sticking around longer in their current position. This concern has been logged as Issue #03-09 on the SAC feedback page.

Desire to be better informed about opportunities and activities at Brown

Employees want to know more of what is happening at Brown and what opportunities are available to them. They feel morning mail and individual Email continues to be the best avenue to get information out to staff. The SAC Facebook recipes are a big hit. Posters are less effective. Staff are interested in hearing about more service opportunity. This concern has been logged as Issue #03-10 on the SAC feedback page.

“Knowledge District” versus “Jewelry District”

Is the Knowledge District reverting back to being referenced as the Jewelry District? In the alerts concerning the man-hole fire on Richmond Street the alerts from campus referred to the area as the Jewelry District rather than the Knowledge District. It is important to be consistent when referring to the area. The Knowledge District is a term familiar among the Brown community but not as familiar among those outside the Brown community.

Winter Recess Extended to Monday, December 23, 2013?

The question was raised as to whether the University is going to give staff the day off on December 23. It is likely that a number of staff will take the day off it as it is one day prior to winter break. There has been no official word about this so at this point staff are expected to be at work unless they request the day as a vacation day.

SAC Mix and Mingle Events

People have enjoyed the after work mix and mingle events hosted by SAC. It was noted that people do tend to stay in groups and not move around. It might be helpful for the person in charge of the event to go around the group and make introductions. There was no preference in having the events on main campus or in the Knowledge District, however, it was suggested that the summer mix and mingle events be held in the Knowledge District.

200 Dyer Street Shuttle Stop

Concern was raised about the lack of a shuttle stop near 200 Dyer Street (Office of Continuing Education). There is a lot of construction and limited lighting in the area for those staff and students who leave the building late at night to get to their cars or the bus. People have to walk to the Medical School or to So. Main Street to get a shuttle to campus and there is no marked street crossing which is dangerous now that traffic is moving in both directions on Dyer Street. There has been an on-going discussion about having a shuttle stop nearby but nothing has happened to include a stop in the area. This issue will be forwarded to Beth Gentry, Asst. VP, Financial and Administrative Services and to Geralyn Ducady, the SAC representative on the Campus Safety Task Force.

Accessibility of Knowledge District

Another issue of concern is the condition of the sidewalks in the area, especially around Richmond and Bassett Streets. Many of the sidewalks are overgrown with weeds and broken pavement making it difficult for people to walk from building to building in the area. It would also be nice if the city could plant some flowers and make it more attractive as they have at the beginning of Dyer Street (at the traffic light near Capriccio). Maybe SAC could host a Beautification Day and plant trees and flowers in the area. Not only would it improve the safety of the area but make it more inviting.

Posting Jobs to Internal Applicants First

We received an inquiry as to whether or not job posting can be posted for a certain length of time for internal applicants only (i.e. as in union positions) before being posted publicly. There may be issues around this that can be addressed by Human Resources.

Employee Education Program Benefits

Is it possible to increase benefits in the Employee Education Program (raise the tuition remission from $5250. Unfortunately, these are federal guidelines that have tax implications should the amount be increased. This issue has been raised before and until the federal guidelines change there is nothing that can be done to increase this benefit.

Train Station Shuttle Stop

Will the University be providing a shuttle to the train station? This evidently is being discussed as staff and faculty who commute on the train would find this useful.

Staff Costs for Athletic Facilities

Staff would like to see the university subsidize costs for staff to use the athletic facilities. Not only do staff have to pay for a membership but they also have to pay to take classes in addition to that. Many universities offer the use of the athletic facilities as a benefit. It might be helpful to compare similar institutions and what they do for staff concerning this issue.

Staff Support: Civility and Customer Service

There is a sense that that staff are spread thin at all ranks and levels, and that civility and strong customer service is sometimes lacking when seeking answers from departments and centers. In some cases, experts are unavailable to assist those who need help or changing job roles have even made it harder to find out who the expert is. This creates a sense that the academic unit staff need to know everything the expert knows. There needs to be more than one expert who can answer questions, i.e. a back-up plan if someone is unavailable so work can get done. Any cross-training needs to be accurate and consistent so staff aren’t receiving different answers depending on who they speak with.

Workday Financials Communication and Training

A lot of discussion focused on Workday Financials (WF) in regards to communication and training. There was a strong feeling that there is a huge disconnect between the academic and administrative units in terms of 1) what actually happens in an academic department outside of WF and 2) how business processes are actually processed by the end user. One example given was the significant gaps of knowledge between those who use the WF reports and those who write the WF reports.

Training for WF has not been consistent resulting in staff receiving different information depending on who they talk to. There’s a sense that some staff know tips that others do not. In addition, the WF materials have not been updated in a timely manner to keep up with the volume of changes. Some staff feel there is an over-reliance in emails and online training and that staff would benefit from more face-to-face trainings that focus on best practices for how a business process should be completed instead of training on navigating the software.

Staff questioned if there was a feedback loop for the implementation of WF. Staff are concerned their voice isn’t being heard by those who could improve Workday for the end user. Remedy tickets, emails, meetings with individual staff are being tracked to help future training and communication. It was suggested that specific security roles meet with WF administrators to discuss their issues, concerns, tips and best practices.

Crisis Communication

Recently there has been press coverage of incidents at Brown but there were no follow-up University wide/community announcements by an official University source. Staff want clarification from Brown regarding any incident in their workplace especially if it’s reported on the news. It was recommended that a concise email be sent directly to staff, faculty and students from the University to address the incident and its status.

Health Insurance and Wellness Programs

Staff questioned how the Affordable Care Act would impact current staff health care costs. The rates for calendar year 2014 will remain flat. It is unknown how the Act will affect future rates.

Wellness Rewards

Wellness Rewards at Brown (beginning January 1, 2014) is a voluntary wellness, points based, incentives program designed to help you learn more about your personal health, motivate you to maintain or improve your overall well-being, and earn an incentive payment of up to $150 for points earned.

Employees can choose from a list of designated wellness tasks and must earn a minimum of 75 points in order to receive a taxable incentive payment of $75-$150 added to employee paychecks.

Brown University supports the culture of employee wellness based upon healthy lifestyle choices and offers employees the opportunity to take advantage of wellness programs offered through Wellness At Brown!

Details will be announced through Morning Mail.

EEP Support for Professional Certification Programs

This issue was raised through the forum registration form. Currently, the EEP (Employee Education Program) does not cover professional certification training. Since any expansion of the EEP will increase program costs – which are fully supported with University funds – suggestions to expand the program must be carefully considered. The last expansion occurred two years ago when the program was expanded to cover distance learning on-line courses offered by degree granting accredited colleges and universities. This was in direct response to requests from a number of staff.  Recently, several members of SAC raised the possibility of further expansion to cover professionall certification programs with Judy Nabb, Manager of the Center for Learning and Professional Development (CLPD). Judy agreed to explore the issue further, including the possibility of finding other ways to provide financial support for professional certification training. SAC plans to meet with Judy again in September to continue the discussion in the context of CLPD’s recent staff training needs assessment survey.

For more information on the EEP, please visit http://brown.edu/about/administration/human-resources/benefits/education....

Brown's Efforts to Assist Central Falls

This issue was raised through the forum registration form. PAUR reached out to several areas that frequently assist the RI community and learned the following:

  • Annenberg is currently working with Central Falls Public Schools in two capacities. Since 2010-11 our researcher, in collaboration with a team at the Education Alliance, has studied the implementation and outcomes of the school transformation process at Central Falls High School. And for the next three years we will evaluate "We Are a Village", an early learning initiative that's funded through USDOE's Investing in Innovation (I3) program.
  • The Swearer Center has a relationship with Central Falls, and this year had an "Access Scholar" working in the schools to help with college access issues.
  • The Education Department/MAT's Brown Summer High School has a long standing partnership with Central Falls (and Providence). Many CF high school students attended our 5-week half-day summer program with tuition waiver.

Job Performance in the Context of New Technology

This topic was a major focus of the forum. Various staff members raised concern about having their productivity with new technology "tracked" and having supervisors who don't appreciate the learning curve associated with using new technology (e.g. Workday Financials). These staff are concerned that they may be penalized for appearing to be less productive while learning to use the new technology, even though they feel confident that their performance will improve as they become more familiar with the new system(s).The group identified best practices for addressing concerns about job performance including the following suggestions for addressing changes in performance:

  1. When possible, try to address concerns about your performance as soon as you realize there might be an issue.
  2. If you’re comfortable, start a dialogue with your manager/supervisor about your perception of the current working situation. You might, for example, explain that you are on a learning curve and ask about the best time to schedule yourself to attend the available training opportunities so that you can become more comfortable and more proficient with new job functions.
  3. If you need assistance in preparing for the conversion, make an appointment with Human Resources to discuss the issue and to get advice about how to approach your manager/supervisor.
  4. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of discussing this topic with your manager/supervisor or with Human Resources, you could consider contacting Ruthy Kohorn Rosenberg, the University's Ombudsperson. She can help you prepare to have this type of conversation. (See below for link to website.)
  5. Seek mentoring relationships with other trusted staff members. Asking for advice from people in roles similar to yours or your manager’s/supervisor’s could prove useful.

If it appears that technology changes may result in changes to your job, whether these are minor changes to your position description or significant change that could mean the elimination of your position, the steps outlined above are still recommended. In addition, consider contacting Human Resources for help with updating your resume and to learn about the process for applying for other positions at Brown. Finally, try to remain positive and productive at work. The Faculty/Staff Assistance Program provides resources in a number of areas, including managing stress at work and at home. (See below for link to website.) 

Helpful Links:

Parking On Street Leased Daytime Spaces

Staff expressed concern that the newly created on street parking spaces have had a particularly negative impact on hourly employees. Because these employees now have to park further away from their buildings, it takes longer to move their cars so they have to punch-out and punch-in rather than move their cars on their breaks. This has created a real hardship, especially since buying a parking pass isn’t feasible for many of these employees. At the same time, some have felt forced to buy a parking pass which feels like a $450 pay cut.

There was also a question of what will happen once it snows and there is a parking ban on the street. Staff also expressed concerns about the parking lots being used by students, visitors, etc. who don’t have a parking pass. This creates a problem when a staff member goes to their assigned lot and doesn’t have a space they paid for. Should this happen, please report it to the Transportation Office immediately.

Only staff and faculty are eligible for On Street Leased Daytime Parking spaces. For further information on parking rates and applications, please visit http://www.brown.edu/about/administration/transportation/parking/parking....

Staff who attended the forum suggested several improvements to the current system:

  • Tiered rates of parking fees based on earnings (similar to the child care model)
  • Space sharing
  • The current “3-strike” ticket rule unfairly affects staff members that remain at Brown for 10, 20, 25+ years because the clock never resets. It was suggested that the policy should take this into account, and should allow for re-setting the strikes against after a certain number of years.

A parking committee that included staff evaluated several of these ideas before implementation but decided against them for a variety of reasons. SAC will pass these ideas on to Transportation again for consideration as part of their evaluation of the first year of operating these new parking spaces.

If you do acquire a parking ticket, you may make an appointment online to appeal it with the Parking Appeals Board. For more information about the appeals process, please visit http://www.brown.edu/about/administration/transportation/parking/parking....

Holiday Bazaar

Several staff asked if the Holiday Bazaar could be brought back because it provided a sense of community and is still missed by some staff. This event, which ended a few years ago, was organized by HR and provided a venue for staff to sell food, crafts, art, etc. It was held in Sayles Hall during the holiday season.

It is not likely to be brought back in its original form for two reasons. First, it used to take place on a weekday during work time so essentially staff were making money at the bazaar while they were getting paid to work for Brown. Secondly, there was no quality control for the products being sold, i.e. no way to ensure that food was being stored at a safe temperature or that something was solidly crafted.

Possible resolution: It may be possible to bring the bazaar back after work hours, for example, 5-7 p.m. during the week or sometime on the weekend. The group at the forum was split between which of these suggested time frames they would prefer. Perhaps further investigation should be undertaken to determine community interest in bringing this event back.

Other events that provide an opportunity for staff to come together are the BEAR Day reception and Staff Development Day. Also, SAC hosts an Ice Cream Social every September that usually coincides with the first Farmers Market of the semester, and the Staff Holiday Party may continue this December. SAC also hosts after-work networking opportunities and lunch-time sessions. Look for details on our website (www.brown.edu/SAC) and via Morning Mail announcements.

Role/Value of Staff

It was noted that staff play a crucial role in ensuring the University’s success, but staff do not always feel as valued as faculty and students.  Brown is excellent at planning for and meeting the needs of faculty and students, but staff feel left out in many instances.  For example, staff are not included in the University’s mission statement.  Some points that were raised include:

  • Understand the President’s view of staff and their role in the University.
  • Enhance manager and University administrators’ knowledge of how much and what staff do in their day-to-day jobs.
  • Increase recognition for staff’s contributions.
  • Staff are recruited to serve on a variety of University committees, such as Human Resources Advisory Board (HRAB), University Resource Council (URC), and the Diversity Advisory Board.  SAC is working to compile a complete list of these committees for reference.  

Term Position Support

Participants noted the difficult position in which staff who operate under grant funds typically find themselves - upon the grant ending, the staff member no longer has a job.  What opportunities exist for staff who have an excellent skill set that may be useful elsewhere on campus?

  • Brown likes to hire internally when there is a strong skills match.  
  • When a grant funded staff member knows his/her position will be coming to an end, s/he should reach out to their HR Generalist to learn about available positions that may match their skills and experience.  
  • HR Generalists can help ensure that application materials (e.g. cover letters and resumes) are effective and can work with hiring managers to ensure that they fully review an internal candidate’s background, skills, and experience.

Workday Financials

The implementation of Workday Financials was discussed at length, particularly the difficulty some areas continue to have both with obtaining the information they need and getting assistance with challenging tasks.  Staff expressed anxiety and frustration about using tools that they do not feel they have been fully prepared or trained to use.  Some important discussion points included:

  • Workday HCM (Human Capital Management, i.e. HR/Payroll) and Workday Financials were implemented to replace antiquated systems that were nearing the end of their usefulness. Workday will result in improved information for decision-making and compliance; will provide additional functionality not available through our prior systems; and will improve self-service and workflow for all system users.
  • There is a difference between Workday HCM and Workday Financials in that HCM is a more mature product. Financials functionality is newer and is still being developed for use in higher ed.
  • Staff, particularly those experiencing issues with Workday Financials, are encouraged to remain in communication with the Workday Project Team to ensure their concerns are heard and addressed.  It is likely if one staff member has a specific issue, another also is struggling with that same issue.  
  • Attend scheduled meetings/trainings and participate in open labs.
  • A suggestion was made to follow the lead of Workday HCM by offering post-go-live “Lessons Learned” sessions for those with Workday Financials security roles.
  • Other ideas should be emailed to workdaycommunications@brown.edu.
  • A great deal of information regarding Workday functionality can be found on the Workday website and in the weekly communications that are sent to staff with Workday roles.  

Enhanced Communication with Staff

Communication in any large organization is challenging.  How does Brown ensure information is distributed to everyone who needs it?  President Paxson named improved communication with staff as a topic she would like to see SAC tackle.  The University already has several leadership group meetings in place to help disseminate crucial information (for example: Administrative Leadership, Department Managers), but not everyone in attendance passes that information on to their departments.  SAC also receives good information from senior administrators that should be communicated to the campus more effectively.  Some thoughts and ideas discussed include:

  • Contacting specific areas directly with questions is useful.  
  • The Benefits Office usually is great at answering questions directed to them.
  • Individuals who bring concerns to SAC typically get questions answered by senior administrators.
  • Brown bag lunches on specific topics of concern (an example was flexible spending accounts) are very useful.  
  • Continuation of University discussions and planning to ensure staff have a voice in decision-making.
  • Other ideas should be forwarded to SAC@brown.edu.  

Performance Appraisals

Participants noted a couple of concerns regarding performance appraisals.  One was the perceived lack of correlation between one’s annual appraisal rating and increase (or lack thereof) in pay.  Others questioned how many staff qualify for the highest rating (“Consistently Exceeds Expectations”).  Additional points included:

  • Staff performance appraisals are governed by HR Policy 40.042 (“Merit Increases and Performance Appraisals”). 
  • It is important to discuss performance expectations with your manager and inquire as to what s/he wants to see in order to achieve a top ranking.

Upcoming Strategic Plan

The University will roll out the plan in September and October, and SAC will be among the groups to review the plans directly with senior administrators. Information about the plan can be found on the Brown University Strategic Planning website: http://brown.edu/about/administration/strategic-planning/  

Staff Labor Shortages

What is being done to help with staff labor shortages?  Since the economic downturn and organizational review process, some areas continue to feel short staffed and overwhelmed by the volume of work and implementation of new systems/policies.  

Staff who are feeling overwhelmed by the volume of work in their unit should discuss this issue with their supervisor or department manager. They are usually in the best position to make changes to streamline or redistribute work in order to reduce the burden on individual staff members. The staff in Human Resources can provide assistance on these efforts. Please contact your HR Generalist for more information.