Changes to categorization of new staff hires to start July 1

June 11, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Starting July 1, Penn State will begin to transform how it categorizes staff positions, beginning with new hires, based on the recommendations of the University’s Strategic Budget Task Force, in its 2019 report. The first of three planned phases of the transformation will affect only new staff hires posted after July 1.

Together, the phased updates will bring Penn State into line with best practices, increase clarity for new and current employees, and enhance the University’s ability to compete for the most qualified job applicants.

The task force, charged in December 2018 by Nicholas Jones, executive vice president and provost, and David Gray, senior vice president for Finance and Business/treasurer, examined the University’s budget processes and recommended several changes to create a more sustainable financial model.

Among the changes recommended by the task force, one is to shift away from the current practice of categorizing general funds as either “permanent” or “temporary.” At Penn State, staff have traditionally held “standing” or “fixed-term” positions. Typically, standing positions have been funded from the permanent budget, and fixed-term positions have been funded from the temporary budget.

Over time, this approach has had the unintended effect of incorrectly implying that standing positions are more secure, while fixed-term positions are less so.

Beginning July 1, for new hires only, truly temporary positions that have an end date will be labeled as a fixed-term position, and every other new position will be in the standing category. During phase two, these categories may be renamed to better reflect their meaning.

Phase one of three in this transition focuses on classifying new staff hires to match the new approach. Running concurrently, phases two and three are already underway and expected to continue through June 2021. Phase two is dedicated to reviewing all existing staff positions and categorizing them based on this guidance. Phase three is focusing on non-tenure track faculty positions to explore whether an update to the position name would be beneficial.

“This transition will be a positive for many employees at the University who currently hold fixed-term positions but whose work does not have a planned end date,” Gray said. “Over the next year we will be working with these employees to shift them into standing positions, eliminating the need for annual contract renewals.

“In terms of recruitment, this change also allows us to move away from language in job postings that describes long-term positions as subject to a ‘one-year contract with an excellent possibility of refunding.’ It does not make sense for postings to include such a description when we know a position is intended to exist for many years. We know this verbiage creates unnecessary concern for potential applicants, and eliminating it removes a hurdle to recruiting the best and brightest employees to the Penn State family.”

Gray said additional information about the transition for current employees will be provided throughout the year.

Phase one: New staff hires

Beginning July 1, all hiring managers will be asked to categorize new staff hires into standing or fixed-term positions based on the job description and the work being done. The final step in phase one is to update all active job listings posted before July 1 to align with the new approach. Additional information and support for hiring managers is available from your unit’s Human Resources strategic partner or Human Resource consultant.

“We want our budget executives to have flexibility in their ongoing efforts to attract top-tier talent while managing their financial resources wisely,” Jones said. “Making position category changes for new hires is an important first step in implementing our new budgeting approach across the University.”

Additional phases

In phase two, current staff positions will be reviewed based on the new approach, and a process will be developed to recategorize employees from fixed-term to standing where appropriate. Also, new category names will be explored and potentially adopted to reflect these changes. 

In phase three, non-tenure-track faculty categorizations will be examined. This process will involve the University Faculty Senate, which will help to determine if any non-tenure-track faculty job category changes are needed. Both phases are expected to conclude by June 30, 2021, the end of the 2020-21 fiscal year.

“The new categories will make budgeting easier and more accurate, enhance Penn State’s ability to compete for the most qualified employees, and bring Penn State into line with best practices and our peers in higher education,” Jones said.

“An updated budgeting approach provides us with an opportunity to not only streamline work and enhance financial flexibility, but also to better strategize in the areas of workforce planning and recruitment,” said Lorraine Goffe, vice president for Human Resources at Penn State. “Categorizing employees based on their job duties, as opposed to funding sources, is the right decision for effective recruitment and job classification.”

For answers to general questions about these changes, please read these FAQs. Unit-specific questions should be directed to the appropriate Human Resources strategic partner or Human Resources consultant. Budget-related questions about positions should be directed to unit financial officers.

Last Updated August 27, 2020