Recategorization of current staff positions bringing positive change

June 02, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – On July 1, Penn State will begin implementing phase two of the University-wide Job Categorization Process, which focuses on recategorizing current staff positions as part of the University's efforts to not only increase clarity for new and current employees but also to enhance its ability to compete for the most qualified job applicants. Penn State will also adopt new names for various position types to reflect changes that have been made in its budgeting process. The name/category changes will not impact salaries or job responsibilities. 

At Penn State, staff has 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 created the misperception that standing positions of employment are more secure than fixed-term positions, which led some employees to seek what they believed to be more stable positions both inside and outside the University. 

Following recommendations from the University Strategic Budget Task Force, whose aim was to create a more effective approach for planning and implementing resource allocation through the Penn State budgeting process, the University is eliminating the current practice of labeling general funds as either "permanent" or "temporary." 

"Restructuring the budget process is a critical step in our long-term strategy to better align the allocation of University resources with our academic and operational goals," said Nicholas Jones, Penn State executive vice president and provost. "As a university, we are aware of our fiscal responsibility to provide improved financial flexibility, efficiencies and outcomes. We now have the infrastructure in place to implement our new budgeting approach across the University and leverage it to more effectively retain and attract top-tier talent." 

According to Lorraine Goffe, vice president for Human Resources and chief human resources officer, the use of 'fixed-term' language has hindered Penn State's efforts to recruit and retain talent because of the perception that fixed-term positions were temporary, despite the fact that these positions have most often been consistent jobs. 

"Until now, position type language has been framed around funding sources without the necessary descriptiveness employees would need to feel secure in their positions," Goffe said. "Updating our terminology to more accurately represent the nature of a job will undoubtedly increase understanding and remove unnecessary reservations that current or prospective employees may have when applying for positions at Penn State." 

To align with the new budget approach, current staff will now be categorized based on the position's intention and if it has a definitive end date rather than solely based on the funding source. The funding source will continue to be taken into consideration when there is a time-bound funding source involved (i.e., grants). 

"Categorizing staff positions based on these factors instead of solely on the funding source creates more effective job classification," said Sara Thorndike, senior vice president for Finance and Business/treasurer. "This leads to better employee understanding, stability in the workforce and stronger recruitment of candidates because of clearer and more accurate descriptions of available University positions." 

Phase one of the categorization project focused on properly categorizing new staff hires. 

New terminology to be used 

With these changes, all current staff in "standing" positions, as well as "fixed-term" positions without end dates, will be referred to as "regular staff employees." Fixed-term staff positions with definitive end dates will be referred to as "limited-term staff employees." As indicated above, the position name type changes will not impact salaries or job responsibilities. 

Working with their HR strategic partners, supervisors and managers will be notified of any nomenclature changes among their team. Based on this information and HR guidance, the supervisors will proceed to notify their employees of any changes. 

Phase two is expected to conclude by Dec. 31. 

For answers to general questions about these changes, please read this FAQ. 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 June 02, 2021