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UM to adopt a new system for classifying staff

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Since August of 2001, many employees of the University of Montana have been ineligible for promotions or pay raises, not because of legislative cutbacks or budgetary shortfalls, but simply because UM’s old system for classifying university jobs was scrapped before a new one was put in place. But that’s expected to change soon.

“The limited personnel that we have here needed to focus their time on doing the new stuff,” says Moria Drew, personnel services manager for UM’s Human Resource Services (HRS). Drew says that the old system was not very effective for most employees, because staff could not request pay raises or bonuses for their employees or themselves without getting their jobs reclassified.

Drew expects the new plan, which affects about 1,100 UM employees, should be ready in two to three weeks and will be retroactive to January 2002. The plan, called the Montana University System Achievement Project [MAP], also encourages greater communication between staff and supervisor and more collaboration within departments.

Some of MAP’s benefits, how- ever, continue to elude some UM employees.

Last summer, Cate Crue, who does administrative support for the School of Forestry, approached HRS to find out how she could advance in her present position. “I asked about an upgrade and basically nobody would talk to me,” says Crue. “They said when they got all of this into effect they could help more. And that was last summer.”

Kathleen Spritzer, fiscal officer for UM’s School of Business Administration, says she wanted to help one of her employees advance. “I first began requesting the process in October,” Spritzer says. She was told to wait until January. “Nothing has happened since January either.”

Spritzer supports MAP’s idea of improving communication, but she wishes the details would have been attended to earlier.

Ken Thompson, administrative officer for HRS, says MAP will not instantly fall into place. “It’s not going to be that suddenly everyone wins the lottery,” says Thompson. “It’s like a baby. You take four steps forward and one step back. It’s an institutional change.”

Those working closely with MAP says the benefits will outweigh the unavoidable delays. “People have the opportunity to grow here,” says Thompson. “The old system didn’t allow professional development.”

“A change of this scale is going to be tumultuous,” adds Drew. For now, UM employees will just have to wait for the plan to be finalized before they can navigate their way through it.

“There’s a real frustration in that I don’t understand it enough apparently to get anything done,” says Crue. “My boss would like to compensate me but we can’t get through the gobbledy gook. I wish it well. I hope it helps somebody.”

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