Compensation Market Study

Investing in Our Most Important Resource -- Our People
"Today, we proposed a bold multi-phase compensation initiative to the Board of Trustees. We received preliminary approval from the Board to invest $32 million for fiscal year 2023 in our most important resource – our people. Our trustees know that Auburn employees invest so much into our students and campus and they want to recognize the impact and commitment of our excellent employees by investing in them. If formally approved, this would be the largest compensation investment in the history of Auburn University." -Dr. Chris Roberts, Auburn President, June 17, 2022

Several years ago, Auburn University’s senior leadership committed to implement several compensation initiatives to enhance competitive pay for Staff and Administrative & Professional (A&P) employees. In 2019, Auburn partnered with Mercer, an internationally respected consulting firm, to execute a competitive compensation study of Staff and A&P jobs on campus. 

Since then we have accomplished the following:

  • Collaborated with over 100 campus stakeholders to gather information regarding jobs across campus

  • Organized jobs at Auburn into 23 occupational job families (not the same as the AU job family promotion program)

  • Reviewed market data for over 1,300 jobs on campus

  • Built new salary ranges

  • Assigned jobs to new salary ranges

  • Analyzed the university’s competitive market position

Why is This So Important?

Nationally, the challenges of recruiting and retaining a quality workforce continue to increase. While Auburn is considered an employer of choice in this region, we are not immune to these challenges.

National surveys indicate that pay is the No. 1 reason for employees leaving jobs. Labor shortages and cost increases along with historic consumer price increases are also impacting the workforce. At Auburn, we have experienced competitive market gaps among some positions. Colleges and divisions are also reporting increased employee turnover, pay-offer “turn-downs” and counter-offers, along with smaller applicant pools.

We now have data and information that show how competitive our pay levels are within the markets from which we recruit talent. This information shows that while many jobs on campus are currently competitive with, or even exceed, the average median market, there are market gaps for other jobs.

The steps mentioned on this website are needed to ensure that we are able to recruit and retain top talent. Updates to this website will be made as warranted.

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How Did We Get Here?

The steps that Auburn University is taking to enact market adjustments are several years in the making. 

 

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Take Five (Plus One)

Campus Leadership approved a bold five-point compensation initiative, with implementation beginning in 2016.

 

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Mercer Study

The Mercer Study provided Auburn with the overall “market competitive level” for Staff and A&P pay. 

 

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Closing the Gap: Market Adjustments

Auburn is prioritizing the adjustments of market gaps among certain jobs within job families.

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A Path Forward: Job Families

Auburn partnered with Mercer to identify occupational job families – groupings of job functions involving work in the same general occupation. (This is not the same as the Job Family Promotion Program.)

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How Did We Get Here?

Auburn has faced challenges in attracting, offering and retaining quality talent. Colleges and divisions have also requested additional transparency and involvement in making pay decisions for their respective units.

Campus leadership, with the support of Auburn University Human Resources (Compensation and Classification), understand the importance of fostering pay decisions that are consistent and well-informed. By doing this, Auburn can:

  • Ensure that current and new employee pay levels are market-competitive

  • Remain in an optimal position to recruit and hire quality talent

  • Significantly reduce or eliminate our risk of compliance exposure

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Take Five (Plus One)

Campus leadership approved a bold five-point compensation initiative, with implementation beginning in 2016. 

1. Purchase and Maintain a Comprehensive Market Pay Survey Library: This includes current and relevant pay survey data. We use this data to collaborate with campus leadership in support of their well-informed pay decisions.

2. Create and Implement the Pay Evaluator©: The Pay Evaluator© helps college and division management make well-informed pay decisions that are systematic, disciplined, unbiased, and fiscally responsible. It is consistently used for all internal and external new hires, promotions as a result of reclassifications, and, when appropriate, internal salary alignments. It suggests appropriate pay positioning in a pay range that reflects:

  • The job content value of the work being executed (as indicated by the pay grade range to which the job is assigned), and

  • An employee’s directly related and relevant qualifications and work-related attributes directly compared to the job’s minimum qualification requirements as published on the job description.

3. Implement a Salary Alignment Process: This process is currently triggered by new-hire salary offers (internal or external). It allows college and division managers and their HR Liaisons to review a current employee’s pay level as a result of a potentially unjustifiable salary compression or salary inversion relative to the new hire’s pay level. Using the university’s Pay Evaluator© for the salary alignment review ensures that salary alignment adjustments are the result of well-informed and unbiased pay decisions.

4. Develop and Implement a Division-wide Decision Support Tool: This tool is used on a selective basis to analyze competitive pay positioning across a division. It utilizes the same Pay Evaluator© criteria and formula, ensuring well-informed and unbiased pay decisions.

5. Execute a Competitive Compensation Analysis and Infrastructure Study: Initiated in late 2019, the Mercer study’s goal was two-fold. First, provide the university leadership with the overall competitive pay positioning of university AP and US positions to those talent markets from which the university recruits. Second, serve as the basis for developing and implementing new market-competitive pay structures and pay ranges reflecting those talent markets. Competitive pay structures are critically important in supporting well-informed employee pay decisions and are a fundamental component of the Pay Evaluator©. This will be the first time since 2007 that the university has conducted such as study and developed new pay ranges. This study has been completed and information on resulting actions is included below.

6. Plus One – Minimum Hiring Rate: Implemented on Jan. 1, 2022 for both full-time and part-time regular employees, the MHR of $14.50 per hour ensures that all regular full-time employees, when benefits are included, earn at or above the generally accepted living wage for Lee County (currently $18.84 per hour).

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Mercer Study
Introduction

Initiated in late 2019, the Mercer study’s goal was two-fold:

  • Provide the university leadership with the overall competitive pay positioning of Staff and A&P employees to those talent markets from which the university recruits

  • Serve as the basis for developing and implementing new market-competitive pay structures and pay ranges reflecting those talent markets

Competitive pay structures are critically important in supporting well-informed employee pay decisions. This will be the first time since 2007 that the university has conducted such as study and developed new pay ranges.

Employee Groups Included in the Study

  • University Staff – full-time and part-time

  • Administrative and Professional Staff – full-time and part-time

Employee Groups NOT Included in the Study

  • Student Workers

  • Graduate Assistants

  • Post-Doctoral

  • Contracted Athletic Staff Members

  • Temporary Employees

  • Continuing Education Instructors (UStaff)

  • Clinical Associates (UStaff)

Competitive Levels

The Mercer Study provided Auburn with the overall “market competitive level” for Staff and A&P pay. We now have data and information that show how competitive we are within the markets from which we recruit talent.  As a result, we identified several hundred jobs that have “market gaps” -- where our pay should be more competitive. The good news for Auburn is that just over half of our US and AP pay levels are currently at or above market competitive levels. The challenging news is that the remainder are currently, to a greater or lesser extent, below market competitive levels.

 

Market Gaps

To address this, all 23 job families, based on the size of each job family’s overall market gap, have been prioritized into three Market Gap Priority Groups – Modest, Moderate and Major.

In order to begin addressing the market gaps and ensure that our pay is progressing toward market competitive levels, a market adjustment pool has been recommended to the Board of Trustees for FY2023.

Each of the three priority groups, based on their respective job family market gaps, have been assigned a progressively larger portion of the recommended FY2023 adjustment pool.

The three groups, their overall average market gaps, and their portion of the FY2023 market adjustment pool are indicated on the charts below:

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Market Adjustments

On June 17, 2022, Dr. Chris Roberts, President, proposed the largest compensation initiative in Auburn history.

“We received preliminary approval from the (Board of Trustees) to invest $32 million for fiscal year 2023 in our most important resource – our people,” President Roberts said. “Our trustees know that Auburn employees invest so much into our students and campus and they want to recognize the impact and commitment of our excellent employees by investing in them. If formally approved, this would be the largest compensation investment in the history of Auburn University.”

The university identified hundreds of jobs within job categories where our pay can be more competitive. In these cases, we segmented the market gaps into groups of “market gap priority."

Market Adjustment Pool (Focusing on Those Employees Most Warranting Adjustments)

The recommended FY2023 pool, if approved, will be used to begin addressing the market gap priorities. As a result some employees will receive market adjustments. These market adjustments will begin to address the market gaps and ensure that current and new employees’ pay is rapidly progressing toward, or at, market competitive levels.

Individual Employee Market Adjustments

  • Ensures that employees’ salaries are progressing toward or at competitive market levels. Individual market adjustments will be determined using a leadership-approved methodology identifying those employees most warranting a competitive market adjustment based on the following factors:

  • Two variables are used:

    • The Market Gap Priority Group to which the employee’s job’s is assigned

    • The size of employee’s individual gap to competitive range

  • No management discretion is permitted at the individual employee level.

Auburn has worked with Mercer to review market data and perform salary benchmarking on over 1,300 jobs across campus. Our Compensation and Classification team worked with Mercer to match Auburn jobs and their descriptions to similar jobs and descriptions in the market (such as those within other SEC, R-1 or peer institutions) and identify the market pay rate for each job.

For many jobs, Auburn's pay is competitive with other institutions and employers. However, we also identified hundreds of jobs within job families where our pay can be more competitive. In these cases, we segmented the market gaps into groups of “market gap priority."

  • Auburn currently has one pay structure for almost all non-faculty jobs. The study results are the basis upon which the university has developed 23 newly-identified Job Families. Each job family will have its own pay structure with individual pay grade ranges.

  • On Oct. 1, 2022, the new structures will become effective.

  • All Staff and A&P jobs will be assigned to the newly created structures and pay ranges.

  • Pay ranges will continue with our current range design, where pay-position-in-range “has meaning.”

 

  • New pay structures and ranges will be reviewed on a regular basis to monitor their alignment with the competitive market for their respective job family.

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Job Families

Auburn partnered with Mercer to identify occupational job families.

A job family is a high level grouping of job functions that involve work in the same general occupation. These jobs have differing, and increasing, levels of related knowledge requirements, skill sets, and abilities to carry out progressively higher level job responsibilities and duties.

At Auburn, we have currently identified 23 job families. (See below).

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faqs


Frequently-Asked Questions

All Staff and A&P jobs will be assigned to the newly created pay ranges.

While all Staff and A&P designated employees’ jobs were subject to the study, there are many employees in jobs that may warrant market adjustments. However, other employees are already being paid competitively when compared to market, and therefore are less likely to receive a market adjustment. Faculty, TES and student jobs were not subject to the study or the results.

  • At this time, when there continues to be turnover, promotions, and the potential for merit increases, it is hard to project an exact number.

  • If approved by the BOT, additional information will be forthcoming on who would receive an adjustment. 

  • It is important to note that we segmented the market gaps into groups of “market gap priority". Based upon the market gap priority groups, many employees are in jobs that warrant market adjustments. Other employees are currently being paid competitively or better, so these employees are less likely to receive a market adjustment.

If approved by the BOT, additional information will be forthcoming on who would receive an adjustment. 

It is important to note that we segmented the market gaps into groups of “market gap priority". Based upon the market gap priority groups, many employees are in jobs that warrant market adjustments. However, other employees are already being paid competitively when compared to market; employees in these jobs are less likely to receive a market adjustment.

If approved by the BOT, market-driven adjustments will be determined for employees who most warrant an adjustment reflecting their designated market gap priority group.

Ensuring that employees’ salaries are progressing toward or at competitive market levels, individual market adjustments will be determined using a leadership-approved methodology identifying those employees most warranting a competitive market adjustment based on the following factors:

  • The Market Gap Priority Group to which the employee’s job’s is assigned

  • Size of employee’s individual gap to competitive range

  • This methodology for determining the market adjustments has been approved by senior leadership. No management discretion is permitted at the individual employee level.

Senior leadership and Auburn University Human Resources (Compensation and Classification) are working to complete an implementation plan. Additional information will be shared on this website, via email and in AU News.

Business & Finance is continuing to work with Human Resources to study the financial impact of both the merit pay opportunity for FY23 and Mercer market study implementation. All available resources are to be considered in funding compensation changes for the upcoming fiscal year. Budget and Planning Services will work closely with any unit to help identify sources to fund compensation increases. Units should contact their analyst in Budget & Planning Services to discuss various options.

By late August, colleges/divisions will receive a list of all eligible employees and any adjustments that would take effect on Oct. 1, 2022 – pending BOT approval. Adjustments could include one or more of the following:

  • FY2023 Merit Increase

  • FY2023 Job Family Promotion

  • FY2023 Market Adjustment

Notification templates will be provided to colleges/divisions.

  • IMPORTANT: Employees cannot be notified of any potential adjustments unless the BOT approves the proposed adjustments on Sept. 16, 2022.

When, and if, the BOT has approved the FY2023 budget at the Sept. 16 meeting, a statement will be released (usually by early afternoon) to Division Head staff; shortly thereafter, employee notification memos may be distributed by divisional management. 

Most likely it is due to your current pay is at a competitive market level or better.

At this time, when there continues to be many factors occurring that will impact the outcome, such as turnover, promotions, and the potential for merit increases, it is hard to say.  If approved the targeted FY2023 Market Adjustments would ensure that our current and new employees’ pay levels are progressing toward or at market competitive levels.

No. No employees will lose their jobs as a result of this project.

Generally speaking, most job titles, responsibilities, and duties will not change as result of this project. 

However, many titles and job descriptions for jobs in the Information Technology job family will. The Specialist, Information Technology I-VI job title series was too generic in nature and caused benchmark matching to appropriate IT market information to be difficult at best. Various IT leaders from across campus came together to work on these job titles. Those titles and job descriptions were reviewed by IT committees, HR Compensation and Mercer and we now have a finalized list of job titles much more reflective of the primary work being performed by Auburn’s IT staff. Functional titles for application developers, endpoint support analysts, telecom support, network engineer, systems engineer, business analyst, and technical support were just a few of the titles developed to align with the IT market. If your job is in the Information Technology job family, more information will be forthcoming if your job title and description will change.

No. This project will not result in employees having to reapply for their jobs.

No, no employee salaries will be reduced as a result of the study.

No. If a “merit eligible” employee receives a BOT-approved FY23 market adjustment, it will not affect the employee’s eligibility for the FY23 merit increase opportunity. 

Please see the Merit Increase and Promotional Increase Guidelines on the AU Human Resources website for additional information. 

Last updated: 08/10/2022