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Library Merit Bonus Program 2000 - Program Notes

The administering Committee respectfully reports to the University Librarian and AULs on the conduct and outcome of the FY2000 Merit Bonus Award program:


This strategy in effect reversed prior funding/selection processes, by letting nominations received and funding levels determine award amount--as opposed to setting award amount (last year at maximum) up front, then culling nominations to fit.

General strengths

Broadened the base of eligible nominees, nominators, and awardees

Broadened selection criteria, in effect, by not superimposing additional criteria on the very broad lines drawn by UC and the campus

Maximized use of available funds, including funds traded with other campus units to balance bargaining-unit quotas--to the Library's net advantage; also cooperated inter-departmentally by funding awards for SLEs formally paid by other departments

Enfranchised staff with an extraordinary degree of self-governance

General shortcomings

The effort to widen the nominee pool was undercut, presumably chiefly by a widely felt dislike for the program, and reluctance to participate.

Since participation is voluntary and interest and initiative may vary widely in any case, we may have insufficiently promoted the program.

Anxious about potential inundation, we may have overplayed cautionary warnings regarding student nominations (only 5 were submitted).

Although the committee noted the potential value of doing so, we neither found nor created a built-in feedback loop to LHRD regarding classification/supervision issues raised by some of the nomination statements.

The committee was effectively cut loose and set adrift, after a brief intial meeting with Jerry Lowell. Although the Chief Administrative Officer was included in the e-mail reflector by means of which the program was substantially run, and sat in on a few of our meetings, we might've worked with management more closely throughout the process.

The lesson here is that opening up our processes means including all perspectives, not simply substituting one for another.

Outcomes: The good

Opportunity for staff to take part in Library governance, not only to propose but to effect basic administrative changes, gaining insight into a number of HR processes and issues, and cultural traits of the organization.

For the committee: exposure to the diversity, complexity, and frequent circumstantial hard-ships of work done by Library staff at all levels, often inconspicuously and without recognition. For most committee members, reading the nominations was an eye-opener to what our capable, far-flung colleagues really are doing out 'in the trenches.'

Why not accentuate the positive, more regularly and widely?

The committee addressed the challenge of trying to adapt a program conceptually based on "showy" results to staff sentiment in favor of "quiet valor" and line-of-duty contributions.

Outcomes: The bad

The committee/program

Staff distaste for the program surfaced immediately, in a woeful dearth of nominees and volunteers to serve on the committee.

We infer that this same staff disaffection from the program as a whole resulted in a poor-and uneven-turnout of collegial, possibly also supervisory nominations.

Ditto (perhaps more because of complexity of eligibility criteria) for SLE nominations

The committee was asked to take on a major work detail without real provision for regular workload relief, or assignment of necessary administrative support: our workflow management, not surprisingly, suffered some confusion as a result.

The committee was asked to stand in for, rather than to cooperate with, management in program administration--from one extreme to the other. As a result, we lacked some balance and administrative wisdom that might've been useful. In hindsight, more consultation with management might've avoided a few pitfalls.

Although the committee invited management to preview and comment on our program plan, we received virtually no response--possibly out of a reluctance to crowd our freedom to carry out our charge. In retrospect, we feel that program such as this may best be run as a community program.

The committee felt from the start like sitting ducks on the firing range of widespread disgruntlement with this and other UC compensation programs.

Both the committee and some supervisors got caught, in a few instances, between basic program rules and internal guidelines (e.g., the supervisory performance rating prerequisite vs. open nominations by working colleagues). Some supervisors felt themselves faced with the choice of being either yes-men or bad guys, and so felt victimized.

General observations

From reading nomination statements the committee developed a sense that staff may too often be asked (or simply allowed) to step into the breach when staffing or other disruptions, work surges, special projects, etc., arise-on top of their regular jobs and without anyone necessarily taking much account of it. In some of these cases, new responsibilities shouldered ad hoc default to permanent ones, and it's unclear that there's a rational and consistent process in place Librarywide, for recognizing and rewarding employees (chiefly through reclassification).

Bonus and merit review programs would be natural means of catching overlooked job evolution, if anyone were set on watch (via an established LHRD/management loop in the review process).

A voluntary program highlights the disparity of supervisory styles among library departments and units (which it was hoped that collegial nominations might offset): resulting in an imbalances in the nominee pool along administrative lines. Would a more aggressive advertising campaign have altered outcome? Or were supervisors, too, leery of associating themselves with the program?


Compared with last year's program.

Award amount was standardized at $1,785 this year ($1,000, for SLE awards), or about 60% of last year's $3000 amount. All nominees were treated as individuals.

$181,750 in awards were approved--including $108,530 paid and $74,970 unpaid (to Clericals)--compared with $174,400 initially allocated ($96,700 + $77,700 for Clericals bonuses)--and with $162,000 paid to all groups last year. Almost $12,000 in surplus funds were obtained in bargaining-unit allocation trading with other campus departments.

Despite the opened floor for nominations--about 350 potential nonstudent eligibles and 450 nominators--and inclusion of about 500 student employees (average monthly head-count; 124 annualized FTE), the number of nominations submitted increased by only 29%, with the number of individual nominees remaining nearly constant.

Number of approved nominations (including 43 clericals) nearly doubled, from 54 to 105 (including 5 SLEs).

(Background: in the nonrepresented/nonstudent group, who alone have thus far received merit increases in the current FY cycle, 55% of merit eligibles received outstanding performance ratings, and 38% were rated as meeting or exceeding expectations; so that 129 of 139 (93%) met this basic criterion for bonus award eligibility.)

Nomination categories

43 of 133 collegial nominations were received (43% of the non-student total): a substantial response to this new option, although more restrained than anticipated. 27 (about one-fifth of) nominations submitted duplicated nominations already submitted, for perhaps 20 employees: an expected accident of the collegial nomination option, but not necessarily unwelcome. 27 was also the number of nominees named as members of teams--on which the committee made no effort to focus attention this year. Team members were treated as individual nominees; at the same time, a number of individual nominations, it should be noted, focused on inter-unit collaborations.

Bonus awards and Library demographics

Most bargaining units populations were represented roughly proportionally in numbers of nominations, with nonrepresenteds somewhat over quota (about 40% of potential eligibles and 46% of awardees)--though not quite so much as last year--and, unusually this year, the service and technical units weighing in heavily over; while clericals nominees lagged their population by about 16% (50% eligible /42% nominated).

Since program dollars are allocated based on wages paid during the program year, rather than on headcounts, non-representeds' higher, and service employees' lowest pay rates partly absorbed these discrepancies, for fiscal control purposes.

At 5 to 495 by straight (averaged) headcount (1%), or even ca.15, wage-adjusted, to 124 FTE (12%), student nominations were the least proportional--quite otherwise than anticipated. Increased SLE turnover, and possibly excessive cautionaries issued by the committee regarding SLE eligibility and funding ratios, must be among the causes here.

Most notable was the disproportionate distribution of nominations across Library service and department lines: with, for instance, Bancroft (other than ROHO), Collections, and Technical Services nominating 42%, 47% and 49% respectively of their eligibles, compared with 12% to 21% for most other services. (Systems and Administrative Services held the middle ground at 31%. At the department level the skewage was even more pronounced: in Preservation, 65% of eligibles were nominated, and in Catalog, 53%.

Possible factors contributing to this troubling unevenness (assuming that qualifications were probably more evenly distributed Librarywide:

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