Montana University System Staff Association

Classified Employees Personnel Advisory Committee
Board of Regents Meeting, September 27, 2006 - Butte
Classified Staff Representatives 11:30 am - Noon

The following are CEPAC's impressions of the day:

Representatives from the MUS Staff Associations (MUSSA) met in Butte for their scheduled agenda time with the Regents. Christine Muller and Julie Strobel (MSU Northern); Jami Burk (UM Helena); Karen Throckmorton (UM Western); Kelli Granthan and Janna Myers (MSU Billings); Michelle Larsen, Mary Engel, and Sara France (CEPAC) attended. Unfortunately, UM Missoula and Montana Tech representatives were unable to attend, (and there is no staff association on the Great Falls campus). The full Board was present together with ex-officio Regent, Commissioner Sheila Stearns, and Director of Labor Relations, Kevin McRae.

Our presentation was entitled "Recruitment and Retention From Each Campus Perspective, and the Relevance of the Pooled Resources Facility".

As usual, prior to the scheduled presentation (at 11:30 am), MUSSA took a couple of hours to consider the themes of our discussion with the Regents. CEPAC cannot over iterate the cooperative and collaborative spirit of the MUSSA group. Sara France was selected to deliver MUSSA's presentation. Our meeting with the Regents was very cordial and productive and, again, the Board encouraged MUSSA initiatives:

  1. Introduction
    • thanking the Board for including classified staff representatives on their agenda, and stressing the value of these meetings to the classified staff
    • welcoming the four Regents new to the Board
    • celebrating continued MUSSA collaboration and acknowledging absent members
    • each person present then introduced themselves.

  2. The Pooled Resources facility
    • referencing the brief concept description, previously submitted to the Board, for the benefit of the new Board members
    • acknowledging the generous institutional contributions that have made the project possible, and stressing that the facility is founded entirely on pre-existing resources and one-time donations
    • Status Report: MUSSA is now actively implementing the facility. The web site is under development, and user needs are about to be assessed. Coordinated launches are planned for each campus early in Spring semester.

  3. Recruitment and Retention issues across the MUS
    Ability to recruit and retain staff is diminishing across the MUS. Through its practice of open discussion, MUSSA has identified both the common concerns, and some shared solutions in this regard. The following issues are relevant to every campus, although manifestation differs due to influences in the local community:
    • loss of institutional knowledge and its impact on quality of service, and student retention
    • increased staff workloads, both generally and as a means of covering vacancies
    • inadequate staff training opportunities
    • the need for competitive compensation
    At this point, CEPAC data specific to Bozeman's extraordinary housing and employment markets were presented, along with details of MSU's current recruitment and retention issues. Bozeman's unique situation was acknowledged during Regent comment.

  4. Suggested Ways Forward
    MUSSA intends to:
    • Implement and maintain a growing Pooled Resources facility for staff professional development and training
    • Research other recruitment and retention tools, including programs for mentoring new staff, and marketing the value of the MUS benefits package
    • CEPAC is also engaged in research and solution development specific to MSU.

The Regents thanked MUSSA for its continued initiative, and for the well presented data that they stated MUSSA always provides. A very meaningful discussion, arising from Regent questions and involving each MUSSA representative, Commissioner Stearns, and Kevin McRae, occupied the remainder of the meeting (probably 20 minutes). Board members were greatly interested in better understanding the issues, and working together towards solutions. Topics included the collection of exit survey data; how a mentoring program might work; skills testing and pre-screening new hires; how well the advertised job description reflects the actual duties; flexible pay options (policy, procedure and funding); some specifics of Bozeman's situations and where different salary rates currently apply to MUS job titles in Bozeman; Pooled Resources; and marketing the dollar value of the MUS benefits package.

Outcomes of the meeting: the Board of Regents offered MUSSA a letter supporting use of the Pooled Resources facility, and growth of a culture of continued education for classified staff at each institution. Following input and advice from the Regents, MUSSA will coordinate with Kevin McRae in pursuing the topics discussed.

After meeting with the Regents, MUSSA continued work on Pooled Resources implementation.