Frequently Asked Questions about the Exempt Compensation Plan

Bottom line, will I get a raise this year under the new Exempt Staff Compensation Plan? 

Yes.  Every exempt employee will get at least some increase this year.  Depending on market conditions, where you are in your range, and state funding, that may not be the case every year.

Beyond the 2% cost of living increase authorized by the legislature (which takes effect in September), the college has set aside some money to give each exempt employee a $375 annual increase.

Employees whose current pay is below the 45th percentile for their position (50th percentile being the market median) will be brought up to the 45th percentile and have the $375 added to that. 

The 2% cost of living increases in September will be calculated based on the new increased salary levels (including the moves to the 45th percentile and/or the $375 increase).  All increases will take effect September 1 and will be reflected in paychecks beginning September 25.  

Are there any other immediate benefits for me?

Yes.  Exempt employees will receive an additional 1.33 hours of vacation accrual per month (2 days annually). 

While our ability to provide additional salary increases is limited at this time to the increases noted above, we were able to further improve your overall compensation package by adding these two vacation days (and still remain within our budget).

Why are you creating an Exempt Staff Compensation Plan? 

The intention is to provide a fair, objective, consistent, market-based framework for exempt staff compensation that will support successful recruitment and retention.  In the past, approaches for exempt compensation at Evergreen varied from division to division and from case to case.  The result was inconsistency in exempt compensation even among positions with similar responsibilities and/or market demands.  A recent Evergreen DTF on Issues Affecting Exempt Employment listed a fair, equitable, and understandable salary program as its number one priority.  Prior accreditation recommendations also urged the creation of an exempt compensation system. 

What are the underlying values of the new system?

Internal equity, external equity, transparency, fiscal responsibility and timeliness.

What sources did you use to establish market rates/ranges for each position?

In an effort to find the best comparisons, we used the following sources:

  • College and University Professional Association (CUPA) surveys.

  • Milliman NW Management & Professional Salary Survey

  • Salary data-on-demand software products including CUPA and Economic Research Institute (ERI)

  • Washington Employment Service /Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) salary surveys

Why did you choose these sources?

  • The CUPA HR surveys allow us to select regional and national peer (enrollment level, public undergraduate) institutions for individual job pricing and determination of competitive salary range for exempt administrative and professional positions.

  • ERI’s Salary Assessor allows market pricing of exempt position salary rates in higher education and in the Olympia labor market area.

  • The Milliman Management & Professional Salary Survey gives us a market pay comparison of our professional and managerial position salary levels with those in the Northwest (Washington, Oregon and Idaho).

  • The Washington State Employment Security Department and the U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics provide salary comparisons by occupation on a statewide basis.

What was your general approach to determining the market value of a position?

  • The valuation/placement process started last year with an update to all exempt job descriptions (done in collaboration with your supervisor).  The goal was to accurately reflect qualifications, key skills and abilities, scope and level of responsibilities (including supervisory duties).

  • Human Resources then did a position evaluation and market pay rate analysis using the comparative sources noted above.

There are at least two basic approaches to market valuation for a position:

  • Pure market pricing – only looking at external comparisons

  • Market pricing guideline approach – taking into account external comparisons and internal equity issues.

Evergreen chose the “guideline” pricing approach.  For more details on the methodology, see the Evergreen Web site at www.evergreen.edu/employment/exemptcompensation.    

That analysis helped determine a “job value” and a corresponding pay rate and grade assignment.  Factors such as recruitment area, appropriate benchmark jobs, and market demands were considered.  For more about job value determination and the overall pay structure, see the Evergreen Web site at www.evergreen.edu/employment/exemptcompensation.     

What factors were considered in deciding an appropriate comparison for a particular position?

Every effort was made to identify comparable market survey jobs for a each exempt position based on the position description.  A market survey job match was available for 80% of all the exempt positions at Evergreen.  When market survey data on a position were not available, the specific content characteristics of the job (scope of responsibility, accountability, supervision, etc.) were used to determine a range in which to place the position. 

How were positions without market salary data assigned to a salary level?

The positions were assigned to a salary level using the “compensable factors” for the position (see below).  This is a straightforward job evaluation method based on the college’s position evaluation factors. The evaluator uses the market pricing and the college-defined compensable factors as a way to compare the “whole job” to others within the organization and then assign the jobs to the exempt salary structure. The evaluators used paired comparisons to evaluate and compare jobs within a job family and/or organizational group (Student Affairs, FAD, Academics, Advancement) by the Evergreen compensable factors. 

The Evergreen compensable factors are:

  • Scope of Responsibility – appraises the position’s breadth and depth of either administrative or managerial influence;
  • Supervision– appraises the number (head count & FTE) and responsibility level of the employees;
  • Accountability – appraises the position’s accountability for the allocation of resources and program results;
  • Communication Skills – appraises the position’s requirement for proficiency in interpersonal, oral and written skills;
  • Professional Capability Requirements – appraises minimum Knowledge, Skill and Ability (KSA’s); education; experience; and training necessary to perform the job.
  • Creative Professional Performance – focusing on the primary duties of the position, appraises the position’s involvement with work activities requiring problem solving, invention, imagination, originality or talent in a recognized professional field.

What if I believe my position was placed in the wrong band or that I was placed at the wrong level in the band? 

Placement in bands was based on extensive analysis of multiple market comparisons (sometimes up to four comparison sources for one position).  However, sometimes an exact comparison was difficult.  If you have a question about the reasons for your placement in a particular band or your position within that band, talk first with your direct supervisor.  He or she will work to provide additional information about the decision process for your position.  Beyond that, there is a process available for your vice president to review your concern and consider a possible change in your placement.  It begins with completion of a Salary Review Request Form (the form and an overview of the procedure – Exempt Compensation Plan, Item VII, Procedure for Reviewing Requests to Change Exempt Staff Salary Level and/or Title – are available on the Evergreen Web site at www.evergreen.edu/employment/exemptcompensation). 

Financially speaking, what’s the target for exempt compensation levels? 

In the immediate time frame our intention is to move all exempt staff to at least the 45th percentile for their position, based on market.  On average, exempt pay at Evergreen is currently at the 47th percentile. 

Beyond the immediate term, the goal is to get all exempt employees up to the 50th percentile for their position. 

Looking further out, our hope, depending largely on state funding, would be to move all exempt staff to the 60th percentile for their position, based on the market, by 2014. 

Does that mean that no one can make more than the 60th percentile in the long run?

No.  Allowances can be made for an individual to make up to the 65th percentile for his or her position, with vice president approval, based on additional duties, retention, and equity considerations.  An allowance of this type must:

  • Be made only after consultation with the associate vice president for Human Resources;
  • Not create internal inequity (with equity being determined based on the factors considered in the Equal Pay Act governing equal pay for equal work – differentiating pay based on responsibility, skill, physical and/or mental effort required and working conditions).

How many exempt employees are there? 


How many make less than the 45th percentile?

42 (23%)

Why aren’t you just moving all exempt workers immediately up to the 50th percentile?

Given limited resources in the current biennium, we can only accomplish the increases noted for the immediate term right now.   The priority is to bring those people who are furthest below the median at least up to the 45th percentile. Our hope is to allocate additional resources in the upcoming biennium to help move us closer to the 50th percentile goal for all exempt employees.

Does a market-based system allow the ranges or bands to be adjusted periodically based on changes in market demand for a particular type of position?  If so, how often will this be reviewed? 

Yes.  Our intention is to review market conditions and adjust salary levels/range bands every three years.   Any actual adjustments will depend on college finances, including state funding.

As a manager, what if I directly supervise a classified employee whose base salary is the same or higher than mine? 

This is called “compression.”  Our intention is to minimize compression.  For managers in this situation, we plan to increase the manager’s salary to at least the midpoint of the range for their position.  If compression remains an issue at that level of compensation, the vice president or provost in that manager’s division can authorize an additional increase to create up to a 5% gap between the manager’s salary and the salary of their highest paid classified direct report. 

Does that mean that all managers should be making more than the highest paid classified staff employees anywhere in the college? 

No.  The compression factor is considered only in relation to direct reports for a particular manager (since market compensation varies between fields, and recruitment and retention are specific to a particular field). 

Does the “compression” factor apply to directors or others who supervise other exempt staff? 


What role does seniority play in the exempt compensation plan? 

Strictly speaking, seniority does not play a role.  The exempt compensation system is based on the value of the position in the marketplace and the person’s ability to fulfill the role, not length of service.  There may be differences in placement within a specific band based on skills and years of experience (with an implied difference in mastery of the position), but not strictly based on time served.  In many instances a person is considered to be fully productive in their position within a given number of years.  Service beyond that level of full productivity doesn’t necessarily change the value of the position in the marketplace.   For example, a person with five years of experience in the role and a person with eight years of experience in the role may both be fully productive and therefore paid similarly. 

In recent years, it seems that new employees have been hired into similar jobs as existing employees with similar experience and been started at higher salaries than the longer term employees.  Will the Exempt Staff Compensation Plan address that? 

Yes.  In general, under the new plan new employees can be hired into a position at a starting pay less than or equal to the median for the position, as long as that does not exceed the pay of a current employee in the same position.  There are exceptions allowed if certain conditions exist (e.g. market competition, etc.). 

What if someone currently makes more than the 50th percentile for the position?  Will their salary be reduced or frozen? 

No.  However, individuals who hold the same position (or are placed within the same band based on market comparability) who make less than the median will likely receive somewhat larger increases over time than those who are currently above the median – based on availability of funds – eventually balancing things out. 

Where can I find all the details of the new Exempt Staff Compensation Plan?

More details are available on the Evergreen Web site at www.evergreen.edu/employment/exemptcompensation.