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Oregon's look at managers could bring changes

SALEM — The state of Oregon has completed an extensive evaluation of what its managers do, how many people they supervise and how much money they're in charge of, as the first step to completely changing how the state's management system is structured.

Michael Jordan, head of the Department of Administrative Services, said the relationship between managers and the state administration "is less than perfect. I would say 'broken,' but that's probably too strong a term."

The Enterprise Management Solutions Reform Project was created this fall to change nearly every aspect of how managers in state government are treated: how they are recruited, trained and hired, how they are paid, how their performance reviews are done, how they are held accountable and how they interact with staff.

Union employees work under a contract that is renegotiated every two years, and it provides the opportunity to change job classifications, descriptions, pay differentials or pay ranges.

However, managers in state government don't renegotiate their contracts. Their jobs can go unexamined for years, as they continue to work in evolving positions, evolving departments and evolving markets.

The result, Jordan said, is that the state doesn't have a clear idea which managers are really in charge of what, whether they're actually getting results or whether they're being paid what they should be.

The project is comprehensive across state systems, Jordan said. Nothing so complete or large in scale has been done on the subject in the state's history, he said, and both Gov. John Kitzhaber and legislative leaders are involved in making sure it gets done.

The first step was the "classification and compensation," meant to determine how jobs should be categorized and how much they should be paid.

About 3,400 managers — between 80 percent and 90 percent of managers in state government — completed the survey by mid-December.

The survey took about an hour to complete and required employees to describe "why (their) position exists" and to list and describe between six and 10 duties they are directly responsible for, in order of importance.

They also were asked to describe the education and experience necessary for the position, the decisions they make and how much money they're in charge of.

Jordan said the responses will be used to identify which positions are being paid more or less than comparable positions within state government, which managers supervise few or many employees and which positions are being paid more or less than the market rate for similar jobs.

"We're trying to figure out what's really going on right now with these jobs," he said, which includes trying to create pay equity across agencies when it comes to levels of responsibility, budget control, risk level and more.

People could see their pay adjusted accordingly, he said.

Employees' pay that is too high compared to the market likely will see their pay frozen until the market catches up, he said. But employees who are being paid less than the market rate likely will get raises.

It could end up costing the state money if a lot of managers are being underpaid, Jordan said, and the Oregon Legislature is aware of the possibility.

He said pay scales likely will be changed from the current model, where employees receive pre-set "step" increases every year, to one where a pay scale has a market-driven midpoint, with productivity, outcomes and performance driving pay changes.

And the way the "market" is defined will change to become more specific to each job. It could include the private sector, local governments or other state governments, depending on where people in that position are usually hired from or where they go.

The state's largest union, Service Employees International Union Local 503, has released multiple reports and statements arguing that the state is losing money on an inefficient management system, where managers are overseeing few or no employees or have overlapping jobs.

In 2012, the union said the state could eliminate 544 manager positions and save $21.8 million from its general fund by adhering to strict manager-to-employee ratios.

Jordan said it's highly unlikely anyone will lose his or her job as part of this project. But he said jobs likely will change, and the state likely will change whom it hires and what it looks for in new managers.

Collaborative attitudes and comfort with change will be high priorities in new managers going forward, he said. It likely will be a two-year project, he said, but data from the surveys will start being used as early as February during the 2014 legislative session.


Information from: Statesman Journal, http:www.statesmanjournal.com

AP-WF-01-02-14 2355GMT