Author Topic: Merit bonuses  (Read 1526 times)

Zinoma

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Merit bonuses
« on: August 13, 2019, 11:42:29 AM »
Hi, All. I was on the old CHE fora, so some of you might remember me. I don't post much, but I have a question of some import before our academic year begins.

How many of you are at institutions that award merit bonuses? By that I mean non-regular pay that might come from a book publication, an important paper published, a grant, organizing a conference, editing a journal, and such. This would be awarded by the departmental chair or academic dean.

We don't have anything like that, and I'm trying to collect "data." If anyone can point me to an article about this, all the better. I did some quick searches here and elsewhere but have come up blank.

Thanks, Zinoma

Ruralguy

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Re: Merit bonuses
« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2019, 11:59:02 AM »
We got rid of this about 15 years ago due to complaints (valid ones, IMHO) that they were unfair especially because the Dean never felt he had to explain himself on these, even to the individuals getting them!  Well, the current Dean decided to bring it back, but with the same policy that he didn't have to explain himself at all. It probably won't be an "every year" sort of thing...only when we have higher than expected enrollments.

We do have partially endowed professorships that go to a fair number of people, but these are decided by a committee based upon an application and CV. The selections are announced. I think these serve the purpose a lot better than random merit pay. Of course, you need to have the endowment money to do this.

So, our policy as it stands now is to maybe have merit pay, if budget allows, but awarded based upon whatever standard the Dean wishes to use. Although the Dean didn't really announce an amount associated with this, in the past, its been anything between about 1% and 5 %.

I think the old fora discussed this a few times, so you might be able to find old data or anecdotes or whatever. But I think you'll find that policies are not uniform or consistent (perhaps slightly better defined at public institutions for legal reasons).

Volhiker78

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Re: Merit bonuses
« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2019, 12:39:14 PM »
Nothing is formally written down at my institution but it is pretty common knowledge that if you are awarded a major grant as a PI, you get a merit bonus. 

magnemite

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Re: Merit bonuses
« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2019, 12:47:30 PM »
We had, a decade ago, a one-time merit award set up in the union contract- a set number of faculty would get a few kilo-$ added to their pay if selected via an application process. I got one, which was nice. Process was never repeated since. There is a merit component to our 5-year after tenure review- if you exceed expectations in teaching, research, or service, you get a modest (a percent or so) permanent raise. It works out to be "kind of merit", but is better than nothing.

Finally, for a couple of years, the Dean would give you a gift card for a nice dinner at a nice local place if you had a grant funded. That stopped in 2010.
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Zinoma

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Re: Merit bonuses
« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2019, 02:15:08 PM »
Thanks, all, for the replies so far. Helpful. /z

dr_codex

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Re: Merit bonuses
« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2019, 04:47:07 PM »
We used to have contractual merit pay, awarded on base salary. The union leadership hated it, in large part because they felt it gave administrators too much clout. When I arrived, the process was supposed to be that it was decided by ranking within the departments, then pooled by the P&T Committee, then ranked by the VPAA/Provost. In practice, it often looked a lot like the only list that mattered was the last one. It didn't help that these raises were often the only ones we might get, and that they were also sometimes used to address salary compression and inversion issues.

So, they went away, and the union negotiated flat increases across the board. However, since these were being awarded on salaries that weren't themselves on a ladder, they carried there own inequities. Sometimes during this time there were bonus merit awards -- not on base -- sometimes not.

Fast forward to now. Merit pay is back (half of it), as is a different pool (the other half) designed to address compression and inversion. As somebody who is in one of the groups doing the rankings, I appreciate the separation. It remains to be seen how the compression/inversion process works.

Short answer: in a decade I've seen a lot of the permutations. PM me if you need more detail. There are pros and cons to any system.

dc



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Parasaurolophus

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Re: Merit bonuses
« Reply #6 on: August 13, 2019, 06:08:40 PM »
They had them at my doctoral institution. Where I work now, salaries are set in stone by the faculty union, so there are no bonuses for any reason. For faculty members, that is. Admincritters can still get them.
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Liquidambar

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Re: Merit bonuses
« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2019, 08:56:33 PM »
Definitely no merit bonuses here.  Sometimes our pay raises are the same percentage for everyone, and other times they're based on our scores on our annual reviews.  In the latter case, it's still done as a percentage of base pay (just slightly different percentages for different people), so it doesn't fix inversions and inequities.  There's a separate process for that.  And other years, of course, there are no raises for anyone.
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secundem_artem

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Re: Merit bonuses
« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2019, 09:08:31 PM »
When the uni actually has money for a raise pool, they'll announce that the raise pool is say, 1.5%.  Meaning when all raises across all faculty are averaged, the increase should be 1.5%.  Dept chairs theoretically could give Professor Fantastic a 2% raise and Professor Retired in Place 1% - it averages to 1.5%.  Fantastic's extra 0.5% would be her "merit" increase.

In practice though and with the minimal amounts we are talking, chairs just give everybody the 1.5% and call it a day.  If there were a 10% raise pool, this could get problematic but nobody has seen 10% since before Joe Biden's hair implants.

These days, it's all pretty much moot.  No raises at all this year and the promise of none next year as well.  We get a modest bump going from Assistant to Associate and a decent bump when going to Full.  But after that, you just watch yourself fall behind inflation a bit more each year and start to wonder if maybe lottery tickets are a better idea than you first thought.
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kaysixteen

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Re: Merit bonuses
« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2019, 09:25:48 PM »
On what basis would an admin be given a bonus?  Unis are not big box retail emporia...

clean

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Re: Merit bonuses
« Reply #10 on: August 13, 2019, 11:14:24 PM »
Quote
On what basis would an admin be given a bonus?  Unis are not big box retail emporia...

We have an active (big) online MBA and the college retains some of the revenue from that program and the online fees it generates.  A few years ago, the admin instituted a 'bonus' for publishing articles that are on the 'approved list'.  Depending on the rating that the list gives the journal, we get a bonus.  It used to be a percentage of salary (a small percentage) and now it is a flat fee because
1.  It started getting expensive as some of the high salary endowed chairs (who were hired to do research anyway, and who had additional release time to do it) were making big bucks!  It was suggested that one in particular would make more than the Provost  if credited with all of the bonus money he had earned.  (IF the top dog publisher published 10 articles at an average bonus of 5%.... you can see how quickly this would explode, and our top dog IS a publishing machine!)
2.  The bonus money was breaking the bank!  Especially given the the above, faculty WILL do what you say is important, and will reallocate time to earn a bonus!  (Incentives CAN work!!)

Last  Spring the dean announced the new policy that pretty much went away from a percentage of salary to a flat fee.  A flat fee for the lower ranked journals that is less than the percentage that even the lower paid faculty would have earned on the old plan. 

It is a bonus.  It does not change your annual salary.  It is paid in the summer (Usually the July 1 paycheck) based on publications from  March 1 to the end of February (as you have to fill out the paperwork by March 1 and it is also part of the annual evaluation). 

I promise that the dean of my college is NOT imaginative. He copied the model from somewhere else, so there are some other colleges of business that do this too.  (Im sure that the original model was more cut and paste, but once the budget got out of hand, the Provost forced him to rein it in.... Actually, I m not sure that the Provost DID make him rein it in, but from the discussion I recall from the faculty meeting, I am sure that he was afraid that the Provost would look more critically on this use of money and seek to find a way cut our portion of the online MBA revenue to reallocate it away from the COB folks, if at all possible). 
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marwyn

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Re: Merit bonuses
« Reply #11 on: August 14, 2019, 01:04:09 AM »
I guess most of you write about US institutions, so my examples might not be very comparable to your cases, but well... maybe it's just interesting. I worked as a researcher in Poland and Czech Republic, both countries are actually developing, the latter one got lots of funding earlier, the former started investing in science only recently. There has been significant pressure (from institutions and goverments) to publish in top journals and be competitive when compared with e.g. Germany or the UK. Both countries came up with the idea of motivating researchers based on merit bonuses.

In the Czech Rep. the system was based mainly on publications. At my (former) institution only first authors got bonuses for articles published in journals listed in JCR, where two indicators were taken into account (Impact factor and something) and multiplied by 1000 Czech Crowns. In extreme cases, if the IF was high, some authors could get even 10 k USD for a single paper. Usually it was much less though. These publication bonuses were paid immediately after the article was accepted, as an addition to the salary in the following month. There were also merit bonuses which were decided by heads of the groups or departments. The director granted bonuses to the heads and even to the budgets of the departments based on the yearly productivity of each department.

In Poland I encountered a similar system for rewarding publishing activity. The difference was that every author from my institution would get at least a fractional a bonus and not just the 1st author as at my Czech institution. Journals were classified in 4 groups, and only publications in well established journals were rewarded. So if someone published in Nature or Science, he/she would get ~3000 USD divided by the total number of authors. The bonuses were paid quarterly, so the response was also relatively quick.

I heard about other merit bonuses at Polish Universities which were decided by the deans, and usually granted every year for outstanding publication record or successful grant applications.

I could spend a long time on discussing the pros and cons of these systems... Making just one comment, I don't think that bonuses should really be a motivator for performing high quality science. Firstly, it will be always biased by science metrics used in evaluating publication output. Secondly, most of these researchers would love to publish in top journals and solve important problems even without any bonus. The source of the problem was elsewhere. For example, no one was teaching Ph.D. students and postdocs how to write good papers.

downer

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Re: Merit bonuses
« Reply #12 on: August 14, 2019, 04:14:01 AM »
On what basis would an admin be given a bonus?  Unis are not big box retail emporia...

There are many products and they are being sold. So there are similarities. Why not reward employees who bring in more money?
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Grinch

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Re: Merit bonuses
« Reply #13 on: August 14, 2019, 04:30:00 AM »
We do not get merit bonuses for research or publications, but there have been very select times when we have gotten small stipends for doing committee work related to Board of Regents initiatives. The decisions for such stipends are typically made above the dean level.

polly_mer

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Re: Merit bonuses
« Reply #14 on: August 14, 2019, 04:45:54 AM »
On what basis would an admin be given a bonus?  Unis are not big box retail emporia...

Written as someone who has spent zero time in administration or even much time hanging out in offices where administrative discussions are held.  First, because as Downer writes

There are many products and they are being sold. So there are similarities. Why not reward employees who bring in more money?

Someone who brings in a huge donor for unrestricted funds or matches an identified need might be given a bonus, particularly if that person is not in the offices where fundraising is most of the job.  Professors are expected to write grants to fund their research.  It's a really nice above and beyond when the associate dean for student life manages to bring in a million unrestricted dollars that goes into the endowment or the career services director gets several hundred thousand dollars earmarked for supporting job-seeking students who need interview clothes and transportation costs covered.

Someone who brings in substantial numbers of students, particularly if that person is not officially in admissions, may be up for a bonus.  For example, people expect the athletic coaches to recruit, even though they are not in admissions.  When the assistant director of the tutoring center is bringing in 10% of the new enrollees every year through her work with the local high schools and community colleges, that's noteworthy.

Second, salaried professionals don't get more money for pulling very long weeks.  A bonus is a way to recognize top performers and help them decide to stay instead of taking their valuable skills elsewhere.  Someone who pulls off a miracle with the auditors, accreditors, and/or US Department of Education may be up for a bonus to encourage that person to stay and try for another miracle next time instead of leaving for more money and less drama. 

Third, operating by bonuses instead of raises helps with budgeting when the institution really can't afford to be locked into paying market rates, but cannot afford to let the good administrators go just by being cheap.  Thus, some top administrators like president, provost, CFO, top-dog in fundraising, and top-dog in admissions often have bonuses written into their contracts for meeting specific goals related to their duties.  Other high-level administrators who are hard to replace with other good professionals tend to get regular bonuses (one-time payments based on current budget) in lieu of raises in an effort to keep those individuals. 
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