Improving the Employee Experience

Employer of Preference

A critical goal of Hopes & Aspirations High is to become an employer of preference for faculty and staff. President Damphousse is committed to recognizing the exceptional work of faculty and staff by addressing the need for competitive salaries and additional positions, as well as the reduction of unnecessary administrative burdens.

Strategies implemented to serve and support employees:

  • Effective September 1, 2023, TXST will invest $12.3 million in our TXST employees for FY24 , a 6.55% increase over our FY23 salary pool. This includes merit pool raises, increasing eligible salaries with a 2% boost, and new staff positions.
  • Established a 25% tuition discount for employee dependents beginning Fall 2023.
  • Created a discounted meal plan for employees with meals that never expire and with a cost of less than $6 per meal.
  • Initiated a salary study with an external partner that will help update our strategic approach and ensure faculty and staff compensation is competitive.
  • Spent well over $5 million to permanently increase the salaries of more than 1,400 employees over the past 18 months.
  • Removed the requirement that some salary increases have presidential approval.
  • Provided 10% pay raises for 100+ student workers, including in our Student Learning Assistance Center.
  • Awarded more than $9.6 million in one-time bonuses to employees. 
  • Adding more than a dozen new staff positions in critical areas.

Task Force and Implementation Teams:

The Administrative Burdens Task Force was charged with identifying opportunities to improve efficiency and reduce the time required to complete administrative processes. The task force led a collaborative process to solicit input from faculty and staff, and proposed several recommendations to Cabinet which were approved and enacted.

Two implementation teams were created to enact key recommendations and continue the work of the task force:

  1. Procurement - Information Technology (IT) Implementation Team
  2. Human Resources (HR) - Faculty & Academic Resources (FAR) - Information Technology (IT) Implementation Team
  • Accounts Payable

    The Division of Finance and Support Services is exploring automated three-way matching to speed up bill payment. Through an automated process, this process would cross-reference the invoice with its corresponding purchase order and a delivery receipt to make sure all pertinent details match, and then automatically pay the invoice with no further human interaction needed.

    Travel

    The Cabinet agreed to allow travel reimbursements covering only mileage, tolls, and parking to be processed by a trained/certified person in each major division or academic unit. This would reduce the overall volume coming to the Travel Office, thereby allowing staff to focus on more complicated reimbursements containing hotels, airfares, per diem, etc. 

    Mileage Only” reimbursements are generally low risk, low dollar amount travel reimbursements. Current software, however, does not allow for delegation of the approval process to the departments. The Travel Office is working with Concur to be able to set up approver roles at the department roles.

    Key Access

    Every academic building has card swipe access at least at one entrance point. Card swipe access for every interior and exterior door at TXST is not our goal. We aim for a targeted use of card swipes where they are advantageous. Ingress Management Services (IMS) is in the process of upgrading their software so that we can allow faculty members/ administrative assistants to control who can swipe doors with card swipes without going through IMS. 

    KeyWatcher boxes (key management systems) are being placed in all buildings with high turnover and student needs. IMS is prepositioning most keys for the Round Rock Campus in a Round Rock KeyWatcher box for faster distribution. IMS has filled two of its three vacant positions and expects the third vacant position to be filled soon. With seven staff, implementing KeyWatcher boxes, and the planned change to card-swipe controls, the key shop will be able to meet the needs of the university in a timelier manner by this fall.

    Background

    The implementation team convened to address concerns raised regarding the time it takes to make purchases and the procurement of information technology assets (software, hardware, etc.). Examples include:

    • difficulties knowing where a purchase request is in the process.
    • waiting many months for a response or approval to purchase important technology tools and software or access to data for research. Some have also expressed that renewing licenses for software is difficult. 
    • waiting an extended amount of time for a license renewal such that the renewal deadline is missed and therefore having to pay a higher cost. 
    • continuing problems with requests that were ‘escalated’ multiple times. 

    The Procurement-IT Implementation Team was charged on March 22, 2023, to:

    1. Identify the reasons for the delays.
    2. Gather specific examples that might be useful for triage/contemplation of solutions.
    3. Benchmark our procurement process to peer institutions.
    4. Identify process inefficiencies, redundancies, and gaps in services, and explore ways to address these issues.
    5. Determine where more staff may be needed.

    Based on the results of 1-5 above, develop a proposal for process/philosophical changes in procurement, including any additional actions necessary to mitigate the problems and provide visibility on the effects of the improvements once implemented. 
    The Task Force delivered a report to the President’s Cabinet before the deadline of May 10, 2023. 

    On May 24, 2023, the President’s Cabinet reviewed the report and recommendations submitted. Cabinet approved the recommendations and asked that the team benchmark our processes with other universities, continue to meet regularly, and provide an update to the Cabinet in six months (~December). 
     

  • PCRs and Onboarding

    The President’s Cabinet approved recommendations submitted by the PCR and Onboarding Implementation Team. 

    • Human Resources (HR) and Faculty & Academic Resources (FAR) moved faculty recruiting responsibilities and positions to HR. 
    • They were asked to begin working closely together to jointly handle PCRs and associated tasks for the 2023 academic year onboarding cycle, and to develop a plan such that, no later than June 1, 2023, the responsibility and positions associated with PCR processing and onboarding be transferred to HR. 
    • The Director of Faculty and Academic Resources and an Administrative Assistant III position will remain in Academic Affairs to oversee faculty credentialing, tenure and promotion, development leaves, faculty honors, awards, and fellowships, visiting scholars, and the faculty handbook.

    The team returned recommendations related to streamlining and speeding up the onboarding process to Cabinet before the deadline of May 8, 2023. Cabinet approved the recommendations and asked that the team benchmark our processes with other universities, continue to meet regularly, and provide an update to the Cabinet in six months (~December). 

  • Improvements Enacted:

    • Cabinet approved, where feasible, to allow remote work as a viable option during Energy Conversations Days. It’s now up to each vice president to determine whether their essential offices can be closed during Energy Conservation Days.
    • It’s no longer required to secure Vice President approval on AP-12’s Food and Beverage for anything that doesn’t involve alcohol.
    • The Staff Handbook, which was previously printed, has been moved to fully online and has become a digital catalogue of frequently used human resources policies and procedures.
    • TXST will utilize Adobe Sign for more document approvals and provide templates for many commonly used documents that are routed for approval.
    • The required SACSCOC outcomes assessment reports have been reduced significantly for our administrative support units.
    • Salary increases over 10% or $10,000 no longer require presidential approval.
    • The communication protocol of Accounts Payable has been modified to alter the tone of emails by changing formatting specifications that can sometimes be misinterpreted as adversarial.

    The task force distributed a survey to all staff and faculty, soliciting input on tasks, processes, or functions they feel should be addressed. The survey received more than 700 submissions. The task force then identified the top six recurring themes in the submissions for a deeper dive: 1) purchasing/account payables; 2) the hiring process; 3) PCRs; 4) the IT contracting/procurement process; 5) travel; and 6) and the key/access card process. The other categories were then sent to the appropriate departments for their responses and input.

President Damphousse at podium

“Reducing the administrative burden on our campuses is one of the top priorities of my presidency. Reducing excessive and unnecessary administrative burden is a critical next step to improving faculty and staff morale, enhancing student success, and becoming a Research 1 (R1) university. Thus, I established the Texas State Administrative Burdens Task Force.”

 

– President Kelly Damphousse