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Reviewing Annual Review Procedures

June 14, 2011

Michael Bugeja, director,
Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication,
Iowa State University of Science and Technology

Anything can prompt a review of annual review procedures, from grievance to institutional policy. Today I was prompted to review our procedures after reading in a student newspaper an ongoing controversy elsewhere concerning merit raises.

One of the snafus there has to do with salary increases based on “the highest possible rating.”

I know about procedures at this unit. There are three categories: "below expectations," "meets expectations" and "exceeds expectations."

Use of the term “highest possible rating” somehow conveys an empirical method.

I suspect, however, that “highest possible rating” really means a professor received three “exceed expectations” for research, teaching and service (the three pillars).

So at any given time, several if not a third of the faculty might receive “the highest possible rating.”

This is unfair from a variety of perspectives, including the fact that a person can score a theoretical perfect mark in research and service and an acceptable one in teaching, for instance. At our School, the person may be in the pool for merit because she or he has one of the highest possible overall ratings.

Here’s how a professor at the Greenlee School earns that distinction:

1. Each professor has a position responsibility statement outlining what her or his duties and obligations actually are.

2. Each professor is expected to document "research/scholarship"; "teaching/advising"; "professional/community service." By document, I mean detailing specifics about each contribution and its relationship to both the PRS and/or the College's and University's strategic plans.

3. The professor receives a rating between 0-5, with 5 being the top score, in decimal increments: 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, etc.

4. The professor then receives an overall score based on the average of the three categories in No. 2 above.

5. If the raise pool is 3%, then we use a cross multiplication formula. In other words, you have to score 5.0 in all three categories (ergo, a "real" highest possible rating). More than likely, cross multiplication for a faculty member might result in a raise of 2.1% or 2.8%, for example, out of a possible 3%.

6. That's the percentage raise the person gets in a year of a maximum 3% raise.

7. The remainder goes to merit. In our case, we use another mathematical formula to determine the upper 5% of the highest ratings, and what’s leftover from the unit's 3% is divvied up in a fair manner.

Is it time to review your annual review procedures?

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