Staff Life Cycle


The purpose of the Staff Life Cycle Project is to identify ideas which could lead to action related to the renewed Strategic Plan for the University of Waterloo. Once the Strategic Plan is approved, overall directions will have been set for the university. One of these directions is for the University of Waterloo to be an ‘employer of choice’, and for staff to have opportunity to continue to grow and develop their competencies.

The request for suggestions for actionable recommendations from staff is intended to provide the University of Waterloo with ideas for practical actions as implementation related to the Strategic Plan is started in the fall term 2013.


In the first phase, staff in 20 units (academic and academic support) were invited to provide suggestions related to four matters identified during consultations with staff during the fall term 2012: recruitment, staff development, USG system, and compensation. Between late February and mid-April, responses were received from all 20 units.                                                                                                                              The responses from phase one were collated by a team of 5 people from both the administration and Staff Association, and then posted on the Staff Association home page. Hard copies of the results also were available. Staff in all academic and academic support units were invited to provide comments over a three week period between mid-May and the first week of June 2013. Comments were provided by 106 individuals.

The findings reported below reflect the comments received during both the first and second stages of this process. Points in bold are viewed as the most important by respondents, based on frequency of mention and/or nature of the comments provided. Comments relevant only to one or a few units have not been included below.

Next steps:

This report will be submitted to Geoff McBoyle, Vice-President, Academic and Provost, who will be chairing an implementation committee related to the University’s Strategic Plan during the fall term 2013. We will recommend to him that the information gathered during the Staff Life Cycle Project be used to assist the committee in identifying (short-, medium-, and long-term) and prioritizing the initiatives that will help UWaterloo reach the goals of becoming an exemplary employer. 


1.  Recruitment

How, most appropriately, to attract the best candidates to careers at UWaterloo.

What works well

  • Staff get satisfaction in contributing to the education of students
  • UWaterloo is recognized as a good place to work and a respected employer
  • Pension plan
  • Flex time and the opportunity to work from home (when feasible)
  • Leaves from work (e.g., study leave, compassion leave or emergency leave)
  • Coordination of benefits

Enhance brand– make UWaterloo identity more visible by increased promotion

  • Promote positive features of working at UWaterloo
  • Respect staff the same way as faculty and students are respected
  • Seek recognition through an employer recognition award
  • Market UWaterloo as an employer to students (regular and coop)

Attract candidates

  • Provide competitive salary and benefits
  • Work/life balance should be part of our culture
  • Offer management compensation and allowances to find better ways to reward good performance
  • Encourage health, fitness and nutrition as a priority for staff
  • Improve parking locations and reduce the cost
  • Highlight job and organizational stability
  • Create a position to assist new staff with relocation, housing and/or childcare (like WatPort)

Hiring and recruitment process

  • Develop clear and simplified hiring practices
  • Create more career path positions and provide guidance to departments  wanting to implement them
  • Improve on-boarding and staff orientation - make sessions mandatory
  • Use clear and consistent job descriptions
  • Provide a professional sign-on or “total compensation” package for new employees
  • Give interview and feedback training to hiring managers
  • Promote UWaterloo with a “potential employer” webpage and advertise on its LinkedIn page

Applying for a job (myHRInfo)

  • Modify the myHRInfo system to be intuitive and easier to navigate
  • Improve job search function so finding job postings is not so difficult
  • Make the application process shorter, straightforward and clear
  • When appropriate, use “degree preferred or equivalent work experience”
  • Use generic job descriptions which are linked with career progression
  • Set realistic timelines and expectations with job postings and provide better communication to applicants - extended job postings leave everyone wondering what the status of the position is
  • Improve the myHRInfo systems reliability when uploading a resume or CV
  • Postings should include: Department/unit name , job range, a link to the USG scales and the full compensation package

HR needs to take a customer service approach

  • Provide timely service to avoid losing good candidates
  • Ensure HR procedures and guidelines are understood across campus and applied consistently
  • Use professional external recruiting services, when appropriate
  • HR representative should spend some time in each unit

Contract, Contingent Upon Funding & Temporary Authorization

  • Create guidelines and policies for contract and contingent upon funding staff
  • Contract time should count as UWaterloo employee if hired as USG staff, including “buy-back” into pension if feasible
  • Provide opportunity to participate in training and development opportunities
  • Contract staff should meet with HR when hired and attend the orientation for new employees
  • Develop a better welcoming process for people on contract
  • HR should review the position with new staff to determine if further training is needed to do the job (e.g., FORE, PCard)
  • Contingent on Funding Staff should have internal status after the project funding expires
  • Provide information about the future of a position and the potential for it to become permanent

Better benefits

  • Cover 100% tuition for dependents and spouses
  • Allow holidays to be taken before working for one year
  • Make payroll deposits bi-weekly and be able to be split between accounts, if needed
  • Add vision care and flexible benefits, (with vision being the overwhelmingly most desired benefit to be added)
  • Provide continuing education courses for no or minimum cost to staff
  • Increase the scope of negotiation for the starting salary and amount of vacation


“The supported culture that faculty are more important than staff needs to be investigated. All UW members participate toward UW’s success.”

“UW is home to the ONLY English School of Optometry in the country. The fact that we don't have vision care benefits is beyond comprehension.”

“As a new UWaterloo employee, I cannot comment on much as I have not much experience. I can identify issues important to me as someone with experience in both corporate and government environments who has enjoyed certain benefits with other employers. Work/life balance should be part of our culture, Improve parking locations and reduce cost (costs here are unreasonable!)…”

“In addition to attracting the "best" candidates, why does UW not concentrate on the current employees? Seems to me that promising a most wonderful UW workplace to the "best" incumbents (sic) proves false when they actually arrive. Perhaps we (UW) need to walk the talk.”

 2. Career Development

How to enhance arrangements for staff to develop a career path, with particular attention to helping staff develop new skills for new times, and to support managers as coaches and mentors.

What works well

  • Staff appreciate the Skills for the Electronic Workplace sessions, OHD courses, lunch & learns and the Staff Conference

Exposure to opportunities for career growth

  • Empower staff to seek out new opportunities
  • Improve management of succession planning, utilizing UWaterloo’s talent pool
  • Offer networking opportunities for all staff such as meetings with others in “like” roles across campus to share experiences and insights
  • Encourage staff and managers to openly dialogue outside of respective areas to suggest suitable incumbents for open positions
  • Pursue inter-institutional secondments to provide enrichment opportunities
  • Encourage all departments to support employee growth through secondments

Create opportunities for staff development

  • Implement mentoring opportunities for all levels of staff
  • Promote career path planning with clear expectations of the training, development and skills required
  • Include all UWaterloo courses and workshops as part of the tuition benefit
  • Standardize financial support and release time for training (internal and external)
  • Provide better support for staff facing managerial issues
  • Create “training roles” for staff to rotate through various departments to help breakdown silos
  • Create more opportunities for staff who work virtually (i.e., live streaming lunch and learns, webinars, etc.). For someone not located on main campus, options are limited for development
  • Given many jobs don't have a career path, recognize that If you want to move up, you may have to move out
  • All job descriptions should be periodically reviewed and flagged for update
  • A serious area of inequality on campus related to staff development and training exists because some departments on campus seem to have the budget to support staff to attend courses/conferences where others have only a modest amount of funds for this purpose. Create a central fund available to all staff
  • Provide specialized training on campus for “like” positions across the University
  • Encourage self-directed work time focusing on things that advance UWaterloo and its strategic priorities
  • Encourage an attitude by managers that all education is good rather than just that related to a current job

Create opportunities for managers to develop

  • Develop a system for training managers
  • Encourage more mentoring and coaching for and from managers
  • Managers need the opportunity to interact with each other to share knowledge and experiences
  • A formal system of cross training for managers, across various departments, would contribute to  employee satisfaction, efficiencies between departments and would allow the organization to discover the best of the best early on
  • Consider the 70/20/10 option for learning and improvement- 70% doing your job, 20% supervisor interaction, 10% development
  • Allow more than 35 hours a year for training and development
  • Position descriptions for managers should include time and attention for mentoring/coaching


“Word of mouth is important. If UWaterloo employees are happy, then the best candidates will come. Many of the successes seen on the Daily Bulletin or local news sources highlight students and faculty. There is a need to highlight the successes of our staff both on and off campus.”

“Manager training and acumen is the #1 issue impacting most staff-related issues on campus. With appropriate basic and developmental management training, most of these would be resolved, staff would be less stressed and able to perform their work effectively.”

“There is another serious area of inequality on campus and that is staff development and training. Some departments on campus seem to have the budget to attend courses/conferences where others (like mine) have a modest amount of funds to go towards this area. Can there not be a central pot which this could be tied to so that it becomes available to all staff and not just those who happen to be in the "rich" departments?”

“Many people feel we [CUPE] are part of a service group that gets no respect from the rest of campus until the toilets overflow or the power is off. I think that this is why there is a great sense of disengagement with the rest of campus and lack of participation on campus from CUPE members”

3.  USG Classification System

How to improve the USG classification system.       

HAY system limitations

  • Ensure USG levels are consistent and transparent across campus to achieve equity
  • Provide incentives for long-term employees who are at or above the job valuation level
  • Create titles that correspond to USG grades (e.g., USG 9-11 Managers, USG 12-14 Directors, USG 15-17 Senior Directors, etc.)
  • Explore options other than the HAY system
  • Managing coop students should have value when applying for management positions
  • Too many USG scales and overlap, and the job min., job val. and job max. ratings are confusing
  • Ensure current system keeps up with industry scales

Job evaluation limitations

  • Inconsistent reviews of job value across campus
  • USG reclassifications take too long
  • Managers are pressured to reduce performance grades, causing inconsistencies across campus
  • Clarify the link between USG level and compensation - the current formula is unclear
  • Review of job descriptions and USG levels should be more frequent - perhaps every 3 years

Performance evaluations

  • Performance evaluations should be consistent across campus
  • Performance evaluations should be based on goals and objectives when possible
  • Recommend 360 degree performance reviews
  • Managers should encourage professional development
  • Coaching and mentoring should be on-going and not a once a year event
  • Managing coop  or regular students should have value during performance evaluation and these sense is that such supervision is not valued sufficiently
  • Evaluations should happen every other year if there has not been any change to the job description or any observed performance issue (with others suggesting there is value in annual reviews of performance)
  • Recommend removing the link between performance evaluation and pay (with others disagreeing, arguing that compensation should reflect performance)
  • Propose that career planning discussions be separate from the performance appraisal


“There is the fear of losing a good employee … which overrides the desire to help strong employees use their skills and abilities to the greater benefit of the institution.”

Exploring options other than the Hay system is unnecessary.  Any classification system will have similar problems.  There are much bigger problems to address, including helping staff understand that it's the job that's graded, not the individual, and that progressing in your career often requires moving to a new role.”

“The inconsistency in the performance evaluation grading across campus is appalling and unfair. Very poor performers seem to get the same "average" rating as very good performers, because of the coaching to score in the mid-range. It almost seems like managers are intimidated by having to fiercely justify high or low ratings, so they just take the path of least resistance and give a mid-range score.”

4.  Compensation

How to improve the overall compensation system.

  • Reward outstanding performance of staff
  • Improve capacity to address under performers
  • Allow internal staff to negotiate salary just like external candidates
  • Give employees options to choose, within limits, what benefits fit their lifestyle
  • Examine ways to improve compensation not directly tied to salary (e.g., more vacation, more training – it’s not just about pay, staff realize budget constraints)
  • Replace merit with Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA), plus incentives. (Some others stated that, in contrast, merit is performance related and COLA has nothing to do with performance. They argued that to replace merit with COLA is basically sending out a signal that no matter how you performed you would benefit at a same level, which  discourages good performers)
  • Reward risk taking and attempts to make things better. Complacency should not be rewarded and should be viewed as under performance
  • Provide incentives for staff who have ideas that save money or improve efficiencies
  • A  little more latitude for managers in terms of offering some minor benefits (day off, free lunch) would go a long way to increasing employee engagement and increasing efficiencies
  • Address unpaid overtime – why is unpaid overtime allowed/condoned?
  • Introduce a centrally maintained system for tracking overtime, training and absences
  • Permit a compressed work week for individuals working additional hours
  • Provide a development allowance (for courses, books, equipment or training)
  • Retain the early pension option
  • Increase the amount of counseling services for staff


“…some of the simple and fun events that managers were able to squeeze into a budget in the past have gone to the wayside in these times of restraint.  These events brought people together as a team, helped build relationships, gave opportunities for awareness of what someone else’s role in the department involves, and felt like a modest reward or recognition for hard work.”

 “We should also offer flexible benefits to fit our lifestyle, since some of us don't use prescribed drugs and the traditional health care system…”

“There needs to be a clearly defined performance management system that is applied consistently across the institution so that those that use 3 as a fully satisfactory rating and give it, can do so with confidence and not limit their staff’s ability to progress”

Prepared on 20 June 2013

Join us...

Keep up to date with UWSA activities and connect with other members.

@UWStaffAssoc on Twitter facebookUWSA Linkedin Group