Retirement? Dental? UM System asks employees to weigh in

Monday, February 15, 2010 | 6:14 p.m. CST; updated 6:47 p.m. CST, Monday, February 15, 2010

COLUMBIA — A survey assessing pay and benefits is now at the fingertips of almost 25,150 staff and faculty members in the University of Missouri System.

The survey asks employees to state their preferences among 14 areas of pay and benefits, including medical payments and premiums, dental coverage, retirement plans and life insurance. Right now, about $300 million is spent annually on employee benefits.

A survey in four parts

Here is a breakdown of the survey:

  • Stage one of the survey asks participants to rank specific aspects of the 14 pay and benefit areas from most preferred to least preferred. For example, a section about wellness participation incentives asks survey-takers to rank three possible incentives: no incentives, $100 and $100 plus fitness discounts.
  • Stage two of the survey asks participants to rank all 14 areas of pay and benefits by importance.
  • Stage three presents two benefit package options and participants are able to choose the option they prefer and rate the strength of the choice.
  • The final section of the survey, titled "Perspective," asks participants to rank their more general questions about benefits such as "Compared with other places I might work, I feel I am competitively paid."

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The 35-page survey was expected to be available online late last month or early this month, but system leaders decided to add an explanatory video, said Betsy Rodriguez, system vice president for human resources. The minute-long video was created to explain the purpose of the survey to employees and staff members.

"It was worth the extra time to make sure the survey technology works and to make sure the employees knew exactly why we were the conducting the survey," Rodriguez said.

The survey is not about making cuts, she said. "We strongly encourage the employees to give us feedback, and this survey is intended to provide as much value as possible to the employees and their families."

It has been at least 10 years since a survey of this kind has been conducted by the UM System, Rodriquez said previously.

One question in the survey's final "Perspectives" sections asks employees to rank how much they "strongly disagree" or "strongly agree" that domestic partner benefits should receive a high priority if UM resources became available to improve benefits.

MU Equity Director Noel English, who had not yet looked at the survey, was not surprised to be told the question was being asked. It indicates the system has heard this issue is important and is responding, she said.

"Hopefully people will fill out the survey and continue to tell the system that the partner benefits issue is something they support," English said. Her office has been seeking anecdotal accounts of whether the system's lack of domestic partnership benefits affects hiring and retention.

The survey was distributed via e-mail and is available through Feb. 28. It is being conducted by the human resources consulting firm Hewitt Associates, which is being paid $100,000 for the job. The expected response rate is 45 percent, Rodriguez said.

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