Recognizing and supporting those who make IU 'the people's university'

Dear Friend of IU:

Over the past four months we have been enthusiastically celebrating and reflecting upon a truly unique milestone in Indiana University's history: the 200th anniversary of IU's founding on Jan. 20, 1820. IU's Bicentennial Year celebration, which continues until June 2020, includes an impressive series of more than 400 events, activities and programs. This programming strongly highlights how far we have come as an institution, now known as one of the world's leading research universities, and how we are preparing for a third century of service to our state, nation and world.

As we continue to reflect on and celebrate our enormous successes as well as envision and prepare for our next 100 years, a dominant theme has emerged. Within our great state — and as we survey the landscape of the very best public colleges and universities — IU truly stands tall as "the people's university."

Employees at IUPUI maintaining the campus facilities and grounds. Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University

In recent years, IU has seen extraordinary accomplishments, including major academic achievements by our talented students and world-class faculty; record numbers of graduates, including more Hoosier graduates than any other university in the world; record student quality; record diversity; continuing low cost of attendance and innovative financial literacy initiatives that are dramatically reducing student loan debt; new academic programs that are meeting the evolving needs of our students and our state's leading employers; a pioneering IU Online program that delivers an authentically IU education where students need it; continuing infrastructural expansion and renewal; major research breakthroughs that are resulting in new jobs and better quality of life; record-setting philanthropic giving; and further growth in international engagement. And the list goes on.

The common denominator driving all of these exciting developments? IU's people.

Indeed, topping the list of IU's most vital resources are its human resources, which include the university's over 40,000 employees, over 20,000 of whom are full time. They constitute one of the largest bodies of employees at any institutions in the state, and they are all vital to our core missions. Their energy, expertise and passion for what they do translate directly into an excellent education for our more than 111,000 students, research that addresses the biggest challenges facing our society, campus environments that inspire forward-thinking learning and innovation, and powerful engagement in the communities we serve.

IU has always taken great pride in its people and providing them with the resources and support they need to succeed in their jobs, while also creating campus environments where they feel engaged in their work and valued by the university. This has meant ensuring all of our faculty and staff are compensated fairly and adequately, and that they have decent and competitive benefits.  

In recent years leading up to the IU Bicentennial — and with the strong and unwavering support of IU trustees — we have also sought to make sure we look beyond just matters of compensation to broad issues concerning workplace satisfaction, personal and professional development, and employee health, safety and wellness. These issues form the guiding principles of our HR2020 plan, IU's first human resources strategic plan, which we initiated in 2015. Through HR2020, we are building an HR community across the university that fosters a strong culture, nurtures growth, promotes collaboration and teamwork, retains top talent, and responds to the evolving needs of our employees and their families with customer service that is transparent, efficient and easy to access.

IU researcher Pu Ni at work in the White Laboratory in the Center for Musculoskeletal Health.   Photo courtesy of the IU School of Medicine

Our work in these areas has repeatedly underscored the fact that IU's human resources have a major impact on every aspect of university operations and every area critical to helping our students reach their fullest potential. It has also demonstrated that we must continue to augment and adjust the mix of services we deliver to IU's employees to meet their expectations.

To this end, recent years have seen a number of major initiatives that signal IU's continuing strong commitment to doing all it can to improve the conditions and workplace environment of all IU employees. These include, among others, appointing John Whelan, who has guided HR2020, as IU's first vice president for human resources to ensure HR issues are always considered in the creation of new IU policies and institutional strategy; reducing unnecessary administrative burdens that impede academic excellence and innovation; and setting a goal that all employees across the entire university earn at least $15 an hour soon after the Bicentennial.

These also include establishing a new policy under which IU offers fully paid parental leave to staff employees in recognition of the importance of work/life balance and to further solidify IU's position as an employer of choice.

And we have been delighted over the past several months to announce a number of new programs and initiatives that further support our faculty and staff and reward them for their dedicated and outstanding efforts. I am very pleased to share just a few of those with you in this update. Each of these new initiatives came out of continued work on the HR2020 strategic plan, and many of them arose from ongoing conversations with faculty and staff across our campuses to better understand their needs and hear their thoughts on how we could improve our HR programs and services.

They include:

  • Increasing the retirement contribution for IU's support and service staff. Beginning Jan. 1, the university's contribution to the IU Retirement and Savings Plan, the base retirement plan for these key members of our campuses, will increase from 4 percent with an additional 4 percent employee match to a flat 10 percent of base wages each pay period. An employee match will no longer be required. This increase in the university's contribution means that our more than 2,700 support and service staff employees will now receive the same level of contribution to their IU-sponsored base retirement plan as faculty and professional staff.
  • Choosing Fidelity as IU's new retirement recordkeeper and unveiling a new, simplified investment menu to encourage easier decision-making and eliminate redundancies in fund offerings that were often confusing for employees. This decision was made after a yearlong review and selection process that included administrative staff and faculty representatives from across the university.
Campus Bus Service mechanics keep the IU Bloomington bus fleet running.  Photo by Eric Rudd, Indiana University
  • Transitioning to a tiered rate structure for parking permits that is helping relieve the financial burden for employees at the lower end of the university's pay scale. Starting last summer, all IU campuses are using the same structure to determine individual campus parking permit prices.
  • Launching a new financial wellness challenge for staff and their families seeking to improve their money management skills, discover and reflect upon their personal financial values, and set new financial goals. The challenge, sponsored by Healthy IU and IU MoneySmarts in recognition that finances consistently top the most common causes of stress, builds off IU's pioneering financial literacy initiatives for students, which are serving as a model for other colleges and universities across the country.
  • Expanding the Anchor Housing program that provides financial assistance to IUPUI employees looking to purchase a new home or repair the exterior of a home in select neighborhoods around the campus.
  • Launching a second staff employee engagement survey to better understand the experiences and needs of IU employees, whether they are feeling valued and engaged in their work, what the university is doing well and where there are opportunities for it to improve. The survey will also assess the impact of plans developed following a 2017 survey. Staff used results from the 2017 survey to create 365 action plans for positive change across more than 200 units at IU.
  • Introducing the first phase of the IU Staff Competencies, a set of core skills and behaviors that help describe how staff employees at IU work and how they support IU's mission, vision, values and principles of ethical conduct. These competencies will help us better recognize how to help our employees be successful, feel valued and find new opportunities for personal and professional development.
  • Establishing a new program to help IU staff and faculty develop new businesses, identify potential funding sources and recruit executive talent. Launched earlier this year, The Quarry will provide relevant expertise, resources and services to IU entrepreneurs looking to launch a successful startup. This includes leveraging major IU assets, including the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund and the Innovate Indiana Fund, and facilitating connections with mentors, commercialization partners and customers at partner sites like Dimension Mill in Bloomington, the IoT Lab in Fishers, Union 525 in Indianapolis and WestGate@Crane Technology Park in Odon.
  • Conducting a new universitywide Workplace Health and Wellness Survey — the third of its kind since 2013 — to understand how well IU is supporting the health of its employees; establish baseline measures of workplace health and gauge the impact of its health and wellness-related programs; and identify health challenges and opportunities within the university community. More than a quarter of IU employees completed the survey, and a new report from the Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI indicates the university continues to make substantial progress in reducing employee stress at work and at home, establishing a culture of healthy living, improving employee awareness and access of health-supporting programs and resources, and encouraging physical activity throughout the workday.
  • Partnering with Weight Watchers to offer employees in-person and online weight management tools at no cost.
  • Adding several new health-care coverage options for 2020, including hearing aid coverage for adults 18 or older and a new diabetes management program through CVS Caremark.
  • Offering a new paid leave day for staff employees who want to participate in an IU-sponsored volunteer event and give back to their community.

I simply cannot say enough about the time and energy that IU employees dedicate to our students, to furthering IU's missions of excellence in education, research and service, and to maintaining the physical facilities and infrastructure essential to those missions. They are, in so many ways, the caretakers of our great traditions and our nearly 200-year-old commitment to a well-educated citizenry that is essential to our state's development and prosperity.

I also cannot say enough kind words about IU's extremely competent and experienced HR professionals, led by Vice President Whelan, who are working tirelessly to deliver a caring and consistent HR experience for all IU employees.

As we prepare to meet the challenges of IU's third century, ours must remain a positive, supportive, inspiring and fulfilling place to work.

Ours must be a culture that promotes change, adaptation and growth.

And ours must continue to be a place where everyone feels excited and proud to go to work.

As I have said on countless occasions to all who will listen, IU is a world-class institution, but what makes it truly extraordinary is its world-class people.

With thanks to each of you for all you do on behalf of IU,

Michael A. McRobbie