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Our Workforce Planning Initiative

December 1, 2016

Dear Colleagues,
UC Merced is an incredible campus for a myriad of reasons. Our students reflect the best of California, and the dedication represented by our faculty and staff is unmatched.  I also recognize that our people and their pioneering spirit make UC Merced unique and, as such, they must be nurtured and supported.
As we enter the final month of the semester, I want to provide an update on the emerging outcomes of our workforce planning initiative. Taking the time to develop an intentional approach to budgeting, hiring, and the work we do, is the best way to capture valuable opportunities to advance our teaching, research and public service mission.
A multi-year staff-hiring plan
It is important to note that the workforce planning exercise is separate and distinct from other efforts taking place in the ordinary course of work-related activities that help make our institution perform at a very high level.  Often, as you know, managers need to organize – and sometimes reorganize - workloads, processes and the assignment of staff so that operational efficiencies are realized.
But the workforce planning we have been undertaking is different.  It is an effort to create a multi-year staff-hiring plan consistent with the resources we estimate will be available for new hires.  Because those resources are extremely limited, it is important to ensure that we will use those resources to respond to our most critical needs and advance our campus vision and goals.
Multiple complementary processes are nearing conclusion
In Fall 2014, I asked my leadership team to take a longer point of view and assess the extent of UC Merced’s staffing needs over the next five years.   
In Fall 2015, the team also developed a long-range financial planning tool to help us determine what we could afford going forward. As it is updated over time, it will enable strategic, rather than reactive, decision-making regarding academic planning and staff investments.  In January, I will be holding briefings with faculty and staff to explain the financial planning tool in more detail — among other topics.
And in Spring 2016, the campus community engaged in a visioning summit that resulted in a visual depiction of UC Merced’s strategic priorities and a broad set of guidelines for aligning our work with that vision. During this same timeframe, divisions and schools were also asked to first identify their critical staff needs through the year 2020. Using long-range financial planning tool, they were asked to prioritize these new staffing needs and bring them in line with fiscal reality.
Each of these steps has brought us closer to a multi-year staff-hiring plan. But the final step, which will be completed by July 2017, requires a process for ensuring that our plan aligns with the campus vision.  It also requires a process for getting broad campus feedback and making changes based on this feedback.
Next Step: Aligning the staff hiring plan with the campus vision
The Vision and Change Alignment exercise conducted last spring developed key considerations (“guidelines”) to be used when determining if initiatives advance the campus vision:

  • Does the initiative enhance research excellence and academic distinction?
  • Does it promote student success?
  • Does it provide services and support that is critical for student success, research excellence, academic distinction, or other institutional goals and priorities?
  • Does the initiative provide for critical staff and faculty professional development needs?
  • Does it enhance organizational sustainability?
  • Does it promote values of inclusion and diversity?

Our staff-hiring plan must also be cognizant of these guidelines and align to the campus vision.  The final phase of the workforce planning process involves producing that alignment.
Three cross-divisional working groups will develop recommendations
To accomplish this, I will appoint three cross-divisional working groups this month, each to focus on creating a staff-hiring plan in one of the following three areas:
A. “Research Excellence and Academic Distinction” (which includes services and support, professional development, as well as diversity and inclusion as related to research excellence and academic distinction)
B. “Student Success” (which includes services and support, professional development, as well as diversity and inclusion as related to student success)
C. “Organizational Efficiencies and Sustainability” (which includes services and support, professional development, as well as diversity and inclusion as related to organizational efficiencies and sustainability)
The working groups will consist of members of my extended cabinet as well as additional appointments through the Staff Assembly and the Academic Senate.  Each priority area will be provided with an estimated allocation for staff hires in the area over a multi-year period, and will be tasked with creating a staff hiring plan — within the limitations of those resources — that best responds to the critical priorities, needs, and goals of the priority area.
By focusing resources on these three areas, UC Merced’s staff hiring plan will reflect the importance of our academic mission, the academic success of our students, and support initiatives related to working more efficiently and generating additional revenue. Because the working groups will cross-divisional boundaries, the plan will represent a collaborative effort to determine hiring priorities most needed to advance the campus vision and goals.
Campus feedback will be solicited in the Spring to inform the 2017-18 budget
Beginning in January 2017, the three teams will be charged with making recommendations and on how to assign new staff resources within the priority areas.  In April, the results of their work will be shared with faculty and staff for feedback and fresh ideas.  Revised plans will be submitted to me in June for my final review an approval.
By July 2017, I should be able to issue a “5-Year Staff Hiring Allocation Plan” that would be operationalized through a 2-year budget appropriation beginning with the 2017-18 budget.
I want to thank those of you who have already contributed to the workforce planning initiative through the many processes I outlined above.  There is still important work to be done and if you would like to share an idea or comment please feel free to email me at
Dorothy Leland

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