Office of Human Resources                                                           July 2012 



 Your Source for University Human Resources News and Information

New Absence Program Coming Sept. 1  

The new Absence Management Program affects benefits available to Northwestern Staff. Features and highlights of the program include:     


  • A bank of sick days (incidental sick time) that will be immediately available at the start of the fiscal year (Sept.1 of each year). Sick days will no longer accrue on a pay period basis.
  • All incidental sick days may be used for a staff member's personal medical condition, as well as to care for a qualified family member who is sick.
  • Upon approval of Extended Sick Time (EST), staff will have their regular base wages/salary paid at 100 percent during the period of EST. The current Short Term Disability (STD) plan that provides benefits at 60 percent of pay will no longer be necessary, and employee premiums for the current STD plan will cease effective Sept. 1, 2012.
  • Vacation and personal floating holidays will not need to be exhausted before staff are allowed to use sick time.     


Additional information about the Absence Program will be available as Sept. 1 draws near, including many answers to the most frequently asked questions (FAQs), which will be posted and distributed. Information sessions with a Question-and-Answer period will be held during July and August at Northwestern's schools and larger-sized departments on the Evanston and Chicago campuses. Staff and Faculty will receive an email with more information about these sessions from HR Administrators at the schools.


Inclusion in this program by employees represented by a Collective Bargaining Agreement is to be determined.     

Inside This Issue
Employee of the Year 2012 Photos
Upcoming Events
Learning and Organization Development
FASIS Update
Work/Life Resources
Quick Links

Employee of the Year 2012 Photos

Photos from the 35th Annual Staff Service Recognition Luncheon held May 1 are available online. The 2012 Employee of the Year,
Zach McHenry
, here with President Morton Schapiro (left) and Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance Eugene S. Sunshine (right), is with the Faculty and Staff
Classroom and Audiovisual Technical Services Information Systems (FaSTCATS) in the Kellogg School of Management.      


Congratulations to Zach McHenry and to these finalists for Employee of the Year:      

Terri Cramer, School of Education and Social Policy, Master of Science in Learning and Organizational Change Program

Anita Chase, Feinberg School of Medicine, Office of the Dean

Chun Liang Chan, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Linguistics

Kathleen Daniels, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, English

Arlene Johnson, Kellogg School of Management, Executive Education

Daniel Lee, McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, Web Applications

Upcoming Events

Faculty and Staff Blood Drive, sponsored by LifeSource  

9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday July 26, Parkes Hall     

Blood is needed every two seconds for surgeries, procedures, cancer treatments and emergencies. There is a tremendous demand for blood in Chicagoland and Northwestern Faculty and Staff are highly encouraged to donate this month to help meet it. Walk-ins are welcome. If you would like to make an appointment to donate, please contact Phyllis Ellis or call 7-1460.   


The Candidate Interview Guide Develops the Best Questions to Find the Best Hire

Managers know the importance of effective interviews because hiring the best match for the position can yield great results for a unit or department. Yet constructing the interview or the questions to reach that goal can sometimes be elusive. To help achieve those best results, the Office of Human Resources has a Candidate Interview Guide available online (HR > Managers & Administrators > Talent Management).


This Guide enables managers to design a template of interview questions that identify and reach the specific needs of the open position. Its three sections -- general questions, competencies, and job-specific questions -- allow Managers to select from questions specific to the position's competencies and requirements. Once a template of questions is created, it can and should be used to interview every candidate for the role. This ensures a fair and consistent process, and also makes comparing candidates easier at the conclusion of the interviews.


Questions about the Guide? Contact Workplace Learning. For assistance in recruiting for an open position within your area or, to consult regarding interview questions, contact your Staffing Consultant in the Office of Human Resources.


Working Together Collegially in an Open Office Environment

Each Staff and Faculty member must make an effort to promote a productive and comfortable work environment for everyone.  This includes respecting everyone's work space -- whether that space is open or closed. There are several common courtesies each of us can extend to respect those who work in open office space (sometimes called cubicles):

  • Knock before entering someone's open office space or ask whether he or she is busy before starting a conversation. Since there's no closed door to signal that 'quiet work time' is needed, a gentle knock or a question provides the opportunity for an immersed-in-thought-colleague to let the visitor know another time would be better.
  • Keep noise to a minimum. This includes keeping your voice level down or moderate, using the phone's receiver or a hands-free device rather than the speakerphone and putting your cell phone in vibrate mode. Also, try to answer your desk phone after one or two rings and keep the ringer volume on a low setting. Avoid shouting over work space walls, and if an impromptu meeting materializes in an open office area, reconvene it in a conference room or office.
  • Avoid habits that may unintentionally disrupt your colleagues' concentration, such as humming, pen tapping, slurping, and gum smacking.   
  • Always ask before borrowing an item off your colleagues' desks. This courtesy will avoid confusion and misunderstanding.
  • Steer clear of wearing strong perfumes and colognes. Individuals vary in their sensitivity and allergies, so limiting a fragrance helps ensure everyone's comfort and being able to work with undivided attention.

The University's Pre-Tax Transit Program Can Cut the Cost of a Commute  

To help stem the increasing cost of commuting, Northwestern University offers the Pre-Tax Transit Program in which transit expenses and parking fees are deducted from benefits-eligible employees' gross pay before calculating taxes, up to a maximum of $125 per month for public transportation costs and $240 per month for parking costs.


Paying transit fares and parking with pre-tax dollars lowers costs -- depending on your marginal federal income tax rate -- between 25 and 36 percent. If you spend $100 per month on transportation costs, it's possible you could save $300 to $400 annually using this program.


If you choose to drive and park at Northwestern University, enrollment in this program is automatic. If you take public transportation, including the CTA, RTA, or a train station shuttle, you must enroll in this program, using forms found on the Pre-Tax Transit Program page, or emailing the Payroll Office. Questions? Contact the Payroll Office at 847-491-7362 or 312-503-9700.  

Learning & Organization Development

The Northwestern University Learning & Organization Development (L&OD) team collaborates with faculty and staff who want to develop their talent and advance their workplace outcomes, processes and engagement. L&OD provides consulting, coaching, workshops, retreats and tools for individuals, groups and organizations.


Finding Grace Under Pressure 

Have you ever had one of those days where the pressure is mounting so much that you become flustered to the point where you feel that you're not being effective? If so, consider enrolling in the upcoming Grace Under Pressure workshop to learn new techniques for turning a bad situation around.


This memorable, lively and free workshop offers new tools for remaining calm, focused and open-minded during difficult encounters, proven physical techniques that counteract what people's bodies do when encountering stress. You'll have the opportunity to immediately practice what you learn and be better prepared for what may arise the next morning -- or even on the way home that night.


Grace Under Pressure

9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Friday, Aug. 10, Evanston campus 




* The cost of the Grace Under Pressure workshop is funded by the Office of Human Resources' Work/Life Division. Please note that a cancellation or a no-show fee of $225 applies to all registrations.

Questions? Comments? Contact the L&OD team or call 847-467-5081.


L&OD offers a variety of workshops and opportunities to help improve workplace performance. Learn more about these.


The Importance of Job Descriptions 

Job descriptions affect key decisions surrounding a position, from creating it and establishing its pay range, through job posting, hiring, and developing staff. Maintaining accurate and up-to-date job descriptions for all positions enables these decisions to be made efficiently and appropriately.

These descriptions impact:

as they are the basis for creating the postings for job openings. HR Staffing Consultants and hiring managers, using the job description, screen applicants, identify qualified candidates and determine the best possible 'match.' Also, Northwestern requires a job description to create a new staff position or to review the grade or title of an existing position.

The evaluation of a position since they provide essential information for determining job pay grades and titles, and are the basis for comparing jobs to the external market and internal peers, ensuring that grades and salaries are competitive.

Staff Development by providing employees with an understanding and expectation of her or his primary accountabilities, duties and responsibilities; enabling employees and managers to identify workplace learning needs; and providing employees and managers with information to identify that helps develop a career plan and goals to get to the next level.   

Job descriptions are also used to meet Compliance requirements since knowing which job functions are essential helps managers make appropriate decisions relevant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in order to determine exemption status of a job and therefore the employee's eligibility for overtime.

Questions? Visit 

FASIS Updates   

Exempt Staff Time Off Entry Deadlines for Fiscal Year 2012:

Employee Entry by Sept. 6

Manager Approval by Sept. 12

To complete the current fiscal year, exempt staff and librarians must enter all fiscal year 2012 time off into Kronos no later than Thursday, Sept. 6. Exempt staff will report their fiscal year 2012 absences -- this includes any sick, vacation, personal floating holiday(s), and bereavement time taken between Sept. 1, 2011, and Aug. 31, 2012 -- in the normal manner by Sept. 6. Managers of exempt staff must approve the time off for their direct reports by Wednesday, Sept. 12.

For detailed instructions on accessing and using Kronos, see the PDF instruction manual or review the Time Entry webpage.


For further assistance, contact the Kronos Help Desk at extension 7-7606 or Employees may attend a brief demonstration or stop by an Open Lab for one-on-one assistance.

Work/Life Resources 

Striving for a Healthy Balance

The Northwestern University Office of Work/Life Resources provides programs, services and consultation to enable staff and faculty to effectively balance the competing demands of work and home.

School's Out: Tips for Children's Summer Transitions    

It's important to plan how your child will adjust to a new summer routine so it's a smooth and positive one. Whether your child is spending more time outside at day care or most of the day with a nanny or family member, the summertime 'break' from their typical routine can offer exciting new experiences. A few helpful tips to ease into this season:

  • Establish a predictable routine or schedule so children will know what will happen next. Start each day with an overview of the sequence of upcoming events and activities. Remember, children are not motivated by the clock, so evaluate each situation and try to allow for extra time in an activity where their interest is high.  
  • Make daily transitions meaningful and fun. Perhaps introduce a game that involves getting into the car, or pose questions that prompt children to think about new experiences coming up.
  • Address the strengths, interests and needs of each child. Some children may need advance notice and a 'minute count down' to offer fair warning of the end of an activity, while others find it easier to switch gears. Make note of this and inform your caregivers of the most effective communication techniques for your child.
  • Set expectations for the behavior of children and acknowledge any changes from their typical routine to help make the transition go as smoothly as possible.    


New Participants Are Welcome to Join On-Going Programs   

Elder Caregiving Support Group
If you are a caregiver for a relative or close friend, you may want to consider joining this group. These monthly brown bag sessions provide an opportunity to exchange information about care-related issues, such as legal, financial and medical questions. For additional information, contact Phyllis Ellis or call 7-1460.  

Work/Life Balance Discussion Group    

For those who are looking for more balance in their work and personal lives, this group meets monthly during the lunch hour. For additional information, contact Phyllis Ellis or call 7-1460.


Dependent Portable Tuition Benefit: Annual Proof of Financial Dependency Required

At the beginning of each academic year, the Office of Human Resources requests Staff and Faculty to provide proof of financial dependency when submitting Dependent Portable Tuition Applications.  If you have not submitted this document in the last nine months, please include it with your Fall 2012 application. Proof of financial dependency is a redacted copy of your 2011 1040 tax form listing your student as a financial dependent. Questions? Contact the Benefits Division at 847-491-7513.