Compensation and Total Rewards

Higher education institutions are faced with intense competition for faculty, administrative and staff talent, from within as well as from outside academia. 


Well-designed compensation programs enable colleges and universities to attract the talent they need, while being administratively simple and easy to communicate and understand.

Sibson consultants have broad and deep expertise in helping higher education institutions with:

  • Program and Policy Design and Development: Components may include market pricing, competitive assessment, job evaluation/classification, salary structure and broadband design, pay guidelines, job description formats, reward and recognition programs, and incentives.
  • Implementation, Training and Ongoing Assistance: Sibson can conduct equity studies, develop communications to ensure employee understanding of compensation, plan and deliver training and orientation programs, make updates to salary structure and create reference materials to support ongoing administration.
  • Executive Compensation: Sibson can clarify board and presidential fiduciary responsibilities for setting executive compensation, develop metrics that determine outcomes, evaluate performance, examine success against external comparators, set base and merit compensation, assist with meeting "Intermediate Sanctions," and develop board action plans for managing executive compensation.
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Consulting: Sibson can help assess your institution's risks and assist in preparing you for the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division's proposed final rule to expand overtime pay eligibilty.

Total Rewards

Colleges and universities offer faculty, administration and staff a wide variety of rewards for working at the institution, many of which may not be well understood or appreciated. Since these rewards are rarely articulated as part of a comprehensive package of rewards, institutions may not be maximizing the value of their investments.

Sibson consultants help clients develop a strategic, comprehensive and integrated approach to rewards — one that includes both financial and non-financial rewards. Our process engages leadership in an examination of all rewards so they can make decisions about priorities and levels of investments in each reward within the context of their talent needs.

Reward investments can be prioritized for the institution as a whole and, if appropriate, by segments within the institution. (For example, an institution may decide to develop unique strategies that vary by school to address differences in markets for talent or differences in objectives.)

The Total Rewards Strategy becomes the roadmap for planning and implementing future interventions, as well as a clear means for communicating the institution's intentions. It can be used as an important component in the institution's employment branding. We help our clients develop the overall strategy and the programs that will support each of the segments of the strategy.

Rewards of Work

The cornerstone of a total rewards strategy is the Employee Value Exchange, which examines the balance between the rewards that employers offer and the expectations they set in exchange for those rewards. This is done using the Rewards of Work Model, which examines the proposed suite of rewards an employer offers to its employees. We identify five types of rewards:


  • Compensation: The money employees receive for their work and performance
  • Benefits: Indirect compensation including health, retirement and time off
  • Work content: The satisfaction employees receive from their work
  • Career: The long-term opportunities employees have for development and advancement
  • Affiliation: The feeling of belonging employees have to the organization

Collective Bargaining

Because Sibson is the only national human resources consulting firm that maintains a practice devoted to collective bargaining, our consultants understand the pressures that our clients face at the bargaining table. College and university leaders must often negotiate with multiple unions who represent employees with vastly different interests. When considering the difficult fiscal pressures, it is not surprising that higher education negotiations are complex and sometimes unduly adversarial.

We provide assistance in a host of total compensation issues to support the collective bargaining process. More importantly, our collective bargaining consultants have particular expertise in facilitating change in collaborative labor-management environments at both public-sector and private educational institutions.

In short, we help colleges and universities solve complicated problems in a constructive, outcome-oriented way.