Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Context on when we need a nudge

I thought there was a lack of context for today's discussion on when we need a nudge. Nobody brought up the employer-employee relationship. Nobody considered as an example where we are breaking the law---- out of ignorance rather than as an act of commission. Nobody considered organizational membership or religious groups. Some of this may be lack of experience on your part while some of it may be that you felt that some of these experiences are out of bounds for class discussion. But I'm afraid it is neither of those but rather because you weren't nudged to think that way. So below I'm going to list with annotation a variety of items that either I've directly experienced while working at the U of I or am aware of because of my prior work here. Perhaps some items on the list will ring a bell with you. Do note on some of these they are there just by the U of I being an employer but other items are there because the U of I is a high regulated public institution and I've got a few items that are simply determined at the employee level, meaning from lower down in the food chain.

Payroll related items
  • There is a benefits choice period. Benefits include opting from a variety of health plans but if you don't make a choice the default is last year's choice. There is some life insurance that comes bundled with employment. There is optional supplemental coverage. There are options for a 403B plan, which is like a 401K but for educational providers. There are two possible places to choose, Fidelity or TIAA-CREF, and each of them offer a variety of funds.
  • The is a charitable deductions period where you can choose to allocated some of your paycheck for the next year to charities of your choice. This is voluntary. However, the University has a "campaign" and announces a targeted amount they'd like to raise in aggregate.
  • There is a parking selection period. Parking spaces are allocated primarily by seniority. (If you are a muckety muck you can bump the queue and get into a lot you want quicker then the rest of us.) Most spaces are in first come first serve lots. Which usually are in force during business hours only. Other spaces are 24 hour rental - available to muckety mucks, units that need to control some spots, and staff with disabilities.
  • Typically at the start of employment the employee completes a W-4 form. Indeed there is an entire process of form completion (much of which is to show that you are who you say you are) at the start of employment that typically doesn't have to be redone unless the employee was severed and then rehired.
Reporting Requirement items
  • There is now time reporting where each employee must on a weekly basis fill out a time report sheet. This is done electronically and the supervisor typically does not see the report but the business manager in the unit does. It is the business manager who sends "naglets" when after the university message that you are delinquent in reporting you still don't fill out the electronic form.
  • During the furlough days of a year ago there was a paper reporting requirement for when employees took their furlough days. This did go through the supervisor who passed it along to the business manager.
  • Employees must verbally communicate with their supervisor when they take vacation or sick leave time, and in some instances when there is high workload the supervisor may request the employee adjust vacation time. But in addition to this each unit has an electronic reporting of vacation and sick leave. The supervisor typically doesn't see that, but the business manager does.
  • Each employee must take annual ethics training.
  • Each employee must fill out a form on whether there is conflict of interest or conflict of commitment regarding the individuals other outside obligations.
  • If as an employee you engage in human subjects research the first time around you must take training that is done online and thereafter you must file an application with the Institutional Review Board for each research project that you plan to undertake. That project must be approved (though in truth some of that happens in the middle of the project). If anyone is interested in this particular one I can explain this more so it doesn't sound fishy at all but makes good sense.
Making the workplace more humane items (notice the food theme)
  • Secretary's day - the bosses take the secretary's out to lunch.
  • Potluck barbecues for the staff.
  • Retirement parties and parties when someone leaves for another job.
And pardon the pun but our bread and butter business
  • Open seminars and brownbags on topics of interest to a research group or a broad audience on campus.
Finally, since many of you posted about "Unoffical" I should say that when I first came to Campus in the 1980-81 academic year, Hash Wednesday was something of a big deal. The only thing I will say about it is that I don't believe it got any sanction from any vendors in CampusTown or otherwise nearby. I'm sufficiently unplugged to local news now to not even know if it still exists.

I leave it to you to sort through in the above which of this is nudge, which more paternalistic, and which straight economic incentive. If any of them ring a bell for you, we can expand on that item.

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