November 6, 2000
Dollars & sense
By Eric Rangus firstname.lastname@example.org
The decorations in Theresa Mees office in the Human Resources building
are rather sparse.
Theres the ubiquitous Arts at Emory calendar just above
her desk and . . . nothing else. That is, except for a couple of picture
hangers nailed into the walls with nothing to hold up, which makes them
look quite lonely.
Its not that Mee is opposed to vibrant interior decor; her mind
has just been occupied with other matters. Like moving in.
Mee is Emorys director of compensation, a position she took over
I really havent dealt with the office decoration thing yet,
In spite of what her title may imply, Mee does not sign the checks. Her
job description, as leader of the five-person compensation department
(Were lean and mean, she said), has a bit of a wider,
more nuts-and-bolts business scope.
My job is to make sure the compensation programs we have support
our need for high-quality people and our need to move the organization
forward, Mee said, using a touch of MBA-speak. She quickly
got more specific. We ensure that people are paid competitively
and appropriately and do whatever we can to make compensation an attractive
part of the package.
But that isnt always easy. Mee, who spent 11 years in corporate
compensation consulting, said businesses have certain structural advantages
over educational institutions.
We dont have some of the tools the corporate world uses for
compensationlike stock options, for instance. So it can be a little
more challenging to pay people, she said.
Working at a university, however, is not without its advantages.
We have real benefit programs that corporations wouldnt have,
like courtesy scholarships, she said. Im obviously just
getting to know things, but I think we work pretty hard to make Emory
a good place to work, and we have a lot of long-term employees who have
found their home here.
After graduating from Rice University with a bachelors in mathematical
sciences, Mee, who got married prior to her senior year of college, started
a family and stayed home to raise her two young sons. When they were comfortably
in elementary school, she returned to the classroom herself and sought
an MBA at the University of Florida, which she attained in 1989.
It was a wonderful time. I absolutely loved it, Mee said
of her time in graduate school. I had enough time to deal with my
kids; I even worked. It wasnt really stressful at all.
As a corporate compensation consultant, Mee would jet around the Southeast
meeting with clients and trying to convince them that she (and her firm)
had the right solutions to their problems.
You have to sell yourself. You have to sell your services, and
youre always trying to develop a relationship, Mee said.
Public relationsand, at Emory, employee relationsis a big
part of the job. Another is market research. Mee makes sure to keep her
eyes open by studying not only the atmospheres and compensation packages
of other universities, but other corporations as well.
Often its dependent on the type of job, she said. If
you have a job thats found in corporations as well as universities,
you might look at a mix. If you found a job that is only found at a university,
like the bursar or the admissions people, obviously youll need to
look at other universities.
And choosing those other universities is an art in itself. Looking at
Georgia Tech, for instance, might be a logical step, because of its proximity
to Emory, but the comparison isnt always accurate. The two universities,
other than their geography, dont really have all that much in common.
One is public, the other private, and the curriculums dont overlap
Instead, Mee said, the compensation department attempts to match universities
to Emory in terms of their size and their types of programshaving
an affiliated teaching hospital, for instance. Vanderbilt, Duke and Johns
Hopkins are examples.
A lot of companies are trying to be more flexible and creative
in how they deal with employees, Mee said, speaking not only of
Fortune 500 firms but also of nonprofit educational institutions, such
as the one where she is currently employed.
If you think about what I get working at a place, she said
hypothetically. Yeah, I get a salary, but I also get the opportunity
to do a job thats interesting to me. In some cases I might get to
develop, I might get training or I might get opportunities to do things
Ive never done before. In the past few years, cash isnt enough
to keep and attract top employees.
Still, Emory feels the tightness of Atlantas job market. Mee said
the University has roughly 700 job openings on campus and at the two hospitals,
and she is currently working with other business officers to get up to
speed on their needs.
Ive been really impressed with the people Ive met at HR so far, she said. Im looking forward to getting to know them better.