Useful Job Descriptions Pay Dividends

Alan G. Crone, Attorney with Crone Law Firm, PLC wrote an article in the HR Professionals March issue titled, “The Business Case for Compliance”.  Mr. Crone, with over 25 years of employment law, mentions in his article that he is often asked what lessons he has learned that HR Professionals can apply to lessen or mitigate employment lawsuit and litigation expenses.

Alan recognizes that employment law is complicated, ever-changing and hard to manage with employee and employer value differences.  He states in the article, “There are no simple solutions, however I do suggest three simple strategies as a great start, that if you follow them you will reduce the number of employment related claims, complaints and lawsuits:

  1. Draft and maintain hyper-accurate job descriptions;
  2. Communicate clearly the company’s expectation for employees and confront them when they do not live up to those expectations; and ,
  3. Refocus compliance efforts as training rather than as discipline.”

This article continues with Mr. Crone going into more detail on how these simple strategies can be applied with good common business sense and thorough application.  As human resources professionals for our respective employers, what are the dividends we can expect by implementing a useful job descriptions strategy as noted in Alan Crone’s article.

  • More informed candidates
  • Improved staffing and compensation decisions
  • Accurate and current job descriptions
  • Positive impact in management decisions
  • Greater defensibility
  • Compliance with ADA – reasonable accommodations
  • Compliance with FLSA – Exempt / Non-exempt (duties and responsibilities)

Mr. Crone completes the Job Descriptions section of his article with the following statement, “Top-notch job descriptions will create operational efficiencies, less lawsuits, better hiring decisions, more focused training and discipline, and less turnover.”

As human resources and compensation consultants and software providers, we support Mr. Crone’s advocacy for comprehensive, consistent and compliant job descriptions.  The time spent with bringing dated job descriptions to a current and accurate status will pay dividends for internal and external stakeholders.


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What are Your Compensation Strategies for 2018?

In the February 2018 issue of the HR Magazine, Stephen Miller authored an article titled “4 Compensation Trends for 2018.” He mentioned that salaries have been flat for years and listed four trends that will potentially impact pay strategies for 2018. They include Promoting Variable Pay, Improving – or Removing Performance Reviews, Adjusting to Salary History Bans (can’t ask candidates about their current or previous salary in some states and localities) and Preparing for Compliance Change and Challenges.

The one that caught our eye was the Adjusting to Salary History Bans and Stephen’s quote, “To comply with the bans, determine the value of each role and what will drive a higher or lower compensation package.” As past practicing HR professionals and HR consultants for over 30 years, we know it is difficult to determine the value of a position and what the appropriate pay level is for that position, especially if the position is unique to your organization or possibly is a hybrid of two or more positions. However, we’ve created a solution to the job valuing and market pay challenges many organizations are faced with today.

Johanson Group (family-owned since 1973) / DB Squared (since 2005) have automated the job valuing and salary administration program process. What used to take a huge amount of time and effort by the HR department, now takes hardly any time. This allows the organization to be more transparent as it relates to pay equity and comparable worth and also have a compliant and proactive approach to effective compensation management.

Our organizations are ready to assist at any level (compensation advice to turn-key implementation) to ensure that your compensation strategies for 2018 and beyond are accomplished and meeting your organization’s overall vision, mission and strategic initiatives.


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Fair and Competitive Base Pay

In the February issue of WorldatWork’s Workspan publication, Sandra McLellan and Laura Sejen with Willis Towers Watson authored an article titled, “Cracking the Case of Stagnant Wages”.  The authors make a compelling case for the reasons why employee base pay wages have been flat since the economic depression of 2008.  The authors provide sound reasoning why the annual employee performance evaluation and merit increase process is not an effective compensation management tool in today’s environment where work is more “event-driven” instead of annual performance focused.

McLellan and Sejen support the ongoing transition from annual performance evaluations that are laborious and disliked by employees and managers to more frequent employee check-ins that coincide with achieving impactful goals and position life cycle progression.

The authors recommend replacing the annual merit increase and annual performance review process with a commitment to “fair and fully competitive base pay,” where employees’ base pay increases will vary in size and frequency.

At Johanson Group and DB Squared, LLC, we encourage and support the authors’ advocacy for employers’ commitment to “fair and fully competitive base pay” and we have evangelized this compensation philosophy for over three decades.  A “fair and fully competitive base pay” is achievable with a proven internal job valuing system that is validated with external market pay comparisons. The combination of an internal and external compensation management system will provide the basis for equitable and competitive career life cycle position progressions that chart the way from entry-level positions to top decision-making positions that drive results for public and private organizations.


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We at DB Squared are thankful for our clients that have continued to use and provide suggestions for our current software programs DBCompensation and DBDescriptions. DBCompensation has been around since 2005 and the last update in January 2017 was the 10th and DBDescriptions has been updated several times based on client input. We maintain above a 90% retention rate and our clients tell us that they are very appreciative of the quick technical service and software education/how-to support.

For 2018, we would like to move DBCompensation from a Microsoft Access-based platform to SQL or some other program that would allow the software to accommodate larger employee populations and other data with increased speed. We continue to have requests to pull out the copyrighted Johanson Group job valuing/job rating portion of the program as an independent function and to develop a performance appraisal program tied to the job descriptions and essential duties for each job title within our client organizations.

As for DBDescriptions, we are considering adding another 400 to 900 pre-loaded job descriptions to the web-based program. This would increase the ‘ready-made’ job descriptions in DBDescriptions to 1500 or 2000. These ready-made descriptions can be modified or our clients can still start from scratch to build their job descriptions. We are also thinking about offering a Spanish conversion feature for an additional fee.

We wish all of our current clients a Happy and Festive Holiday Season and may 2018 be one of your best years.

Compensation Strategies for Millennials

We have partnered with Equias Alliance, a nonqualified benefits plans and BOLI company, on a few compensation projects and one of its principals, Ken Derks, wrote a recent excellent article titled, “Compensation Strategies to Attract, Retain and Motivate Millennials.”

One of his statements summarizes well where the millennials are financially.  “While millennials have essentially the same financial needs as the generations preceding them, their time horizon to retirement can be 30-plus years or more, which is too far into the future for them to focus on when faced with immediate financial planning decisions, like retiring student debt, purchasing a home and providing for their children’s education.” Ken offers a recommendation to meet the financial needs of the millennials by stating, “For the next generation of leaders, managements and boards should consider nonqualified benefit plans that allow for in-service distributions timed to coincide with events such as a child entering college or to pay off college debt.  Plan payments made to the participant while still employed can be made at some future point such as three, five or ten years.”

As companies are transitioning their work forces from the baby-boomers to the millennials, the importance of providing a competitive base salary coupled with performance-based incentive and retirement plans will help to attract, retain, and motivate the millennials and other generations to follow.

Johanson Group has worked with all types of companies and organizations for the past 44 years in the areas of compensation management, strategic planning, training and development, and management consulting.  We have taken our copyrighted job design and compensation methodologies and created software that is licensed through another company we own, DB Squared.   DBCompensation and DBDescriptions provide the front-end of the total rewards equation.  Please contact us to learn more about our consulting services and software products.  If you would like to contact one of our partner companies, Equias Alliance, their website is

Narrowing and Validating the Grey Zone

The Grey Zone has many meanings. I would like to refer to the grey area where organizational jobs/positions are not obviously exempt or non-exempt from hourly overtime pay. From the smallest mom and pop to the very large fortune 500 companies, each organization must determine the Exempt/Non-Exempt status for all positions to comply with Department of Labor regulations. Narrowing and validating the number of position located in the GREY ZONE is becoming more critical for Human Resources and Compensation professionals. Organizations/Companies are at risk for monetary overtime pay, taxes and related penalties for not properly identifying and placing positions in the correct exempt or non-exempt status.

We have heard from our clients that the Department of Labor’s efforts to hire, train and release additional labor investigators are having an impact on the number of organizations that are being investigated for the first time. The DOL investigators are focusing on the exempt and non-exempt job title designations and evaluation of independent contractors. Of course, the Department of Labor is looking for overtime tax dollars associated with improper designations. Based on recent DOL web page postings, the number of successful investigations and subsequent fines are increasing dramatically compared to past historical trends.

Human Resources and Compensation professionals are encouraged to reevaluate positions in the Grey Zone and to utilize internal job evaluation systems or programs that validate exempt and non-exempt designation with compensable factors and descriptions.

We recommend an objective 15 factors job evaluation system that will help narrow and validate the positions located in the grey zone. The job rating chart located on the following page helps to illustrate this process of utilizing fifteen objective compensable factors on all jobs within the organization. For the purposes of this illustration, the positions in the grey zone have been highlighted in yellow caution?? The Department of Labor exemption tests are applied to the positions in the grey zone and the positions outside of the grey zone are validated with the compensable factored points. Outside of newer DOL regulations regarding sales positions, loan officers and information technology positions, we have found the grey zone typically to be 550 to 750 points range and for some organizations this range can tighten down to 600 to 700 points. The use of an internal proven job rating system in a fair and consistent manner helps to 1) ensure greater confidence when determining exempt and non-exempt status designations, 2) express to employees and external DOL investigators that the organization is diligent and systematic with internal job evaluations and 3) create an internal job classification structure and pay system that can be compared with external market pay benchmarks and 4) mitigate risks for DOL overtime exemption investigations and monetary damages.

Why The Engineer’s Approval is the Most Important

Our firm completed a few job classification and compensation study projects in Kentucky last year and one of the side entertainment venues was the Keeneland Race Track in Lexington. What a nice horse racing track and facility for guests traveling to the Lexington area from within U.S. and around the world to see these amazing animals and jockeys racing full speed to the finish line. While spending the day at Keeneland, it became pretty apparent the amount of precision and forethought that goes into all the systems and processes for a smooth operating race track facility. The display board computer and graphics, the betting system software and hardware requirements, the photo finish computer and systems, the beverage and food POS software and hardware configuration, the publishing systems to produce a daily race track program, and the HRIS system to manage human capital compensation and benefit programs. While the Keeneland Race Track was being developed, constructed and configured for its ultimate opening day and during its on-going operation, a team of engineers and information technology professionals used and continue to use their skills, training, knowledge and keen eyes to ensure no stone is left uncovered. This leads to consistent and efficient daily race track operations.

When we completed one of the job classification and compensation study projects for a public utility, the final step required approval by the utility board of commissioners. One of the commissioners is a mechanical engineer and his review of the proposed job classification and compensation study project was through the lens of a skilled and knowledgeable technical professional. His questions about the study internal job valuing and external market pay study processes were comprehensive and precise. It was his desire as a member of the commissioners’ team to test the processes and systems to determine its validity and value for the public utility organization. After answering several questions and having a good discussion about the job classification and compensation study project, the commissioner was satisfied and understood the Utility’s new job classification and compensation management system. It passed the engineer’s filter for comprehensiveness and precision.   We gained the Engineer’s approval and he was going to support passage of the new job classification and compensation study.

What are the components of a “state of the art” job classification and compensation management study project?

Comprehensive, consistent and compliant job descriptions developed in an automated electronic position analysis questionnaire database system with a collaboration feature.

Job descriptions and job rating systems that are integrated and aligned for efficient internal job valuing and placement within the organization structure.

Automated employee information uploading systems to minimize or eliminate data entry. Employee information that includes at minimum, ID #, Last Name, First Name, Job Title, Pay, Gender, Race/Ethnicity, Date of Birth, Date of Hire, EEO or Merit Rank, Department and Supervisor’s Title.

The ability to include external market pay data comparisons to evaluate internal pay competitiveness and validate the job valuing process for greater compensation management precision and defensibility.

Integrated and interactive system output tables, graphs, worksheets and reports for effective base compensation management structures and decisions that foster organization and employee behaviors and efforts that are aligned to meet objectives and goals.


What Is DBConsulting?

At DBSquared we like to remind clients that our solutions are designed specifically for you, by HR professionals for HR professionals.  At this time of the year when every tax consultant I run into can only lament the loss of their personal time between now and April 15th, I am reminded that we also can say that our flagship solution, DBCompensation™ was designed by consultants for consultants.

A little bit of history is probably worthwhile.  The original methodology was developed by our founder in the mid 80s to help him be a better compensation consultant to public and private clients.  His sons enhanced and improved the methodology to help them address new developments in job classifications and compliance.  The computer application was originally designed to enable their consultancy to be more efficient.  We only decided to commercialize it when our clients began clamoring for it.

We are reminded of why we became consultants.  We were attracted by:

  • The opportunity to bring a continually improving, process-driven approach to your craft
  • The desire to bring best practices from one client to another, while leveraging your industry depth or functional expertise
  • The freedom to “do the right thing by the client”, secure in the knowledge that “the rest will follow”, when you make solving the client’s problem your priority?

Look at almost any consultancy discipline and you will find an explosion of tools, some commercial and some home grown.  At DBSquared we have been fortunate to have our clients see the value in our tools.  As consultants we still have the opportunity to improve our expertise and ability to help clients.  We didn’t cede that advantage or opportunity.  In fact we would argue that the increase in accuracy, reliability and risk mitigation is alone worth our investment of time and expertise.  Our consulting business has increased even as we sell our solution to clients.

We would encourage any compensation consultant to explore making our solution part of their own tool chest.  It won’t mean you will have less opportunity.  But it could mean the difference between offering your clients the most effective service in the most efficient manner, and having a little time left over for yourself.



DBConsultation is available to assist you in the development of your Total Rewards Philosophy and the various base, bonus, short-term and long-term incentive plans and benefit programs. The total package should motivate employees to perform at levels that provide your organization with a competitive advantage over other organizations as you seek to fulfill the strategic plan. Contact us today for your successful tomorrow.


Mind The Gap: A Guide To Talent Retention

We recently referenced a study from Manpower Group about job talent. The study was based on data from 1,300 respondents and the following key findings were identified.

  1. Employers stated that applicants in general lacked the skills and experience required to successfully complete job duties and responsibilities for open positions.
  2. Employees expected higher pay than the salaries offered by employers.
  3. The top five consistently hardest  jobs to fill are:
  • Skilled Trades
  • Sales Representatives
  • Engineers
  • Drivers
  • Accounting and Finance Staff

There is a gap between employers and potential employees regarding the expected applicant skills and experience and expected compensation based on the Manpower Group Study.   Most likely, this is a resulting gap of talent depletion from employees leaving one employer for another that offers a better compensation package and career opportunities.

We conduct annual and/or bi-annual market studies and annual internal job and pay comparative analysis for our clients to reduce or eliminate employer and employee gaps with employee capabilities expectation, pay for performance and compensation expectations.

Back-filling position gaps resulting from higher levels of voluntary terminations through continuous recruitment and placement efforts is a very expensive tangible and intangible employment disposition.

Address your potential talent shortage and talent retention  gaps by implementing our proactive compensation management processes with DBSquared’s proven and very productive software called DBCompensation.  Our clients have gaps they can hurdle while employers utilizing reactive compensation management strategies have canyons to cross either by mule which is slow, or by helicopter which is efficiently expensive.


Performance Management Appraisals “Pass or Fail”

Based on several recent articles in various management journals, human resources, and total reward publications, there are a growing number of organizations that have decided to eliminate performance management appraisal processes or revamp the process by placing greater weight on top performing skills and achievement toward team goals. As business, human resource and compensation consultants, and SAAS human resources technology developers and advocates, we are keeping a close eye on the Pay for Performance “Pass or Fail” saga and the potential evolution toward more effective performance management systems and processes that will drive higher levels of organization and individual results.

Dan Pontefract, a Forbes / Leadership contributor who focuses on collaboration, leadership, engagement and purpose at work wrote a short article on Performance Management Appraisals’ effectiveness from 2000 to 2015. Dan references three research reports on performance management: one in 2000 conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the second in 2012 commissioned by Towers-Watson, and the third in 2014 with SHRM checking to see if any progress had been made in performance management effectiveness since its 2000 survey study.

Mr. Pontefract shared an insightful statement from the SHRM 2000 report Executive Summary. “Stronger executive support for performance management and increased employee participation in development activities is needed in order for performance management systems to truly become a tool to help attract and retain talent.” Dan mentions in his article that leaders did not support performance management appraisal systems as an effective management tool.

The article continues with Mr. Pontefract’s furthering his case by sharing insight from a Towers-Watson 2012 Global Workforce Study entitled “Engagement at Risk: Driving Strong Performance in a Volatile Global Environment”.   Dan stated in his article that based on the study results, only 44 percent of organizations do an effective job of using technology to deliver the performance management process itself. He laments that a decade of technology improvements and additional management feedback systems should have allowed enough time and change for more effective performance management processes.

Dan provides insight on SHRM’s 2014 research report – HR Professionals’ Perceptions About Performance Management Effectiveness. He quotes a disturbing report outcome statement, “More than one-half (53 percent) gave their organizations a grade between C+ to B and one-fifth (21 percent) chose a C, and only 2 percent gave an A in performance management to their organizations.”

At the end of Dan’s article, he states, “After 15 years of survey after survey, and research report after research report, we’re no further ahead with respect to improving the performance management process, program or behavioral model in our organizations. “ He concludes his article by offering some key parting thoughts that should be considered when designing and implementing a performance management appraisal system that is enhanced by technology for greater efficiency and productivity.

  • “Performance management isn’t a score. It’s a frequent, ongoing coaching conversation.”
  • “Performance management isn’t an annual meeting. It’s a development opportunity that occurs as necessary.”
  • “Performance management isn’t bound by technology. It’s a behavioral attribute that puts the employee at the center of his or her growth.”
  • “Performance management isn’t a hammer. It’s an opportunity to use all the tools in the toolbox.”
  • “Performance management isn’t managing performance. It’s the leader’s responsibility to help build up and then release the enhanced performance of an employee.”

Performance management is becoming more than the annual sit-down session between the employee and their supervisor. The following content represents some policy language from the University of New Hampshire’s Performance Management handbook.


Benefits of Providing Ongoing Feedback & Coaching

“During the year, you are responsible for coaching and mentoring your employees to assist them in reaching their goals and achieving optimal performance. Ongoing feedback and coaching are used to communicate about and correct performance deficiencies, to reinforce appropriate behavior, to teach the employee new skills, to motivate high performance, and to mentor employees so they understand their role in the Department and University.”

  • “Regular feedback and coaching will make your job as a supervisor/manager easier when employees build their skills and independence.”
  • “Feedback and coaching also increases productivity, the quality of work and the effectiveness of the work group.”
  • “Employees’ motivation and initiative is increased with effective feedback and coaching.”
  • “Creativity and innovation in problem solving increases with effective feedback and coaching.”
  • “Feedback and coaching can prevent problems from occurring.”

WorldatWork released an article in their weekly newsline titled, “North American Employers Give Pay-for-Performance Programs Low Marks.” This statement supports findings from a recent Willis Towers Watson survey. The WorldatWork article included the following quote, “Employers continue to make significant investments of time and money in their traditional pay-for-performance programs, primarily annual merit pay increases and annual incentives,” said WorldatWork member Laura Sejen, global practice leader for rewards at Willis Towers Watson, in a press statement. “Unfortunately, these reward programs are falling short in the eyes of many employers.”

Based on the survey report, only 20% of the North American companies reported merit pay as “effective” at driving higher levels of individual performance, and 32% believe that their merit pay programs are effective with differentiating pay based on individual performance.

The performance management processes are not making passing grades and the survey report indicates that organizations are making changes to improve the effectiveness of their performance management programs by

1) adopting more forward-looking performance goals,

2) placing greater emphasis on demonstrated knowledge and skills required for employee’s roles,

3) applying greater weighting to the critical roles,

4) aligning company goals with top performing employees , and

5) rewarding achievement of team goals.

The emphasis on performance management improvement has become a noticeable initiative with WorldatWork and its total rewards members. WorldatWork is hosting a performance management practices forum to raise the visibility and bar of performance management.