I Guess If It Was Easy, Management Could Do It

Sometimes it just takes a point of view to help crystallize one’s thoughts about matters they are concerned with every day.  A recent blog suggests that one can slay the so-called job evaluation dinosaur, primarily because it is “difficult” to do.  Before I begin to sound like Dr. Hammond in “Jurassic Park”, let’s take a closer look at the ‘archeological’ evidence.

Job Evaluation – The Objections

Job evaluation is an analysis and rating approach to job classifications within an organization.  Its fundamental objective is to define the value of a position to an organization.  It can be difficult to accomplish, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it.  One objection is that job descriptions are poorly written.  Again often true, but what if your evaluation methodology produced the job description?  In other words, analyzing what the firm needs to achieve their business objectives should define the jobs required, and the job descriptions should be a product of the process, not an input.

Rating positions is difficult for several reasons including language, forms and procedures that are not well understood as well as external pressure brought to bear on HR staff.  As a student of Dr. Deming, I can attest that no process that is not well understood, properly defined or accurately coached can be successful.  As for pressure on the participants, again define the constraints and boundary conditions and apply them to the process.  These aren’t objections to job evaluations; they are objections to badly defined and poorly implemented processes.

Employees are skeptical of an inherently subjective process.  Absolutely!  Why on earth is it subjective?  A fundamental reason to evaluate positions is to be able to communicate effectively to employees the relative worth of the position to the firm and to themselves.  This isn’t an excuse; it’s a cop-out.

The last objection most often encountered is a lack of senior management support for the integrity of the process.  Management will always support initiatives that help them to improve the company.  It is hard to argue that a critical piece of the talent recruitment and retention policies of the firm cannot be supported if explained properly.

Job Evaluation – The Reality

While I object to the notion of ‘dinosaurs’ (not the least because of my advancing age), never the less a little appreciation for history is important.  Job evaluation was once the primary methodology, and it recently has given away to a preference for market pricing mechanisms.  The reality is the correct evolutionary approach is a hybrid of the two, and the pendulum seems to be swinging back to a more balanced and nuanced position.  Job evaluation is essential for internal consistency, and market pricing must be used to ensure external competitiveness.   The hybrid approach is equivalent to having both latitude and longitude in navigation.

If you think about either component, each one has barriers to implementation.  Software technology combined with value-added analysis exists to help any firm navigate the process.  Companies should define clearly their expectations for compensation management decision-making technology.  These should include:

  • Hybrid capabilities
  • Validated methodology-driven process proven over many years and across different industries
  • Job descriptions that are the result of position ratings
  • Baseline ratings for all factors that provide sound fundamentals to explain and drive the process
  • Easy inclusion of market data
  • Compensation modeling and decision making tools
  • Reporting capabilities that drive management insight
  • Easy integration into corporate systems
  • Rapid time-to-value implementation and minimal total cost of ownership.

Management takes enough grief (albeit not all undeserved), but HR’s primary mission is to provide the information to management to make the best decisions for the firm.  Don’t shirk your responsibilities because something is ‘difficult’ to accomplish, find the means to achieve your objective using the best of breed in methodology and technology.  It’s out there (wait a minute, wrong movie)!