job evaluation

Why do job evaluation exercises fail?

Many well-intentioned job evaluation projects run into a brick wall.  There are 4 main reasons for project failure:

1. Job evaluation is never entirely objective

Job evaluation is systematic, but then so is studying form before betting money on a horse. It is not, and can never be scientific.

Subjectivity is often built into the design – in the structure of factors/elements, the balance between different factors, the weightings given in the scoring matrix, or the way scores are related to salary-grade boundaries. Subjectivity also appears in the content of job descriptions, the quality of analysis by consultants, and the interpretation by the evaluation panel.

2. Job evaluation losers and pay protection

Job evaluation works within the limits of the overall salary budget. As a result, there will always be losers as well as winners. Downgrading a job by job evaluation is unique because there is no reduction in the workload, duties and responsibilities and the new grade is imposed, not agreed.

Pay protection, ‘red-circling’, etc. delay the financial impact on the individual but do not remove it (unless protection is permanent). Protecting the pay of ‘losers’ inevitably affects the overall budget. Job evaluation works best where there is significant change in organisational structure, tangible cost benefits, or the salary budget is flexible.

3. Job evaluation confused with competence

The last 20 years have seen a revolution in competence-based approaches to people management. Most job evaluation schemes have their origins long before that. Although they purport to be focused on the job not the person, in reality most schemes have only two dimensions:

  1. things to do with competence (knowledge/skills/problem solving, etc.)
  2. things to do with accountability (freedom to act/magnitude/impact).

Accountability is notoriously difficult to value (especially in non-commercial organisations). Most of the real deals therefore get done in the competence area. It is not surprising therefore that workers get confused as to whether the process is evaluating the job or the person.

4. Progression points in salary grades

Salary grades are only benchmarks to relate salaries in 3 ways:

  1. to the value of jobs to the organisation (as defined by job evaluation);
  2. to the demonstrated performance of individuals in jobs of similar size;
  3. to the outside employment market.

The idea is that people can progress within their grade as they develop skills and experience, and that there is enough overlap between grades to provide fair reward for a high performer in a lower-grade job compared to a new entrant in a higher-grade job.

In other words, they are only as effective as the performance management processes applied to people’s progress within them and between them. Positioning within grades often fuels worker discontent and can sit very uncomfortably with aims of ‘equal pay for equal value’ in a ‘rate-for-the-job’ culture.

Avoiding the potential pitfalls

Building a successful pay structure based on job evaluation depends on:

  • having clear strategic people-management aims;
  • being precise and realistic about payroll budget constraints;
  • being clear about how far you want to protect the pay of individual ‘job evaluation losers’;
  • deciding exactly whether/how you want to differentiate pay on job performance results;
  • deciding exactly whether/how you want to differentiate pay on assessed competence;
  • being entirely transparent and consulting all the above with people affected.

EvaluTrak™ – job evaluation made simple

Job evaluation need not be a mysterious process and relevant only to huge hierarchies.

Frustrated by the ‘black-box’ bureaucracy of elderly systems developed in the days of steam boilers, I designed the EvaluTrak™ system specifically for small value-adding organisations that only need to differentiate between a few job levels.

EvaluTrak™ is a no-nonsense hybrid decision-band system, filling the gap between factor schemes and points-based systems. It is web-based, very straightforward, and easy for jobholders to understand.  It is entirely transparent and starts with a simple assessment process by jobholders themselves.

Contact me if you’d like to find out more.