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The Power of Job Families

David Creelman

CEO of Creelman Research

If your life is in compensation you are probably at ease with the intricacies of job evaluation. You may even have a good feel for the difference between a 240 point job and 280 point job (based on whatever point-factor evaluation system you are using).

However, for your clients, (the managers), the job evaluation points won't mean much. They do know there is a difference between their clerk and their senior clerk, and they know the analyst is at a much higher level that the clerks.

In other words, they do have a sense of differences in the size of jobs and hence why there are different grades and different pay ranges. They just don't understand job evaluation well enough to think through pay levels systematically and in a general enough way to be relevant for all jobs. For managers, talking in the language of job evaluation is just another painful HR exercise.

Engaging Managers in Job Evaluation Through Job Families

You can involve managers in job evaluation, however it may be that a better way to engage them is to focus on job families. A job family is a set of related jobs within a function. For example, you might have a series of jobs in IT from a junior programmer, to a programmer, to a systems analyst and so on. The job family briefly describes the levels in the lingo of that function.

When you are evaluating jobs with a manager the focus should be on the job family. The conversation should not be about comparing a job to factors in your job evaluation system but comparing jobs to each other. What really is the difference between a clerk and a senior clerk? Is it experience? Education? Competencies? Responsibility? Decision-making authority?

For leaders what distinguishes one job from another is an interesting question and one they are capable of answering. Although the point is not that they know the answer and are just telling you, it is that they are figuring it out and in doing so, gain insights that are valuable to them in running the department.

Let's reassure the director of compensation that we are not abandoning proper job grades and evaluation. That sits in the background. HR will be involved in mapping the job family distinctions into the overall reward structure. The overall reward structure is what you as a compensation professional care about, but when you are dealing with a manager let them stay in the world they understand: the world of their own department's job family.

The Added Benefits of Using Job Families

The exercise of understanding job families has implications far beyond getting people in the right job grade. It helps the manager know who to recruit, how to develop people, and how to explain why one person is paid more than another.

It may uncover problems in how they have structured the department: " No wonder we can't promote a Clerk I to a Clerk II ...those jobs face vastly different degrees of complexity in the problems they solve." If a job family uses language and examples relevant to the particular function it becomes a useful tool for the manager and they will appreciate the clarity the reward professional has brought to the issue of jobs and pay.

The real takeaway is that while we like to divide HR into recruiting, training, performance management, reward and so on; in reality they are all closely connected. Rather than approaching managers and saying, "We are going to pull out this one aspect of the complex world of managing a department full of people and force you to deal with it," we meet them half-way. Job families are a way for managers to make sense of job size, career paths, and pay; let's take the time to create them.

Your turn: How do you involve managers in job evaluation at your organization?

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