Approaches to Classifying Employees in Government
Whole job ranking is the simplest form of job content evaluation. It involves
a whole job, job to job comparison of each job resulting in an array of jobs
from the highest to the lowest ranked job. The result of the ranking is only
an indication of order; it does not tell you anything about the relative degree
of distance between jobs.
The whole job ranking method is by far the simplest of all job evaluation methods
and works well in small organizations which have a singular purpose. Whole job
ranking is inexpensive, quickly learned and implemented. This method will not
work in most governments because it leaves no documentation, the criteria on
which jobs are ranked is not stable, is too superficial and will not control
grade or classification growth. Furthermore, it could not be supported in a
Classification method is a job evaluation method that has traditionally been
associated with government pay systems. Classification is a method which compares
jobs on a whole job basis. Pre-defined class specifications (or job descriptions)
are established for a series of job classes, and a job (held by an employee)
is placed in whichever classification best describes it.
The classification method is simple to administer, inexpensive to implement
and maintain, can be implemented quickly, little training is required, and thousands
of governmental units throughout the country rely on this form of job evaluation.
Its disadvantages are that jobs are forced to fit into pre-defined classifications
since most jobs do not fit neatly. The result is the creation of new classes
when they may not be necessary, job descriptions can be manipulated to fit into
a pre-defined classification thus causing grade creep when non is justified,
and it is not practical for organizations that have a diverse set of job families
or occupational groups because there is no good way to compare the value of
one classification level against another for determination of pay purposes,
unless another job evaluation method is used.
Slotting is a method for placing jobs into a category, classification or any
other ranking scheme that has been developed by another job evaluation method.
Slotting involves the comparison of a job to some already existing standard
or benchmark job hierarchy.
The slotting technique is simple to administer, inexpensive to use, quickly
implemented and little training is required. Its disadvantages are that it cannot
be used as a stand-alone system of job evaluation, there are no specific criteria
on which to determine the relative value of one job against another and there
usually is insufficient documentation on which to justify a decision. Furthermore,
since it relies on an existing hierarchy to be useful, it does not meet the
basic needs of the most governments to develop a new system.
Most organizations are now using quantitative job evaluation methods. There
are basically three types:
- job component
- factor comparison
- point factor
The job component method is a statistically developed job evaluation method
which relies on scored questionnaires, multiple regression analysis and factor
analysis. Employees complete a standardized questionnaire which either identifies
the behavioral components of the job or the task based components of the job.
The incumbent indicates for each task or behavior, the importance of the category
and the frequency of performance. The questionnaire is input into a computerized
mathematical model and a job score is determined.
These methods have been in existence for the past 20 years. The behaviorally
based method was originally developed in commercial form at Purdue University
and is now known as the Position Analysis Questionnaire (PAQ). The task based
approach was developed by the Air Force for training purposes and has been used
commercially by many different companies.
Both of these methods are attractive techniques. They appear to eliminate the
subjectivity of the job evaluation process, they are numerically scored and
computer driven. They objectively assess each job in the same fashion, they
are comprehensive, can be done on a PC and streamlines administration because
job analysis (desk audits) are not absolutely required. Because of the reduced
administrative time requirement, they achieved great popularity approximately
6-8 years ago.
These methods have not been in great use today because of the following disadvantages.
They are highly complex and require a well trained statistician to maintain.
They are extremely difficult to communicate to employees because they are perceived
to be a black box approach. In addition, even though they appear to be objective,
the hierarchy created is only as good as the information that is entered. In
our experience, you cannot eliminate a thorough job analysis if you want to
provide a control on the consistency of the data input. Second, governments
have experienced that they need some subjectivity in the process to fairly evaluate
jobs that are difficult to describe and document. Finally, the behavioral approach
does not result in job descriptions in the normal sense of the word, has never
to our knowledge been used successfully in a government setting and does not,
in and of itself, control classification creep. In the task based approach,
individual questionnaires are needed for each job family, the method has not
successfully been used in the government sector in large organizations nor does
it assist in developing a job hierarchy which meets standard statistical tests
The factor comparison method is a quantitative job evaluation method in which
a series of rankings are conducted on separate compensable factors to assess
which jobs contain more of a factor than the other jobs being evaluated. Factor
rankings for each job are assigned numerical values and then combined to form
a total job score. The job hierarchy is determined by the total scores for the
group of jobs being evaluated.
Many public sector organizations use a form of factor comparison, although
it is unlikely they call it factor comparison. More than likely governments
review classifications and compare and contrast jobs in the same job family
by looking at the supervision required, the education or experience required
and the level of complexity of the job responsibilities. As a result of this
exercise they determine the grade the job being reviewed should be placed.
One of the commercially available methods that is a factor comparison method
is the Hay Guide Chart. While this method has been converted to look like a
point factor method, it has its roots as a factor comparison approach.
That advantages of this method is that it is relatively reliable, the compensable
factors can be tailored to the unique characteristics of the government jobs
and values and it does a good job of integrating market data into the system.
The disadvantages are that there are no standardized definitions to justify
the ranking decisions, it cannot be used for new or changed jobs because the
whole ranking process would need to be redone, and it is viewed by employees
as too complex and it will not control the expansion of job classes and levels.
The point factor method uses defined factors and degree levels to establish
job value. Job descriptions are compared to the definitions of degree levels
in order to determine the most appropriate level. The corresponding points for
that level are then added to the other levels on other factors to derive a total
Of all the methods of job content evaluation, this type of method is most widely
used. It is relatively reliable, relatively objective and easy to evaluate new
or change jobs. The compensable factors can be tailored to the City/County jobs
and values. Of the disadvantages, the point factor method is very time consuming
to develop or tailor to the organization. It is very time consuming to use to
evaluate jobs; it can take approximately one hour to evaluate each job when
a committee is used. The meanings of the definitions do not cover all possible
complexities and nuances of jobs in the public sector and thus, the job points
can fluctuate widely from person to person. In fact, it is not uncommon that
incumbents change a minor task or wording of a responsibility and the points
increase, thus leading to classification and grade creep. We believe that many
point factor systems have supported the creation of larger departments and steeper
organizational pyramids because of the desire to receive more points and thus
a higher grade.
While it is viewed a relatively reliable, they have been shown to have an
inter-rater reliability in the .70-.80. This means that the total points that
a committee arrives at can vary as much as 15%. Variations of this magnitude
can mean the difference between 2-3 salary grades. Finally, in our experience,
while the point factor method can do a reasonably good job of reducing the number
of classifications, it has a less than adequate record in terms of maintaining
or controlling grade creep.
A commonly used point factor method in the government sector is the Oliver
System. This method has been adopted in a variety of states and some local governments.
However, because of the subjectivity of this method, which is also inherent
in point factor methods, it has been our experience that this method is rarely
implemented fully or used for any length of time. In fact, most organizations
that originally adopted the method, no longer use it for job evaluation purposes
because it has failed to meet their on going needs.
Most of our clients use a job evaluation method that combines the best features
of the non-quantitative methods with the best features of the quantitative methods.
The method is commercially known as the Decision Band Method (DBM) or
the Paterson Plan.
The Decision Band Method (DBM) of job evaluation is a highly effective
method of objectively evaluating the worth of a job to an organization. A sound
theoretical framework serves as the basis of the method which provides a consistent
and valid approach to comparing and contrasting jobs.
Initially developed over thirty years ago by Professor Emeritus Thomas T. Paterson,
and further refined by Fox Lawson's compensation consultants, through hands
on experience in government settings, the Decision Band Method has been
tested in organizations throughout the world as a means of identifying rational
distinctions in pay for all jobs. DBM has been used successfully in both public
and private sector organizations. Organizations converting their current job
evaluation plans to the DBM framework can be assured that their pay hierarchy
will be reliable, valid and justifiable.
The basic premise of DBM is that the value of a job to an organization is based
on its level of responsibility. Responsibility is reflected, and therefore measured,
by the decision-making requirements of the job. Because all jobs require incumbents
to make decisions in order to perform their jobs, decision-making is a logical
and equitable basis on which to compare jobs within an organization.
DBM job evaluation involves three basic steps. First, jobs are classified into
one of six different "Decision Bands" based on the characteristics
of the decisions that a job requires. This classification process reflects the
level of responsibility of the job within the organization. The second step
involves classifying the jobs within each "Decision Band" into one
of two "Grades" based on the differential supervisory difficulty and
effort required of the job. Each of the six bands is subdivided into two grades,
(coordinating and non coordinating) or subclasses, depending on the requirements
to monitor or supervise subordinate jobs. Exhibit 1 is an overview of the DBM
At this point in the process, jobs will have been classified into a hierarchy
of twelve different classes of jobs, based on the job's level of responsibility
and supervisory difficulty and effort.
The third and final step involves further subdivision of jobs within each grade
into subgrades by reference to the complexity, difficulty, and skills required
of the job in relation to other jobs that have been classified into the same
Band and Grade. Frequently, this Subgrading is done within each occupational
group in order to facilitate the making of relative judgments in comparing the
complexity, difficulty, and skills required of jobs across different occupations.
The Subgrading process shares many characteristics with point-factor methods
of job evaluation.
Finally, the jobs are priced within the relevant labor market.
DBM is easy to use, highly reliable, administratively fast and efficient, can
be tailored to the government's needs, and has been proven effective in reducing
the number of classifications, reducing grade creep highly difficult to manipulate
the value of the job by changing a few words or tasks in a job description.
It has been used throughout the country to replace ineffective point factor
and classification methods and bring simplicity and rationality back into the
Approximately one year ago it was critically examined by the State of North
Carolina as a possible tool to be used throughout the State to classify over
119,000 job titles. The State subsequently adopted the method because it allowed
them to move toward broad banding and simplification of their classification
and compensation structure. Other government organizations have experienced
a reduction in the number of classifications using DBM. Finally, because of
the way in which it processes jobs for evaluation purposes, we have found that
a minor change in the wording of the job or the tasks typically does not result
in an increased grade.
We recommend the Decision Band Method to any organization that is interested
in simplifying its classification and compensation system either in terms of
broader bands of classification or because it can be used to rationalize the
logic behind pay.