Back in the day when I had a real job in a corporate setting, I recall a period when my compensation colleagues and I were facing a particularly strong and steady onslaught from line managers regarding job re-evaluation. It seemed every manager with an employee whose salary was above midpoint felt compelled to retitle the job, rewrite the job description and push hard for an upgrade. Despite our efforts at control, the average salary grade across the company seemed to be ticking upward on a daily basis. One manager in particular stood apart for his commitment to the continuous upgrading of his department's positions. We christened him the Grade Creep.
Well, we thought it was funny.
Nearly every compensation professional I work with faces some level of pressure on the job re-evaluation front. It's tough to carve out time for the reward initiatives that will truly deliver value to the organization when you are forced to spend all your time as Pay Cop.
The trick, I think, is to avoid becoming too entrenched in our cop mentality (we are business partners, yes?) and to develop a process to sort through the requests in order to discern which are legitimate - e.g., from a functional area that is truly changing or growing in scope so as to require different roles and talent levels - and which requests are merely symptomatic of a lack of managerial discipline and accountability around salary management.
I have advised a number of my clients to introduce a brief survey or questionnaire into the process, asking the managers requesting a job review to provide some information and detail as to the nature and history of the situation. Specifically, I suggest questions like the following:
- Has the job in question gained additional job responsibilities since it was last evaluated? If yes, please describe these additional responsibilities in the space provided. Include information on where and by what other job these responsibilities were previously performed before being added to this job. If these job responsibilities are, in fact, brand new to the department or company, please provide a brief background on why they have been added.
- Has there been any change in the education, experience and skills required to perform this job since it was last evaluated? If yes, please describe the changed requirements in the space provided, and note the reason behind the change in qualifications.
- If new responsibilities or requirements have been added to a job which has current incumbents, please describe the steps that these incumbents have taken to upgrade their education, skills and/or experience to fit the changed position?
The point of the questionnaire isn't to discourage managers from requesting re-evaluations, although it may have that affect in some cases. Rather, its intent is to force some description and documentation as to the presumed underlying value growth that would justify a potential upgrade.
Grade creep or value growth? A tough call sometimes, but I think it is our responsibility to support the latter while helping keep the former at bay.
What do you think?