Job evaluation was laid to rest in the 1980s and 90s - or so we thought


Job evaluation was laid to rest in the 1980s and 90s - or so we thought

The obituary of job evaluation has been written many times over the past 30 years. Duncan Brown and Brian Dive, writing in a recent edition of People Management magazine, ask whether it ever really did die.

Recent research in the area, including the latest job evaluation survey by e-reward, revealed a “picture of surprisingly robust health and expansion, rather than decay”, the authors say. So why is the practice growing and how is it adapting to our changing economic climate?


Equal pay pressures

For Brown, who is director, HR business development, at the Institute for Employment Studies, and Dive, an independent consultant and writer, two words seem to sum up the modern rationale for job evaluation: equal pay. “With the main political parties all claiming ownership of a ‘fairness’ agenda, and the government’s proposed equality bill about to strengthen the legislative framework, the attractions of analytical job evaluation to defend against equal pay claims are obvious.”

As the authors point out, the multi-billion-pound cost of pay harmonisation in local government and a series of equal pay claims in financial services have focused the minds of chief executives and HR directors on the need for a rational, defensible foundation for their pay arrangements.

Work levels

But for Brown and Dive in order to really understand contemporary practice, you need to look beyond this defensive rationale for job evaluation and consider two other pairs of words: organisation design and talent management.

Rather than “traditional, resource-hungry points factor approaches”, companies such as Unilever, Tesco and Vodafone are, according to the authors, leading a growing band of organisations using “newer, semi-analytical methods”. The aim, it seems, is to “develop flatter, more flexible organisation and job designs in which future leadership talent can flow and grow.”

Brown and Dive conclude: “By evolving to meet the needs of organisations for more fluid structures, more market- and person-driven pay and more talented leaders - as well as performing its traditional function as a foundation for fair pay management - job evaluation seems to be securing its place in the HR professional’s toolkit for the foreseeable future.”

A final word

“Although they make for a more varied, sometimes confusing, landscape of methods – which may not even be called job evaluation – if adaptability rather than single, strong features explain evolutionary success, this diversity has to be positive for the long-term relevance of the concept.” - Duncan Brown and Brian Dive, People Management, 15 January 2009.

Want to know more?

Title: “Level pegging”, by Duncan Brown and Brian Dive, People Management, 15 January 2009.

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