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This is the second piece of a three part article.
It Isn’t Pay, But It Can Uncover Skeletons
Aside from the particular gripes from supervisors and employees, the job evaluation process is not a pay or compensation system. The job evaluation process does ignore, for the most part, outside market and competitive forces. The process does make sense intuitively because the “more” a job requires, the more the pay—the “tougher jobs” get paid more than the easy jobs.
In reality, the job evaluation process ignores market forces and ignores skill or labor shortages. While it is “tied” to a pay system, it is distinct from “competitive pay.” So it should be no surprise that the job evaluation process does not necessarily help recruitment, especially when considering the demand for special skills. Over the past 20 years the spreadsheet has become synonymous with “analysis.” In the 1980s, the ability to create and to maneuver within the bowels of a spreadsheet was a sought after job requirement. An organization would be willing to pay more for this scarce analytical skill. No problem for a small to medium size non-public company. For the large, bureaucratic organization, especially a public entity, the Job Analyst would have to incorporate into the position description this new ability and probably inflate its description to “get enough points” in a factor to raise the salary of the position. This arduous exercise frustrated both the Job Analyst and the supervisor. Ironically, now such “must have” analytical skills are possessed by high school and 2 year college graduates and are usually referenced in one sentence in the position description.
At times, the job evaluation process gets a “bad rap” because it uncovers work flow problems or bad management practices. Such disclosure can happen because of a “random” work audit. It is not uncommon that such random audit reveals that an employee is not completing assignments as described in the position description. The cause of the disconnect may be a poor work process.
To illustrate with a situation where an Accountant cannot “do” professional accounting work.
Normally an automated pay system will not issue a payment unless all required information is present—like the payee, payee account, amount and the accounting information to identify the type of payment. This could include contract number, product or service provided, etc. However, Management may be decide to allow for a payment to be issued without all the correct or complete accounting data. The payment system knows the payee, knows the amount and knows where to send the payment but complete accounting data is not in the system. Such payments are issued, but a special “exception” report is generated. So payments will generated (as an exception) without the corresponding accounting information. While this is not good accounting, an “exception report” is produced, showing that these payments need to be identified with their appropriate accounting data.
So perhaps in another part of the organization, a professional and well-paid Accountant may be responsible for analyzing various expense and funding reports, examining fund balances, tracking trends, and providing top management with an assessment of the financial posture of the unit, but because these “exception payments” need to be cleaned up before expense and funding reports are analyzed and issued, the Accountant must spend time researching and correcting individual transactions in order that some kind of report be issued. So the organization compensates a professional Accountant to work the “exception report” and to do data/coding entry/correction. Where is the time for analysis?
Finally there may be an HR practice that serves to “muck up” and just make the job evaluation process susceptible to compromise. Companies and agencies will often use “blanket” or template position descriptions covering a standard set of duties and responsibilities. This is a practice that makes sense because there is no need to have individual position descriptions for fifty Pay Technicians who are doing the same duties and responsibilities. However, there can be a downside to using templates. Sometimes such “blanket” position descriptions serve to facilitate or to camouflage assignment discrepancies. For example, a purchasing or contract unit may have 25 to 35 Purchase Order or Contract Specialists administering hundreds of POs and contracts. Some contracts/POs may be quite straightforward and simple; others may be very technical, containing cost and pricing conditions subject to change and wise variations.
The “Senior” or Lead staff works with “complex” instruments, where there may be many specification and pricing changes. The rest of the Contract Specialists work with standard or fixed price orders. There may be only two blanket position descriptions for the unit, one description for the Seniors and one for all others. It would not be surprising to find with an audit of all the employees that 15 percent to 30 percent of the actual assignments in the unit do not match with the description of duties and responsibilities in the position description. In effect one has several employees, getting paid for working on complex contracts, but not working on such contracts; on the other hand, one has several employees, getting paid for working on standard contracts, but really working on complex instruments. Furthermore, managers and supervisors are fooling themselves, if they think that employees do not see the disconnect.
Don Busi is currently a part-time instructor at a local two-year college near Cleveland, OH. A retired Department of Defense and Office of Personnel Management (US CSC)
employee: 20 years in financial management and 10 years in personnel management. Served as chief, classification and pay for 5 years in Cleveland with the DoD. Email: [email protected]