Job analysis and evaluation used to be one of the staple tasks assigned to the HR department, but could this method of classifying job descriptions and allocating pay grades soon be consigned to the scrapheap?
The problem with hierarchies
Job analysis and evaluation is very much tied in with the notion of a governing hierarchy.
Whether your job description is graded using a points system or factor-comparison (e.g. the Hay Profile Method), the result is that your pay is largely determined by your role, rather than your performance, and if you want more money and autonomy you have to advance to the next rung of the ladder.
The trouble with such a system is that high-performing and motivated employees can soon become disillusioned when their efforts are not appreciated or rewarded, particularly if there is little or no chance of promotion to the next grade.
Hierarchies (also known as ‘tall organisations‘) are popular because they provide an efficient means of control; managers tend to have a narrow reporting base, meaning only a small number of subordinates report into them.
But hierarchies also tend to organise the working environment by rank, with the higher levels of management separated from the workface not only by grade and payscale, but by distance, reducing effective co-operation.
Are flat organisations smarter?
Flat organisations have fewer levels on the hierarchical pyramid which means there are less managers with a proportionally larger reporting base. Physically, the flat organisation will usually be more open plan with various departments sitting together and, in extreme cases, even management working alongside everyone else.
This is immediately more conducive to collaboration, helps overcome the ‘silo‘ effect and is better for company morale. Since there are more subordinates for managers to oversee, there is more space for employees to work autonomously and prove themselves. Companies not only save money by employing less managers, they can also be more creative with pay structures, choosing to implement more incentives and performance-related bonuses.
External equity: a spanner in the works?
Given the above advantages of flat organisation, is job analysis an administrative waste of time that should be immediately abolished?
Possibly, but there is one key advantage of job evaluation that shouldn’t be ignored: ensuring external equity.
As every HR employee will know, one of the major reasons for classifying and ranking job roles is to ensure that the people employed in those positions are earning a similar salary to employees working in a similar role with another company – external equity. This enables strategic management of payscales to balance the bottom line with the need to attract and retain competent employees. But without recognised roles and job descriptions, the danger of exceeding average market pay or lagging behind is increased – both equally a threat to the company’s growth potential.
Additionally, a flat organisation requires very skilful management to ensure employees remain productive and managers are able to implement top-level strategies.
In some ways, we are in a transitional state between two very different ways of working, leaving behind a structured, productive but ultimately demoralising system and moving towards a more flexible, collaborative and performance-orientated one.
Ultimately, the most successful companies are likely to be those that take the best out of both paradigns and manage the change most effectively.
(c) New To HR.
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