· Features

The evolution of job levelling

An evolving approach as to how and where work is done is challenging the traditional concept of a job

Over the last 10 years we have seen a fundamental shift in the concept of a career; characterised by a heightened emphasis on employee expectations and engagement. This in turn has led to ever more flexible and inter-connected approaches from employers in defining an employee experience that aligns with business strategy, helps attract and retain top talent, and appeals to perceptions of work/life balance.

We regularly see examples of organisations that have taken a non-traditional approach in delivering a product or service. Such changes require the employer to look at how the company is organised and how business gets done in a new way. This involves a shift from viewing the organisation as a place containing employees that do work, to one that organises work and talent. And similarly, rather than regarding the organisation as a fixed set of functions, the new line of thinking would see it as a malleable set of functions that determines what is done in-house or through some form of external mechanism, which includes the concepts of 'the gig economy', contract employees and outsourcing, among others.

One of the important questions the new way of work creates is: does this signal the end of job levelling, the process by which one determines the relative value of jobs in the organisation, and architecture? No matter what the employee relationship, the building blocks of the reward and career framework remain the same. Job levelling and job architecture will always be the core of reward strategy. But, it does certainly have implications for current approaches so that the architecture can evolve to bring new types of employment relationships into the organisation.

In many companies specific job descriptions are already being superseded by role profiles. As new ways of completing work continue to take hold there is likely to be a further move towards defining jobs as a capability statement of skills and experiences.

With the emerging ways of working, it will be less beneficial to break evaluation down to measure a specific set of job features that emphasise scope and impact. Instead, evaluation is likely to need to consider a broader role based on the competency requirements of the individuals in those roles.

The future of organising work and career progression is likely to focus less on vertical and functional structures and more on skills, capabilities and experiences as mentioned above. Research shows that the younger generation of employees already buy into this idea to a large degree.

But employers will still need to be able to demonstrate career advancement pathways and clarity of objectives to attract, retain and engage top talent. One solution would be for human resources professionals to start working towards a common language for job architecture and skill progression, in the same way that job levelling systems, have evolved.

That need for recognition and understanding of the opportunities that may be available within an organisation will be amplified by more permeable work boundaries and greater sharing and exchange of talent. This is another strong rationale for moving towards an industry standard for job levelling and architecture, so that companies can demonstrate their unique qualities.

There is a growing body of evidence, research and opinion that work is changing, and with it our accepted notions of a ‘job’, a ‘career’ and an ‘employee’. And in this dynamic environment, expectations on both sides of the employer/employee relationship are inevitably shifting too.

Angel Hoover is EMEA region talent management and organisational alignment practice leader at Willis Towers Watson