Job evaluation exists to assist organisations of varying scale and industry to develop equitable pay arrangements across all locations and occupations with a standardised method for determining work value.
The Early Days of Job Evaluation
Contemporary job evaluation elements have evolved from originating methodologies dating back to the 1930s and 1950s. Early users were predominantly government, in particular the defence forces.
Key elements in the “traditional” job evaluation methodology considered the following:
- knowledge and experience requirements;
- the complexity of the role and the organisational setting in which the role existed;
- the demand for analysis and judgement;
- the requirement for engagement with people both internally and externally;
- the position’s leadership demands;
- the nature of the position’s accountability for organisation resources or the provision of technical or professional guidance or advice and the level of authority possessed.
Some methodologies also considered the environment in which work was undertaken. These considerations would include work-based risks such as flying a plane, operating a ship at sea, working shifts of varying duration, or working in hazardous mining environments or in remote settings subject to significant temperature variation.
Work Value, Education and the Changing World of Work
The relative importance of these elements in measuring work value has been modified over recent decades in response to the many and diverse challenges which have impacted the world of work since the 1950s.
On the one hand, many jobs and professions have undergone a diminution in demand or even extinction, while on the other hand new jobs and professions have emerged.
The fundamentals of work in relation to most jobs and professions have been impacted more by the dramatic developments in mechanisation and IT than any other influence. However, momentum is also gathering in relation to the imminent impact of artificial intelligence and robotics on almost every aspect of the modern workforce and society in general.
These milestones have expanded the training options offered to the workforce in vocational and technical education and through universities.
In recent decades, the employment of individuals who have completed doctorate programs at university has increased. This has boosted expertise available to employers in the public and private sectors and universities, enabling them to accommodate changing workforce and economic demands at enterprise, regional and national levels and globally.
As a consequence, increased demand is now placed upon employers to establish equitable pay relativity between highly varied positions across diverse workforces.
Employers are increasingly looking at the “individual attributes” of their employees. In particular, those attributes that most align with a role’s requirements to interact with others, such as suppliers, customers and fellow workers irrespective of whether individuals work autonomously or provide or receive supervision or direction.
The notion of the value and relevance of skills as they have been acquired through life experience, rather than through formal institutional or vocational study, has emerged as a new element for consideration in both job evaluation and pay outcomes which reflect both years of work experience and performance.
Similarly, skills articulated in some academic circles as “invisible” are nevertheless being ascribed as important attributes when determining work value.
The Impact of Diminishing Standards in Education
Since the early 2000s, there has been a gradual but significant decline in the number of school leavers obtaining “on the job training” and skills such as those acquired through apprenticeships.
Increasingly, it is the training received through tertiary programs that underpin individuals being “qualified” to begin their foray into the world of work. The critical role which secondary education had held for decades in preparing students to step from school into an apprenticeship or on-the-job training appears to be weakening.
Where previously the entry level required for a high school graduate to gain a place at university to acquire, for example, a Bachelor’s degree, would have been an ATAR score in the order of 75.
Today, school leavers with a tertiary entry score below 60 (out of a potential 100) are being offered places at university to undertake three and four-year degrees. In a former time, these students would not have been offered a university place.
We may be observing a systematic “dumbing down” of current and future generations as secondary schools need only ensure that a sufficient proportion of their student population – say, 70% – are able to qualify for university placement at these low entry levels.
We are also discovering that the educational standards of school leavers in many regions are not keeping pace with our international counterparts.
These are factors which will continue to have a broad influence on access to the workforce and to tertiary education including universities – again, where economic factors rather than intellectual and educational merit may be dumbing down the basic requirements for qualification and in that context, impacting on the “quality” of the majority of those acquiring certificates, diplomas and degrees.
Job Evaluation, Work Value, Equity and The Economy
To assume that university entrance with an ATAR score of less than 50 will subject a student to course demands equivalent to courses requiring an ATAR score above, say, 85 appears indefensible on face value. To equally assume that small to medium sized businesses have the capacity to invest significant funds in employee training and development is also problematic.
In this context, pay and employability linked to education, life and work experience are critical ingredients in managing our nation’s prosperity.
A coalescing of the various issues outlined above will eventually require different forms of assessment of the professional, technical and administrative requirements for many occupations.
Work value assessments across occupations or within occupations are becoming more problematic. This is irrespective of whether or not that work value is undertaken within an organisation or externally by an employer group or a union endeavouring to use traditional understandings of the input and output of occupations which have changed dramatically over the past generation.
The “work value” of many roles and occupations, regardless of their sector, may require revision where – for example – a proposition is put that a lawyer, a pharmacist, a scientist, an engineer, an accountant, a school teacher and a journalist will all enter the workforce in roles of equivalent value yet with radically different day-to-day position accountabilities and career horizons.
While this is a national challenge, it is equally a challenge in managing the equitable assessment of work value within an occupational stream. This is particularly relevant across occupations where the demands are influenced by the community’s expectation and tolerances, employers’ expectations and those of their stakeholders, and wages productivity in a multitude of highly varied settings.
Community pay equity will also be influenced by the employer’s source of funds (investors or tax payers), its economic priorities and its customers willingness/capacity to purchase its products or services.
Education and Employability
Pay and employability linked to education, life and work experience are also critical components in managing our nation’s prosperity.
The recent QS World University Rankings reveal that 25 out of Australia’s 35 universities improved their overall performance, with five ranked in the top 50 universities in the world.
Australia’s top three universities by rank included Melbourne University, the University of Sydney and the Australian National University.
In terms of the top 50 global universities for employability of graduates, Melbourne University held the highest rank, followed by Sydney University, the University of NSW and Monash.
This is particularly encouraging given the significant growth in the student populations of Australia’s leading universities.
Equally interesting is the fact that some universities which rank less well in relation to academic strength rate far more favourably in relation to employability. This was the case in relation to RMIT in Melbourne, a university which has increased its focus on employability.
This factor clearly highlights the priority which universities may have as their prime focus. Is it optimising their global reputation in research or employment?
Of additional interest, particularly in relation to the economic strength of Australian universities, is that of the top 50 universities in the world in relation to their international student population, nine were Australia-based.
Making Job Evaluation Work in a Rapidly Changing World
Job evaluation is a long-standing specialisation which has evolved in complexity over almost a century.
The present climate of rapid social, economic and technological change is placing a renewed emphasis on the importance of job evaluation as a means of ensuring all organisations, regardless of sector or location, are able to confidently assess work value and apply equitable pay arrangements for all occupations.
It is critical that job evaluation methodologies adapt to these complexities at a rate that ensures the resilience and reliability of these methodologies, and that practitioners remain both competent and current in their methodology’s applications.
It is equally critical that work value assessment continues to be underpinned by tangible, objective and realistic relativities. The broadening of job evaluation to assign a work value to “invisible skills” essential in selected roles may have merit, but needs to hasten slowly to ensure it is not used opportunistically or applied ineptly, particularly where individual attributes are a critical ingredient to the effective performance of the role.