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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University September 6, 2005 | Vol. 35 No. 1
New Compensation System for Staff Is Unveiled

Role- and level-based system to replace current pay grades in spring 2006

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

The Johns Hopkins University and Health System have recently completed the design of a new job classification system. For the university, this new system, scheduled for implementation in spring 2006, will replace the current pay grade system that has been in place for more than 20 years.

"This is a monumental effort and a very significant one," said Belinda Crough, the university's senior director for compensation and project manager. "We are changing our classification system, and the new one will be very different from how we currently classify jobs."

The university and health system embarked in August 2004 on an extensive enterprisewide staff compensation study with the assistance of Watson Wyatt consultants. The result is a role- and contribution-based classification system with market-based salary ranges. Each position will be assigned a role (operations, professional or leadership) and one of six levels based on its contribution to the organization. Salary ranges will be assigned to each position based on what the market is paying for similar types of positions.

"Basically, we hope that managers and supervisors will find the new system much easier to work with and more in line with their day-to-day operational requirements, especially in relation to defining jobs and recruiting, motivating and rewarding staff," Crough said.

The university's current system, which assigns a pay grade for each and every position, is viewed as cumbersome to maintain, hard to understand and unresponsive to the changing and dynamic work environment at Johns Hopkins, according to Charlene Hayes, vice president for human resources.

"It became clear to me that we are spending too much time on a process that is no longer meeting the needs of our managers," Hayes said. "One of my goals is to weed out the time-consuming processes that prevent us from doing more value-added work and create systems and processes that support and facilitate the work of Johns Hopkins."

The opportunity to replace the current system presented itself with the onset of the HopkinsOne project, a massive effort to re-engineer all the university's and health system's financial and administrative processes, one of which is human resources. The core components of HopkinsOne are scheduled to go live in July 2006, the earliest time that the new compensation system would be implemented.

A team of compensation analysts in the Office of Human Resources has begun the review of more than 9,000 positions using the new classification system. To assist the team, advisory groups composed of subject matter experts from constituencies throughout the institutions are being formed. The most important tasks of the advisory groups are to provide information and answer questions about jobs under review and to give the compensation team feedback and input on its job classifications.

To date, jobs in human resources and research support have been reviewed. The advisory groups for the development, financial and office/clerical/administrative support job families will be convened next. While the reviews are being conducted, new salary ranges that are more aligned with the market are being developed. At the same time, the university has also begun examining its pay policies and procedures with the goal of updating them and developing new ones as appropriate.

"We want our pay policies and procedures to be more flexible and closely aligned with the new classification system to the extent possible, and as our financial resources would allow," Crough said.

At the university, the new pay program applies only to staff members. Corporate officers, faculty and other academic appointees, fellows, students and bargaining unit members are not included.

Crough said that some employees are concerned about the impact of the new system on their salaries.

"What folks need to know is that their current pay will not be reduced as a direct result of their job classification in the new system, [and] because the university will still need to live within its current financial resources, staff should not automatically expect that they will be getting a salary increase with the implementation of the new system in the spring of 2006," she said.

During the implementation period, job reclassification reviews have been suspended to devote time to completing this study. However, during the next year departments can still recognize and reward staff for significant additional responsibilities or changes in job duties through a salary increase. When this occurs, the staff member's job title and grade will not be changed.

Hayes said that the new system will not focus on the minutia attached to each position but rather on the general role the individual plays and the manner in which he or she contributes to the organization.

"It is a whole new way of thinking, and it is my hope that employees will begin to focus more on their contributions to the university and less on their pay grades," she said. "Our hardest work is likely ahead. While it has not been easy to create the system, facilitating the culture shift that is yet to come among managers and employees is a monumental task."

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