The Johns Hopkins University and Health System
embarked this month on an extensive enterprisewide
compensation study that will ultimately result in a totally
new system for classifying and compensating employees.
The major goals of the study, which will run through
March 31, 2005, are to design a new job classification
system, establish more competitive and market-based pay
policies, and develop a job code structure with
standardized and compatible job titles.
The current system, which has been in place for more
than 20 years and assigns a pay grade for each and every
position, is viewed as too cumbersome to maintain, hard to
understand and unresponsive to changes in the employment
landscape, said Charlene Hayes, vice
president for human resources.
Hayes said that the university realized the need for a
new approach to classifying staff positions, one that is
more flexible, easy to administer, recognizes individual
performances and promotes career growth and development.
"We are faced with changes in technology and
expectations in the workplace, yet we are stuck with these
numerous pay grades that sometimes don't reflect the
demands of the job or its relative value in the market,"
Hayes said. "We are constantly trying to fit salaries
within these salary ranges. Overall, the current system is
too complex and outdated. You can have a position that is
totally different from when that job was first created or
when the grade level was first envisioned, so we are
constantly having to make adjustments."
The opportunity to develop a job code structure
presented itself with the onset of the
project, a massive effort to re-engineer all the Johns
Hopkins University and Health System's financial and
administrative processes, one of which is payroll. The core
components of HopkinsOne are scheduled to go live in July
2006, the earliest time that the new compensation system
would be implemented.
To help in the compensation study, Johns Hopkins has
contracted Watson Wyatt Worldwide, a human resources
consulting firm. During the next several months, the firm
will work alongside compensation staff and representatives
from different areas of the university and health system to
conduct the study and make recommendations for changes. The
HopkinsOne HR/Payroll team also will participate in the
effort to develop a new job code structure.
Specifically, senior leadership and selected groups of
employees will be interviewed to help identify what would
be a better job classification system. Watson Wyatt
Worldwide will also gather market data on the full range of
positions to use as a benchmark for the new system.
The study will gather all existing job descriptions
and review every staff position at the university and
health system. A person's grade, job title and salary range
structure may change as a result of the study, said Belinda
Crough, the university's senior director for compensation
and project manager for the study.
Crough said that the current system has pay grades
that are differentiated by fine details that are mostly
unclear to all but compensation staff who classify the
"People generally are not able to see what the
differences are between this job and that job, unless you
know some of the nuances," she said. "And because it is so
hard to understand, people don't see it as fair and
Hayes said that the new system will likely do away
with pay grades and in their place introduce level-based
classifications that more accurately reflect the person's
roles and contributions.
"People are not able to distinguish between a
[current] grade 37 and 38. A person might ask, Why am I a
37 and she is a 38 when it looks to me that we are doing
the same things?" Hayes said. "Pay grades don't really say
much about what a person contributes to the organization,
but this new system will."
The creation of job codes will facilitate the
implementation of HopkinsOne, Hayes said, and will offer a
basis for comparative studies and allow for easier slotting
"A job code is the basis for doing all the reporting
and comparisons. It lays the foundation for producing a
report, say, if you want to ask, What is the salary range
we pay to all the IT techs at Johns Hopkins University? You
can use that job code to identify that group," she said.
The implementation of job codes will also likely
result in more uniform and consistent job titles, which
will significantly reduce the current number, Crough said.
A new compensation system, she said, will also require the
university and health system to re-examine their policies
on promotions, transfers and pay increases.
"These policies will all need to be reviewed and,
quite possibly, modified or replaced with something else,"
she said. "The goal, of course, is not to take away salary
increase opportunities but to have a system that is more
responsive to the rapid changes that are going on across
For the duration of the classification study, the
university will suspend the review of positions for
reclassification. During this period, departments seeking
salary increases for staff due to additional
responsibilities or changes in job duties — normally
resulting in a reclassification increase or in-grade salary
adjustment — can do so if they follow specific guidelines
laid out by the Office of Human Resources.
Hayes said that the study will be mostly invisible to
employees. However, people will be asked, if they haven't
been already, to ensure that Human Resources has their
current job description.
"I really believe that, all around, people here will
be much happier with the new system when all is said and
done," Hayes said. "Our current classification system is a
mystery to employees. Our new system will take away the
smoke and mirrors. People will have a better understanding
of how we value their jobs in terms of the compensation we
provide them, and the process will be more closely tied to
the market. People should see that the system reflects
better what we are all doing in our jobs today."