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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University August 30, 2004 | Vol. 34 No. 1
HR Looks to Revamp Job, Pay System

JHU, JHHS to devise more flexible, less cumbersome classifications

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

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 Overall, the current system is too complex and outdated.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 HopkinsOne 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 positions.

"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 equitable."

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 of positions.

"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 the university."

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."


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