Staff Study Recommended for Job Evaluation Formula

Article excerpt

At a recent seminar, talk turned to job descriptions and the evaluation of a job's worth relative to others. Two participants were touting a popular and complex system and the consultants who help firms install it. Others, who had been ``done'' by the same system and consultants, were openly hissing.

I expressed grave doubts about the process. But one thoughtful participant pressed me, explaining that his Pittsburgh-based professional services firm recently had acquired another firm; salaries for the same job were all over the map. Surely, he avowed, there was a need to bring about order. And dispassionate consultants, with a rigorous methodology, could provide rational advice.

I again demurred. My alternative advice:

Get the top 15 to 25 people to go ``off site'' for two or three intense days. Schedule long sessions, with a little hiking or skiing to relieve the tension from time to time. Take off the suit coats. Debate, shout, cajole and reformulate. Don't leave until you've hashed out a tentative consensus - informal, but on paper. Repeat the process in miniature, with groups of 10 or 20, at all levels and from all sites. Then re-convene the senior team off site again, to noodle some more and solidify the findings.

The above will probably use up less out-of-pocket cash than calling in consultants, but it will carry a much higher ``opportunity cost'' (days of executive and non-executive time). The payoff, though, will likely be the forging of lasting bonds, some answers to specific problems and, most important, the creation of a process of problem solving that can be eternally helpful.

While I don't dismiss all consultants' algorithms, I believe they are worthless - or worse - in cases of the sort that the seminar participant confronted.

Issues like his are value-laden and emotional. The application of so-called dispassionate and rational schemes for rating jobs (receptionist or partner) may help you get through the day, but it will almost always paper over the real issues.

The mechanistic solution will fall apart in practice. What needs to happen here is plain, vanilla human interaction. Egos must be exercised. Values (core beliefs, local cultural practices) must be aired and compared, with their origins traced and explained. Trust must be developed, and commitment to the solution must be painstakingly sought. Only the expenditure of time, long walks along the beach and maybe a beer or two will help sort out this type of issue.

Make no mistake, I am a bitter opponent of the death grip that committees impose on so many firms. So I'm not talking about creating standing committees, but about people hanging out together, in an only partially-structured setting, to create bonds and work through important problems. …