Another Defense of Point-Factor Job Evaluation

By Barret, Gerald V.; Doverspike, Dennis | Personnel, March 1989 | Go to article overview

Another Defense of Point-Factor Job Evaluation


Barret, Gerald V., Doverspike, Dennis, Personnel


Another Defense Of Point-Factor Job Evaluation

In his article "What's Wrong with Point-Factor Job Evaluation" (Personnel, January 1987), Edward E. Lawler III described various problems or deficiencies inherent in the use of traditional point-factor job-evaluation systems. In the article, Lawler admitted that his description was biased; however, we should remember that an argument can be biased in at least two ways: (1) The author can give undue weight to negative information; and (2) he or she can present negative information that is unsupported or contradicted by the available literature on the subject. Lawler's article appears to suffer from both types of bias.

Lawler rationalizes his approach by arguing that it is necessary as a pedagogical device, since organizations often adopt point-factor approaches without being aware of the effects. However, as a result of comparable-worth theory, there are already numerous articles that present negative information (and, frequently, misinformation) on the properties of job evaluation. Thus many organizations, especially public-sector agencies, have access to substantial negative information on job evaluation. For this reason, the authors reject Lawler's basic pedagogical assumption and believe that it requires a reply.

Job Description

He begins his article by arguing that the job descriptions that form the basis for point-factor job evaluation reflect a bureaucratic management style; as a result, these job descriptions are tight and reflect a control orientation on the part of management. In this kind of management, job evaluation rewards what people actually do, not what they can do.

The job description is usually recognized as the foundation of the modern personnel system; as such, it does require a certain degree of detail. However, as a result of their many uses, job descriptions are often written at a fairly general level.

The job description usually includes a list of job specifications that state the skills, knowledge, and abilities needed to perform the job correctly; these job specifications correspond to the job-evaluation factors in the point method. Thus traditional point-method job evaluation does not directly reward what is done on the job; rather, it rewards only the knowledge and skills needed to do the job--as specified in the job description.

One of the common criticisms of job evaluation is that any change in a job duty or responsibility will automatically result in a change in the number of points assigned to the job. Many times, however, this is not the case. For example, the level of education required to perform most clerical jobs will not change as a result of minor alterations in the job duties and responsibilities. Job specifications are relatively broad banded; for instance, an experience level may range from "zero to six months," or an education level may specify "less than college required." Thus there is a fair amount of flexibility in the system; changes in job duties, tasks, and responsibilities need not actually change the number of points assigned to that job.

Most job descriptions also contain a phrase indicating that in addition to the responsibilities listed, the employee is also responsible for any other assigned duties and for various miscellaneous duties as well. Employees only begin to complain in such instances when (1) they are asked to routinely perform activities that are more complex or that entail greater responsibility than their basic duties and (2) they feel they are not being adequately compensated for performing these activities. Employees will show this concern whether or not job descriptions exist and regardless of management style.

Lawler also offers several unique views on cause and effect in relation to the point method. One such view is that because job descriptions are often found in bureaucratic organizations, they consequently reflect a bureaucratic management style. …

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