Over the past several years, job evaluation has undergone a significant change. At the same time, an increasing number of people believe that they are no longer relevant – particularly in dynamic markets and agile organizations. Hkp.com spoke with John Pfeiffer and Verena Vandervelt, Senior Directors of the hkp/// group, regarding both innovative and tried-and-true approaches that are used for job evaluation, including in dynamic organizational structures.

Ms. Vandervelt, Mr. Pfeiffer, do you share the view, which has become more commonly heard recently, that job evaluation is mainly obsolete in agile organizations? 

John Pfeiffer: No, I would say that statement is inaccurate. Taking a broad look at the German market, we currently see that roughly 70% of companies use agile organization or work methods. Many of them also explicitly evaluate agile roles and have found evaluation approaches that illustrate the requirements of these new roles very well. 
Verena Vandervelt: Our consulting practice paints an entirely different picture: Grading is anything but doomed; rather, companies are tailoring it to new requirements in a very pragmatic and flexible manner. 

How exactly do you need to adapt to these requirements? 

Verena Vandervelt: In many cases, agile functions can be evaluated using criteria from the same classic-analytical grading that is already used in the company. Sometimes, simplifications or modifications to the standard system are also made or, where applicable, a solution is developed especially for agile units. This depends on the level of implementation of the agile structures in the company. 

Which different levels of implementation of agile structures are you currently seeing?

John Pfeiffer: We have seen a surprisingly wide continuum of various levels of implementation of agile work methods in companies. These range from pockets of individual agile roles in a company to co-existence of agile and classically organized teams or even business units through to entire organizations that have transitioned to agile organizational structures. 

And what effect does the level of agility have on the evaluation approaches that are used?

Verena Vandervelt: In companies where agile roles are only few and far between, analytical evaluation systems are often used for these roles as well. However, we often also see simplified and rather streamlined approaches in these cases. A summary description of the requirements demanded at various levels of work which can in turn be applied to both classic and agile roles is increasingly popular. 
John Pfeiffer: The descriptions of the levels are mostly based on classic analytical criteria - often focused on the influence and complexity of the role. Typically, in addition to the descriptions, reference functions from various areas that facilitate assigning various functions to grades or levels are defined. 

And how is the job evaluation typically designed when there are many agile teams or agile organizational units in the company?

John Pfeiffer: There are vastly different solutions that are each tailored to the company’s specific situation. Often times, they work using approaches that have been custom-developed for the agile teams, but which are evolved from the principles of the grading systems currently being followed in traditional areas of the company. An advantage of this is that evaluations in classic and agile units can be consistently and compared well with each other, and the evaluation of agile roles does not automatically turn out higher. 
Verena Vandervelt: Here is perhaps an example to illustrate this flexible approach: In one of our projects, three evaluation criteria from the classic job evaluation system with particular relevance for agile roles were selected and reinterpreted specifically for use in agile roles. As a result, this ensures a suitable, but also consistent evaluation of agile roles across the company. 

Do you also see job evaluation approaches that use personal expertise as the basis for evaluation instead of classic criteria?

Verena Vandervelt: We are always happy to discuss a job evaluation based on personal competencies, but it poses various stumbling blocks in practice. This is intended to ensure that only the competencies needed by the company and required in the respective role are evaluated. Furthermore, we occasionally see new approaches that use competencies for describing role requirements. In this case, however, people are generally not evaluated; rather, the requirements for certain roles are described based on competencies instead of “classic” job evaluation criteria. 
John Pfeiffer: Competency descriptions give a modern flair to a job evaluation system, while the evaluation systematics in the background are typically kept in a classic format. 

That sounds interesting. Which other aspects must be taken into account when it comes to evaluation systems for agile roles?

John Pfeiffer: First of all, rather than creating an isolated evaluation system for agile units, it makes sense to ensure that they can be integrated into existing grading structures. Furthermore, we recommend involving employers or the workers’ council at an early stage when developing a new, innovative evaluation system. By doing so, you can identify and address questions regarding the concept, ensuring the implementation can occur according to a mutually supported plan.  
Verena Vandervelt: In our experience, job evaluation systems whose main features are based on already familiar approaches in the company are more easily accepted by the workers’ council and business and can therefore be implemented quite efficiently. 

Thank you for taking part in this interview.

* Photo by FORTYTWO on Unsplash
Author Verena Vandervelt

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