Building an equitable workforce

A guide to job architecture and pay equity audits.

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Job architecture is the process of defining and organizing the roles and responsibilities within an organization to create a clear and efficient structure. You might think of it as the explanation, or strategy, behind your organizational chart. While an organizational chart depicts what is in terms of structure and positions, job architecture digs deeper into the why of the job-what they are intended to do and how they are valued.

While having a clearly defined job architecture can be very helpful in ensuring pay equity, it's not a prerequisite to conducting a pay equity audit or to ensuring fair pay. It is, however, a great way to help company leaders, HR professionals, and managers think about and understand how the various positions within your organization relate to each other. In fact, conducting a pay equity audit can be a great first step in formalizing your job architecture. Without objectively defining roles and responsibilities, organizations will be challenged to accurately value jobs and determine how various roles will be compensated based on the jobs' contributions to the organization. For instance, are all director-level jobs worth the same to an organization? Clearly, the answer is "no." But how can we appropriately assess the factors that roll up into determining the relative value of a job to ensure both internal and external equity?

That's where the development of job architecture comes into play. In this guide, we take a look at the steps involved in creating an organized job architecture to help ensure that pay practices are equitable and compensation decisions are as objective as possible.

Step 1 Conduct an Analysis
Step 1

Conduct an analysis of your current job structure

The first step in developing a job architecture is examining the company's current job roles, job titles, job descriptions, and pay ranges. Let's say a small company, for example, consists of the following positions:

  • CEO
  • Administrative assistant to the CEO
  • Finance director
  • Administrative assistant to the finance director
  • Sales director
  • Administrative assistant to the sales director
  • Sales staff
  • Receptionist

In this first step, the organizations must make sure that all current job roles are appropriately classified, that job titles are accurate and reflective to the job, that job descriptions are up to date, and correct, and that pay ranges are accurate.

This might involve a simple analysis by HR, based on a review of jobs, job descriptions, and pay ranges. It is simply a "what is" or "current state" analysis.

Step 2 Gather Input
Step 2

Gather input to evaluate the organization's needs and goals

Different organizations have different goals and objectives which drive their success. The key drivers of success will be aligned with specific positions designed to generate desired results. The greater the impact of these results, the more highly valued the role.

In this step, information and input will be gathered from employees, managers, and other stakeholders (for instance, customers) to get a broad understanding of the organization's needs and goals. This understanding helps to ensure that the job architecture aligns with the organization's overall strategy and objectives.

Gathering input from a wide range of perspectives is helpful in ensuring both clarity and accuracy. These different perspectives are all valid but may vary in terms of defining the work that is done, how it is done, and its impact on the organization.

For instance, a supervisor or manager has one view of an employee's job and may feel they fully understand how the job is performed. The employee, though, may have a different perspective on the job and how it is performed. Coworkers, internal customers, external customers, and others will also have valuable and useful perspectives.

Through this process, changes may be made to the job description. For instance, the manager may learn that an employee is regularly doing a task, or doing a task in a certain way, that is unnecessary. Conversely, the input gathered may reveal an important part of the employee's role that has not been captured in the job description-or a new customer or company need that requires the addition of a new task or responsibility

Step 3 Develop
Step 3

Develop a clear and consistent method for classifying jobs

A variety of factors will go into the evaluation of each job. Those factors should be clear, measurable, and objective enough to allow the accurate classification of positions.

There are models that have been used as an aid in this process. The Hay Method of Job Evaluation is one of the most widely known. It assesses three factors:

Other factors to consider might include:


The criteria used will likely vary by organization. It's important, though, that consistent criteria be used to evaluate all roles. This is an important step toward helping ensure that jobs are appropriately grouped and that pay ranges are fair and equitable. To ensure equity, of course, you will need to conduct a pay equity audit.

Step 4 Establish a System
Step 4

Establish a system for evaluating and re-evaluating job architecture

The environment that impacts the value of jobs is impacted regularly by both internal and external factors that change frequently. For example, advances in technology that might eliminate or impact elements of a job, the increasing competition that reduces the availability of employees with certain skills, economic shifts, etc.

Organizations should plan to review their overall job architecture regularly, possibly on an annual basis, from a high-level perspective. In addition, there are other events that could trigger a review or re-evaluation: a significant change in job duties which might be related to technology, outsourcing, or some other impact; posting of a job opening; restructuring; introduction of new products and services, or expansion into new markets; merger and acquisition; etc.

The regular review ensures that your job architecture remains accurate, reliable, and in line with the organization's goals and objectives.

Continuously monitoring and analyzing job data is important to ensure that pay equity is maintained over time.

Step 5 Conduct a pay equity 1
Step 5

Conduct a pay equity audit

The establishment of job architecture should trigger an initial pay equity audit if one hasn't been performed already to validate the company's pay practices. Even organizations without job architecture in place, though, should be conducting pay audits on a regular basis. Whether mandated by law or based on internal company standards and policies, organizations should be monitoring pay equity continuously.

A pay equity audit should consider both internal and external equity:

  • Are similarly rated jobs being paid based on the same pay range?
  • Are individuals within specific pay ranges being paid equitably based on their tenure, performance, and other criteria?
  • Are internal pay ranges competitive with market pay for similar positions?

A pay equity audit will identify any potential disparities that exist between employees who are in similar roles-or similarly rated roles. Pay audits can be done using statistical methods to compare pay across different groups of employees.

Step 6 Address Pay Inequities
Step 6

Address any pay disparities

If pay inequities are discovered they need to be addressed through adjustments in pay, or other measures to ensure that pay is fair and equitable. This can obviously have an impact on budget and bottom line.

According to Harvard Business Review, "most companies find that up to 5% of employees are eligible for an increase, and the average salary adjustment typically ranges from 4 to 6%." If that adjustment can't be done all at once, companies may decide to make incremental adjustments over some period of time.

Step 7 Communicate
Step 7

Communicate regularly and transparently about your pay practices

As SHRM notes, communicating regularly and transparently with employees about pay practices and how pay decisions are made is important for ensuring and establishing trust.

Pay practices should be communicated during the hiring and onboarding process, during the annual performance review, and when any changes are made to job architecture or pay practices. Employees need to understand that the company is committed to fair and equitable pay, how they determine what is fair and equitable based on internal and external analysis, how their pay practices work, how those practices impact employees, and where employees should go with any questions or concerns they might have.

It's also important to ensure that supervisors and managers understand the job architecture process and pay practices so that they can accurately and transparently respond to employee questions.

By following the steps outlined here, organizations can develop an accurate, reliable job architecture that supports the organization's goals and objectives and promotes pay equity.

Do you need assistance in establishing job architecture, understanding its role in achieving pay equity, and how software plays a critical role in ensuring equitable compensation?