Biased job grading a recipe for industrial relations disaster

There is a seemingly relaxed approach and arbitrary way in the manner in which companies grade jobs.

by Nhamo Kwaramba

Interestingly, some companies claim to have grades yet they do not have any known job evaluation system in place.

In the majority of cases, grades are just apportioned to job incumbents by responsible authorities without due consideration to job grading principles, rules and governing statutes. Unorthodoxy means and gut feeling tactics become the order of the process.

In some cases, shallow investigative methods are used to understand the jobs. This is not good enough for companies and organisations that are serious in establishing proper job grades for staff.

As if that is not enough, I gathered from my interviews with workers that nepotism, favoritism and unprofessionalism come out as major reasons for biased job grading. In companies suffering from the above ills, you find people regarded as bosses failing to articulate the business mandate or philosophy of the company.

Issues that fall under their jurisdiction are referred to juniors. Under such circumstances, I feel that the juniors who know better, deserve better positions than this bunch of good for nothing relatives, friends and buddies, who spend much of their time masquerading as bosses, yet they may be secret agents for others or used as runners for shady deals that have nothing to do with their work.

Following this discourse, I came to the understanding that companies need to do a lot more in clarifying job grading exercise to all staff.

I’m not trying to play a good boy here, neither am I trying to refer to other job evaluation systems as hogwash or bad, but I’m doing this out of great concern for the future so that we avoid creating monstrous situations that will dilute our good intentions and make us look like devils in the making.

In addressing biases in job grading, we must ask ourselves what job grading is and how it works? We must understand the important principles in job evaluation and how they affect job grading?

We must also know the purpose of job grading in job evaluation?
In addressing these questions, we need to broaden our scope and find a common basis with which to answer the questions.

Firstly, we need to demystify some notions concerning job grading. Job grading is not an end itself, but rather a means to an end. There are various stages we must go through before and after the process.

I disagree with people who think that going through a job evaluation manual is all that one needs to know. It’s not enough. There are standard procedures that must be followed.

Those who wish to be involved in job grading or are selected to sit in the job grading committees must have time to study, understand and practice how the system works.

General practice world over dictates that only a person trained in the job evaluation system is allowed to use the system and interpret it in the manner prescribed. If you do not have proper training you must seek guidance and direction from experienced and knowledgeable practitioners. This is the way it should be.

Before job grading takes place, normal expectations and standards for the job must ideally be recognised and accepted by the job incumbent or incumbents, the immediate supervisor and other people who relate closely to the job and management. This reduces the rate of disagreement and confusion to the parties concerned on the activities and tasks performed by the job holder.

Proper performance, in accordance with normal standards for the job, must be assumed on the part of the job incumbent and it must be assumed that all other jobs within the organisation that relate to the job under examination are performed competently and properly.

When conducting a job grading exercise, it must be assumed that the job incumbents have all the necessary personal attributes for acceptability in the job. Even if the job holder is incompetent, you must never confuse the content and requirements of the job with the personal attributes or merits of the job incumbent.

You are grading the job not the person. The issue of poor performance has to be addressed differently through appropriate human resources tools like performance appraisals.

Companies must remember that a person trained in the job evaluation system is the only one who can use it and interpret it in the manner prescribed. This is the reason for the use of external consultants, together with in-house staff.

Having worked with a number of organisations and companies in job grading exercises, I believe that the principles stated above set a good tone for any reasonable job evaluation system.

They indeed constitute the important steps in observing the necessary standards of job grading applications.
Anybody who therefore attempts to evaluate a job in ignorance or defiance of the basic principles is at best liable to cast doubts on the reliability and validity of his evaluation, and at worst can be totally wrong in his final reckoning of the value of the job.

Before and during the grading session, the principles must always be made known and if necessary explained to any uninitiated persons who may be called upon to contribute to the process of evaluating jobs.

This rule need not be observed in the cases of people who are merely invited to give evidence about the content and requirements of jobs, and who will not be involved in actual evaluations. However, depending on the complexity of the job it may be necessary to observe the rule.

In addressing the issue of biased job grading, I advise that you use job grading committees to grade jobs. The committee must have representation from a cross section of departments and levels in order to ensure consistency.

Efforts should be made to achieve consensus in scoring decisions.
It can be helpful if oral evidence is taken in addition to looking at job descriptions.

Often it is useful to take oral evidence from the superior as well. This gives a more complete picture of the job.

The final evaluation of any job should result from a consensus of opinion, and not from the estimation of one person alone. It is therefore important for the person chairing the grading committee to guide others accordingly.

In this modern era, workers need companies that are trustworthy, honest and open to them. After all, workers are the most treasured resource the companies have. They must be consulted on issues that have a bearing on their work.

It does not mean that you lose your responsibility to make decisions, all it means is that you harness important aspects of management that keeps you in good books with your workers.

Decisions, especially those that affect workers must be communicated in time. Suprises are dangerous. Even if you feel that what you are doing is above board you must communicate.
Against this backdrop, and given the breadth and depth of the job grading crisis in some cases, one does not need to be a rocket scientist to understand the gravity of this situation. Something needs to be done.

I therefore call upon all fair minded people to take a leaf from the points stated above to ensure that we promote fairness and professionalism in the manner in which we grade jobs.

These articles are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, President of the Zimbabwe Economics Society (Zes)email Kadenge.zes@gmail.com, cell +263 772 382 852
Nhamo Kwaramba is the Principal Executive Consultant for Capacity Consultancy Group. He is also a motivation and business leadership analyst.

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