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The Patterson job evaluation system

JOB evaluation is establishing the relative value of jobs in an organisation. This leads to the rank order of all jobs by grade. The grading structure is used to anchor the development of an equitable pay structure.

The process of evaluating jobs should be viewed as fair and logical. This allows the organisation to develop a defensible pay structure. The biggest challenge as you embark on a job exercise is managing employees’ expectations regardless of which system you will use. Specifically dealing with the expectation that a job evaluation will lead to salary adjustments.

Zimbabwe’s most popular job evaluation system is the Patterson system, and 54% of Zimbabwean organisations use it. The Castellion system is second at 34% of the organisation. The other systems share the balance. Professor T.T Paterson developed the Patterson system. He was a multi-disciplinary scholar; in biological sciences, anthropology and psychology.  Using factor analysis of various job grading factors, Professor Patterson discovered that all other previously used factors in grading jobs were loading on one factor; decision-making. Therefore the Patterson system grades jobs based on the level and complexity of decisions made by each job.

The decision bands range from A to F, with F being the highest decision band. Each band is further subdivided into higher and lower except for band A, which does not have such a subdivision. The lower part of the band has subgrades 1, 2, and 3. The upper part of the band has 4 and 5. These grades apply to all bands except grade A. The upper part of the band is often reserved for the jobs that coordinate or supervise other jobs. You can find self- coordinating roles; these are normally specialists. Band A has subgrades 1, 2 and 3 only. The number of subgrades in each Band largely depends on each organisation’s needs; some have fewer than five subgrades in each Band.

The process of job grading using the Patterson system starts with placing jobs into a Band (A to F) followed by sub-grading. The placement of jobs into bands is based on the contents of each job, especially the decision making part of the job. It is essential that before placing jobs into bands, you understand the content of each job fully.

The challenge you need to be aware of is that job descriptions are often poorly done, such that the decision latitude and scope of a role are not clear or are exaggerated. You need to be thorough and meticulous in developing credible job descriptions to address this. This is the biggest challenge for any job evaluation project.

The F-band deals with decisions that focus on the organisation’s direction. These decisions are often associated with the demise or survival of the organisation. The Band handles some of the most complex decisions. These are decisions often taken by CEOs of big and complex organisations. At this level, “Parameters are wide and mostly only restricted by the laws of the country of operation as well as economic, social, technological or political considerations”.

The roles at this level “decides the strategy, policy and implementation for a national/regional organisation, major subsidiary or several business units/functions”. Decisions made at this level are made under considerable uncertainty. The impact of decisions made at this level may impact the organisation in five to 10 years. Roles at this level normally sits on the company board.

The E-band’s roles are responsible for decisions related to the execution of strategies set at band F. These roles are focused on strategic decisions related to resources optimisation in line with the strategies set above. In this Band, you find CEO/GMs of business units that are not complex. You also find senior support function roles responsible for making business unit or group-wide support function decisions.

“The complexity of work at this level arises from the need for a management team to optimise resource allocation/utilisation across the company and translate strategy into action and performance.”

The D-band “interprets the overall business plan, programmes, and strategies formulated at Bands F and E and develops the required best practice, operational systems, rules, regulations and budgets to achieve the business goals of their particular department/unit/function area/discipline”.

This is the band for frontline operational managers. The roles at this level are responsible for crafting best practice systems and monitoring how such systems are working.

The focus of the C-band is to lead a team and produce. “The work in this decision band is governed by the plans, rules and regulations already established at ‘D-band’ and above.” The decisions made at this level are not considered precedent-setting as band D roles develop most of the parameters used at this level. In this Band C, you also find professional roles.  At the B-band is level, roles work within established procedures and if in doubt, incumbents need to ask. “This involves work in which the processes (an integrated combination of activities or operations) are already specified, and freedom of choice is restricted to the operations within the process.” The A-band – “The process and cycle of operations are laid down and are self-evident. The job incumbent is told what is to be done, why, where and when. The work usually involves using basic tools and/or equipment to fulfill parts of the operation. Work is normally carried under direct supervision, and the job incumbent rarely has to understand the interrelationship of their job with others.” This is the lowest Band for most routine and unskilled roles. There is value that can accrue to your organisation if you properly carry out a job evaluation.

  • Nguwi is an occupational psychologist, data scientist, speaker and managing consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a management and human resources consulting firm. — https://www.thehumancapitalhub.com or e-mail: mnguwi@ipcconsultants.com.

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