Quality and Productivity Database

Descriptive Title of Proposal: Staff Job Design, Evaluation and Compensation
Year Submitted 2019
Person(s) Responsible for the Idea
Name / Nom Title / Titre
Louise Koza Director, Total Compensation
Name of Institution Western University
Office Address 5100 Support Services Buidling
London, Ontario N6A 3K7
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Telephone: 519-871-0360
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.
Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Lynnn Logan
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Vice-President Operations and Finance
Office Address Office of the President
Stevenson Hall
London, Ontario N6A 5B8
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Telephone: 519-661-2111 x83114
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In collaboration with the University of Western Ontario Staff Association, supervisors and administrators across campus, Human Resource staff developed and implemented a sustainable, effective and efficient job evaluation system for staff roles supporting student experience, administration and the research enterprise.

The work began a number of years ago when discussions with the union representatives identified concerns with existing processes including a poorly designed tool for gathering the job information and multiple evaluation plans for various roles represented by the union, all of which did not seem to reflect the significant factors in the work.  Job classifications and salary grids had been maintained but not substantially changed for decades.   There was concern with respect to equitable compensation and minimum competencies required for roles, which had lead to several grievances.  The employees wanted clarity on how work is valued at Western, wanted to understand their career path and how their work compared to other jobs at Western.

Working in a committee with the union, the University developed a new position description questionnaire and a revised job evaluation plan applicable to all roles represented by the union, which was gender neutral. This work was substantially completed in 2013.  Implementation of these new tools was delayed due in part to the lack of clarity on the alignment with the existing job classifications and salary scales. In an agreement achieved in September 2017, the union and the University worked diligently to implement the new tools and processes, including aligning positions for recruitment to the 107 job classes using newly created clear and consistent job profiles. A salary grid with 7 levels and 7 steps simplified the application of new classes and alignment of existing employees to new compensation rates.  950 position questionnaires were completed, evaluated and full transparency provided to incumbent employees, supervisors and administrators.  The work was completed and retroactive salary adjustments implemented within 6 months of the agreement, with the bulk of the work done in the first 90 days.  Employees and supervisors were provided the opportunity to appeal the results and external referees were engaged to hear 209 appeals. 68 of the appeals resulted in a change in job classification.

Other Ontario universities were embarking on or in the midst of similar projects at the same time.  Consultants and lawyers were trying to share their wisdom with the Universities – most assuming the whole exercise was just about Pay Equity, using models akin to the Ontario Pay Equity projects of the 1990’s.  Western and the Staff Association recognized that this was about equitable compensation, but just as important, it was about recognizing the employees for their contribution to Westerns’ mission, helping them understand the value Western places on their contributions and sharing a career path that is possible.  The result was a highly engaged employee group, significantly improved and trusted relationship with the union and a sustainable, effective and efficient job evaluation system that made sense to existing employees and applicants for vacancies.

Criteria Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.

The problem we faced was not unique to Western.  Position descriptions and job evaluation are a source of tension across the sector, particularly for employees represented by staff unions. Work supported by our staff association employees can be found at many other universities.  The job profiles and classification system we developed is highly transferrable to most and these can be provided to any Canadian University who requests them.  The classifications are aligned to the missions of the university, leading to career paths for employees - these would also be transferrable to other universities (see Attachment #1, A summary of the classifications). The system was designed jointly with the Union, Human Resources and external Compensation Consultants. The system may be helpful to others emarking on redesigns.  It is available to any university who requests it and is published in the collective agreement on a public website.  We used internal and external resources, including our talent acquisition team to develop job profiles for each classification, our labour relations team to coordinate communication and change management, external referees to review and evaluate appeals and external consultants to complete preliminary evaluations.  This was an opportunity to build internal capacity in work design and employee relations, while using external resources to deliver the project efficiently.  Our in-house salary administration specialists were then able to focus solely on finalizing job classifications and implementing the retroactive compensation adjustments.  This division of work, as well as the respectful and collaborative approach with the union, is a model for other universities to follow.  The project plan and communication templates are available to any university looking for help in organizing a similar project.

Quality Impact

The relationship with the union, the engagement of the employees and leaders as well as successful recruitment of new talent are indicators of the quality impact of this project. 

While the union has monitored timelines for implementation of new processes, there has been no concern expressed by them about the quality of the process. They continue to work in partnership with us to educate new employees on the various tools available to them to assist in career progression and understanding the roles at Western. Beyond just this issue, a trusted relationship between the Staff Association executive and the HR leadership allows for very open, transparent discussion of any member concerns with quick resolution.

Following the completion of this project, employees are more focussed on how their work contributes to the success of the University, having taken the time to review and update very detailed examples of their every day work which are aligned to the mission and strategies.  The job evaluation plan, while designed to evaluate work, has served to remind all - employees, supervisors and human resources - of the diverse challenges and service requests made of union members every day. This process has also led to new initiatives in departmental work design and recognition of outstanding employees.

As the University seeks to fill vacancies in a tight talent market, it is highly beneficial to have well-defined and consistent minimum competencies that can be tested and/or feed into an orientation and development plan for successful applicants.  A shorter version of a position description was developed specifically for recruitment, which highlights most elements of the work, but in a manner that applicants get clear picture of the expectations of the position.  For internal candidates, they can anticipate the appropriate fit for an upcoming vacant role, based on the profiles and job families developed to map out their career at Western.

Productivity Impact

Prior to this project, we were evaluating approximately 350 positions for the Staff Association per year, requiring on average 3 hours per position to evaluate and communicate, just over 1,000 hours per year. 

In this project, 950 employees were allocated to 107 job classifications using robust position descriptions signed off by employee, supervisors, administrators, Dean's Office and other business unit leaders.  107 Job Profiles (see Attachment #2 for example) were created as benchmarks, including consistent description of accountabilities and consistent minimum competencies required for the job class.  These profiles are now used to benchmark vacancies and place newly identified union members on the compensation structure, reducing the annual evaluation needs by about 500 hours.  New employees are now in their role for 12 months before they are asked to review a detailed position description questionnaire, resulting in a robust job evaluation and assignment of job classification.  When the incumbent has actually been in the position for some time, the process has more integrity and there is more acceptance of the results, reducing time for revising questionnaires and the number of appeals to be heard.

During the implementation, 950 employees and each of their supervisors and department administrators received very detailed communications via a secured portal that had not previously been used by administration in this way or to this scale.  Using this technology, highly sensitive communication was distributed in a timely, confidential, cost effective way, simultaneously to all stakeholders.  We used the same technology to share results with the union executive. As appeals were heard, we used the same portal to share information with external referees assigned to hear the appeal. Due to the success of this method, we continue to use the same portal today to exchange information on a variety of topics with our union partners and have expanded it to share information between business units.

Every 3 years business units are required by the collective agreement to review and, if necessary, update questionnaires and submit for re-evaluation.  In our first year of these go forward processes, we received 80 requests for re-evaluation, 27 of which resulted in no-change.  We have been able to very quickly evaluate these roles, using our evaluation database and profiles to "sore-thumb" the results, ensuring continued integrity in the system.  Each evaluation takes less than 2 hours to complete and there have been only 5 appeals, all of which have resulted in no-change. We expect this volume  is a bit lower than what our annual workload will be, but with consistency and transparency, we don't expect to see the volumes we had prior to implementing this project.  Overall our workload has dropped by 90% per year, while our external costs increased only slightly by about $20,000. Our evaluation workload has reduced so dramatically that we have been able to redeploy our salary administration team to other work supporting systems, talent acquisition and labour relations.The cost of implementation of the entire new salary grid and job classifications was approximately 1.75% of pay.  No member experienced a reduction in pay and only 108 were red-circled as they were placed on the new salary grid.  Retroactive pay adjustments were implemented over a period of 5 months and included on-going progression through the range adjustments and collectively bargained settlements.  The efficiency and timeliness of the payments contributed significantly to the success of the project.

The University and the Staff Association have agreed to use the results to maintain the existing Pay Equity Plan for the University.   That work has begun and it is expected that Pay Equity has been maintained due to the thoroughness of this work.  We do not anticipate any gender based gaps that need to be addressed after implementation of these new processes.



We had been heading down a path of negative tension and disagreement for several years and there was growing discontent of the supervisors and incumbent employees.  It required innovation and creative problem solving of the union and the University together to save the work that had been done to date and to find a way to implement the new processes which would result in a positive culture.  Solutions being suggested by consultants external to our environment, despite their experience at other universities, just did not make sense for us.  We focussed on the project goals of 1) clarity for employees about the value of their contributions 2) clarity regarding pay adjustments and 3) clarity about their recourse, if unsatisfied with the results.    This was a joint project and could not be implemented by the University alone.  The union was very supportive of the direction, the project timelines, the educational initiatives and the arms length validation of the results.  This made a significant difference in the success of the project. 

Writing position descriptions, completing evaluations and calculating pay adjustments is not an easily learned process, yet other employers often allocate this work to supervisors, committees and administrators who are not fully trained in the work.  When work is distributed in this way, there is a tendency to gravitate to an external consultant or a dominate HR professional to guide the way.  We believe this is where the problems begin and projects get off track.  The key to Western's success was using people who were best suited to each task.  Talent Acquisition consultants, who recruit to the roles, interviewed the supervisors and supported the writing of the position descriptions.  Consultants, well trained in point factor job evaluation, completed the preliminary evaluations.  Senior HR professionals who knew the organization context (department, faculty, how the position relates to other roles at the university) validated the evaluation results.  Labour Relations professionals, who are skilled in employee relations and problem resolution, managed the change communication and appeals.  Seasoned professionals were engaged as external referees to efficiently review and turn around appeals to finalize the evaluation results.  This combination of having the right resource with the appropriate skill set completing sections of the project was unique and innovative.  Less successful projects at other Universities may have left all processes to their in-house job analysts and salary administration professional or external consultants - that approach just wasn't going to achieve the outcomes the union and Western had established.

Supporting Documents