Just Three Things: How Purpose, Engagement, & Delivery Can be Used to Understand Your Organization and Support Your HR Programs

In our work with hundreds of organizations, many apply long-standing, well-accepted approaches for the management of human resources. The HR function is steeped in traditional methods and so-called best practices for everything from job evaluation and compensation management to performance management. At Birches Group, we believe for organizations to innovate and thrive, they must be willing to try new things. Our Community™ Jobs approach provides a fresh perspective on one of the most misunderstood areas of human resources – job design and evaluation. Good job design and clear job evaluation are critical to fully support all other programs in HR.

How Community™ Jobs is Different

Job evaluation is traditionally a highly technical area of HR, reserved for the “job evaluation high priests” to compile results and share with the organization. Usually job evaluation systems are complex and hard to understand, using many different factors to determine results. 

Birches Group built Community™ Jobs to be simple and transparent, and easily understood by HR, managers and yes, even staff.  We also believe that job evaluation forms the fundamental underpinning of everything HR does – from compensation and recruitment to development and performance.  Every area of HR is impacted by job evaluation and job levels.

Just Three Things

Community™ uses three factors to assess work: Purpose, Engagement, and Delivery, across fourteen job levels, as shown in the diagram below:

The primary factor is Purpose, which answers the most critical question: why does this job exist in the organization? Purpose enables us to examine each role within the organization and determine its primary objectives and how it supports the overall mission of the organization.

The second factor of Community™ Jobs is Engagement, identifying how each job interacts and collaborates with internal and external stakeholders to carry out its function.

Delivery, the third factor of Community™ Jobs, examines how each role plans, organizes and delivers work to fulfill the organization’s mission. It focuses on how a job manages tasks, transactions, services, projects, or programs under its purview.

The three Community™ factors taken together allow us to understand how an organization conducts business across all levels of work, starting with defining the purpose of its jobs, determining their level of engagement, and examining how each of its roles organizes and delivers service.

The Six Indicators

For each of the three job evaluation factors, we have identified two indicators to connect the job directly to the skills and knowledge required for success:

Each of these indicators is used in applying the Community™ Jobs evaluation methodology.  But importantly, the same criteria are also used to develop standards in the other modules of Community™.  Community™ Skills allows organizations to measure experience explicitly by evaluating an employee’s accumulation of skills and knowledge over time.  Community™ Performance provides a standard for measuring achievement by considering how employees have performed against the standard established for their job level.

Job Evaluation in Action

What are some examples of how job evaluation results (job grades or levels) can be used in other areas of human resources?  Here are just a few:

  • Job descriptions.  One of the most unstructured and tedious task managers face is writing job descriptions.  And most of the time, they are just a listing of tasks and inputs.  Birches Group believes job descriptions should be purpose-driven, output-focused and written from the perspective of what the job must deliver.  Our approach for job description writing uses the job evaluation factors and indicators as a basis to describe duties and responsibilities.  Best of all, no job description will ever exceed one page!
  • Salary bench-marking.  We use Community™ Jobs as the job evaluation methodology when conducting our salary surveys in over 150 countries.  Every employer’s jobs are matched to a Birches Group level, enabling a consistent and fair comparison to jobs in the market with similar levels of contribution to the organization.
  • Salary management.  Organizations use job grades to build salary structures, which in turn provide managers with tools to optimize the organization’s competitive position and ensure high levels of employee engagement.
  • Skills assessment.  Managers will often say that employees with more experience should be paid more. But there is no standard for measuring experience other than time, until now.  Using the Birches Group Community™ job levels, we have developed explicit measures for each job evaluation indicator, arrayed over five separate skill levels.  This skills assessment tool can be used for multiple purposes, including pay management, learning and development planning, succession planning, promotion readiness, and ensuring unbiased application of starting salaries, to name a few.

  • Performance management.  The same three factors used for job evaluation – purpose, engagement, and delivery – can be used to measure achievement.  For example:

Purpose – Does the employee have good ideas?

Engagement – Did they listen and adapt to customer feedback?

Delivery – Did they deliver on time with high levels of quality?

Community™ Performance has a structured approach to measuring achievement by linking back to the job evaluation factors.

By focusing on the Community™ Jobs factors — Purpose, Engagement, and Delivery — managing all areas of HR is now possible using a simple, consistent, and integrated approach.

Contact us to learn more about our Community™ approach and platform.

Attracting and Retaining Talent: It’s Not Just About Money

Attracting and retaining talent is an unending, multi-faceted challenge for human resources. There are just too many things to consider. From figuring how to make work engaging, ensuring your total compensation is competitive and equitable, providing great career opportunities, work-life balance – the list goes on and on.

Today’s workforce, primarily millennials and Gen-Zs, value your entire Employment Value Proposition (EVP), not just money, in evaluating their employment relationships.  A 2019 survey by Deloitte[1] bears this out:

Percent of Millennials and Gen-Zs who would consider leaving their employer (after 2 years and after 5 years) if they did not prioritize these issues:

It’s clear there are many facets of engagement that need to be addressed besides money, but how does money fit in?  Where does an overwhelmed HR professional start?

What is the Value of Money?

Often, the easy answer to attraction-retention issues is to throw money at the problem; some assume that a competitive salary stacked with appealing benefits is all it takes to attract the right kind of talent. When the employment relationship devolves into just the transactional (e.g. “All accounts are squared at the end of the month when you get paid.”), it ceases to be attractive, long-term, or motivating.

Not valuing money enough, though, can be equally dangerous. When compensation is done poorly, it is not just a waste of resources, it engenders perceptions of inequity (e.g. “We’re doing the same work but why am I paid so much less?”) and can easily disengage staff (e.g. “Why should I work to get promoted when the pay isn’t so much more?”).

The value of money in the attraction-retention equation must be contextualized.

What are you paying for?

Compensation is about procuring talent to get the work of the organization done: it is about paying for jobs. What does this mean?

If your organization has pay grades/levels, are your jobs properly aligned against them? Is each pay grade/level distinct enough from the others that they can form the basis for equitable pay? For example: do all jobs in your grade A have similar complexity? Do jobs in the higher-grade B (that are making more money than grade A) have higher level responsibilities? If you’re unable to answer “yes” to all these questions, then your pay has a jobs issue.

Further, if you use market data or salary surveys to design your pay scale and adjust pay, the most comprehensive and accurate external market data won’t mean much if internally, your jobs are all over the place. It would be difficult to compare like-to-like in the market if jobs are not well-defined. Market data will not fix internal job relativities (e.g. determining which jobs are more complex than others) and may even distort job relationships if the wrong assumptions are made of market data (e.g. are there really occupational differences in market data?).

So, even before the pay discussion, it is important to have a job evaluation framework that is consistently applied to slot different positions in your organization appropriately to level, that these are understood by managers and staff alike, and are seen as fair by all.

One Question, Many Complex Answers

When discussing pay with clients, after getting context about jobs, the next thing we ask clients is: “Who are you (as an organization)?”

Deceptively simple, this question opens up a much longer discussion about a concept that goes beyond just pay: the entire Employment Value Proposition (EVP). The EVP is a combination of the organization’s brand or culture, the actual work being offered, the potential for career or professional growth, and lastly, the salary and benefits that its willing to offer. So, not only does human resources have to think about ways to keep pay competitive, but also make sure the other aspects of their EVP are just as attractive.

But, coming back to pay, how much weight does compensation have vis-à-vis the rest of the EVP? Is pay the primary draw to the organization? Or is pay an afterthought, preceded by a compelling mission and engaging work that has impact? There is, of course, no wrong answer to this question, and things are not so black and white. It is likely a continuum with many shades of grey – “pay is important but…”

After answering “Who are you?” you can then focus on market composition and position. It is about how an organization can take a big market survey that is designed to reflect information of and for all comers, and target what is really relevant (composition), and target where it wants to be in that group (position).

Composition is about: “with whom do you compare?” Not all employers in a survey may be relevant. It is not just about competitors to whom you have lost talent, it can be organizations with whom you cooperate or work with. Comparators may include others in your sector as well as some from other sectors. Organizations relying on funds from donors may want to include the donors themselves.

Only when composition is settled, can position be discussed. Position is about: “how do you want to be placed against your comparator group?” Are you striving to be mid-market? Do you want to be the leader of the pack? Do you only have resources enough for a conservative position?  Is the position consistent for all levels, or do you want to be more or less aggressive in some cases?

Answering these questions should guide an organization as it defines its pay philosophy, policies, and methodology. But remember, pay is only a piece of a larger whole. Money is just a piece of your EVP, but you need to get it right as part of the challenge of attracting, retaining and motivating staff.

Attracting and maintaining key talent in your organization is a multi-faceted challenge that needs a multi-faceted solution. Birches Group’s Community™ is a human resources methodology and platform that integrates job evaluation, compensation and benefits surveys, salary scale design, skills development, and performance evaluation. Contact us to learn more about Community™ and our other services.

[1] Deloitte Insights, “The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019”, website  https://www2.deloitte.com/global/en/pages/about-deloitte/articles/millennialsurvey.html (accessed 22 January 2020)

Birches Group Employer Roundtable and On-site Visit to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

We are pleased to announce that Birches Group will be in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from October 19-25, 2019. We will also be at the HR Expo event on October 19, 2019 hosted by our partner, the Society of Human Resources Management in Ethiopia (SHRME).

This visit will focus on discussions around Compensation and Benefits Trends with employers operating in Ethiopia and East Africa, as well as other information about our Birches Group surveys which is updated three times a year, every April, July and October.

This is a wonderful opportunity to meet with our clients and potential participants, share information about the challenges of managing compensation and benefits in Ethiopia and the region, and to learn more about our integrated approach to HR management, Community™

For more information, please contact us.

Integrated Human Resources Management Workshop

Integrated Human Resources Management Workshop – Dubai, UAE
October 14-18, 2019

Birches Group is pleased to announce it will continue to run its Integrated Human Resources Management Workshop for the Development Community, which focuses on Job Design and Evaluation, Compensation Management, and Recognition and Reward.  The 5-day session will be held on October 14-18, in Dubai, UAE.

This course is designed for professionals in the development community who wish to emerge as strategic partners of their organization. In the span of five intensive days, workshop participants will learn the fundamentals of how to link four critical areas of Human Resources:

  • Evaluation of Jobs
  • Design of Salary Scales
  • Assessment of Skills
  • Measurement of Performance

The workshop is built on Birches Group’s integrated Human Resource platform – Community™. The Community™ application will be used across the job evaluation, skills assessment, and performance evaluation exercises. Practical exercises and diagnostic activities are also included.

Participants will not only know more about each of these components, but how they can be integrated to accomplish the organization mission. Join us and learn from the experience and expertise of our facilitators and from other participants. 

To know more about the course, please view our training prospectus here.

Birches Group Employer Roundtable and On-site Visit to Kingston and Montego Bay, Jamaica

We are pleased to announce that Birches Group will be in Kingston and Montego Bay, Jamaica from October 7-11, 2019. We will also be conducting an employer roundtable on October 7, 2019.  The event is sponsored by Birches Group in partnership with the Caribbean HR Solutions.

The event will feature an updated presentation on Compensation and Benefits Trends in Jamaica and more information about the Birches Group surveys in the region, which is updated three times every year, in April, July and October.

This is a wonderful opportunity to meet with our clients and potential participants, share information about the challenges of managing compensation and benefits in Jamaica and to learn more about our integrated approach to HR management, Community™

For more information, please contact us.

Birches Group Employer On-Site Visit to Nairobi, Kenya

We are pleased to announce that Birches Group will be in Nairobi, Kenya from September 16-20, 2019.

This visit will focus on discussions around Compensation and Benefits Trends with employers operating in East Africa, as well as other information about our Birches Group surveys which is updated three times a year, every April, July and October.

This is a wonderful opportunity to meet with our clients and potential participants, share information about the challenges of managing compensation and benefits in the East African region and to learn more about our integrated approach to HR management, Community™

For more information, please contact us.

Birches Group Employer On-Site Visit to Dubai, U.A.E.

We are pleased to announce that Birches Group will be in Dubai, U.A.E. from September 8-12, 2019.

This visit will focus on discussions around Compensation and Benefits Trends with employers operating in the Africa, Europe and the Middle East regions, as well as other information about our Birches Group surveys which is updated three times a year, every April, July and October.

This is a wonderful opportunity to meet with our clients and potential participants, share information about the challenges of managing compensation and benefits in these emerging markets and to learn more about our integrated approach to HR management, Community™

For more information, please contact us.

Why Incumbent Data in Salary Surveys is Misleading

For many years, employers have used salary surveys to provide market references to manage compensation in their organization and to “price jobs” in the market.  Conventional wisdom suggests a high-quality, reliable survey has the following characteristics:

  • The largest possible group of participants
  • The greatest number of specific jobs
  • The highest number of incumbents reported
  • Survey statistics based on incumbent-weighted averages

In short, bigger is better.

As is often the case, we believe that the conventional wisdom is wrong!

Incumbent-based data is not job-based – it’s personal!

Think about it.

  • Salary ranges represent the range of pay an employer is prepared to offer for position with the same level of contribution to their organization (e.g., the same equivalent worth).
  • All incumbents are placed within the same internal, generic range (employers do not usually have separate salary scales for each occupational group or function).
  • Individual salary levels are not determined by any job factor!  Incumbent salaries are based on personal characteristics such as qualifications, skills, experience and performance, and organizational constraints such as internal policies and guidelines, and internal equity.

There are no job-based factors used to determine placement in the range.  It is easy to conclude using actual incumbent salaries instead of salary ranges is — at best – misleading, if not entirely invalid.  But don’t take our word for it.  Let’s put it to a test.

Salary Range Data is Highly Correlated to Incumbent Values

Birches Group did an analysis of actual incumbent data values and the corresponding salary range values for BG-10 level Senior Working Professional roles in Jamaica.  The dataset included positions from seven different job families.  Twenty-nine employers reported data at this level.

To start the analysis, we examined each discrete position reported by each employer.  In the chart below, the positions are color-coded by occupation (job family), and each employer is represented by a vertical array of dots.  The chart shows all observations, not a specific percentile.

You can see there is a wide variety of values, both within each employer and across different ones.

Next, we examined the salary ranges for these employers, and determined how the incumbent salaries fell into each employers’ salary range.  The chart below shows the ranges.

It’s clear that except for two employers with no formal range defined (the two single dots in the chart circled in red), the rest all have salary ranges defined.  Some of the incumbent values are distributed across the ranges, while some are more clustered, but they are all within the range!  You will also notice that the range spans (the “distance” from minimum to maximum) varies quite a bit – some employers use narrow ranges, others wider ranges, depending on their unique circumstances and requirements.

A common benchmark that many clients use is the 50th percentile or median of the market.  While we could debate the definition of “the market” (and we will in another post), it is possible to measure the median of the salary ranges in a market.

For BG-10 in Jamaica, the subject of this analysis, the 50th percentile salary range is J$ 6,273,150 to J$ 9,576,152.  We calculated these numbers by simply separately calculating the median of all the reported minimum values, and all the reported maximum values. The next chart shows this median range added to the incumbent chart.

Now you can see which incumbent data points are within the 50th percentile range in the market.  It’s important to realize that a percentile value in a salary survey should never be a single number; it should always be a salary range.  If you rely only on incumbent data points when using surveys, you are missing out on what is really happening in the market.

Combining the two prior charts yields the next one, which shows the employer salary ranges against the 50th percentile (shaded blue horizontal bars):

You can observe that just 6 employers (about 21% of the sample) have ranges that are totally outside of the 50th percentile range of the market.  Or stated another way – nearly 80% of employers have a salary range that intersects with the market median range.

We also examined the data by occupation, looking at the mean range for each occupation versus the market.

In the above chart, you can see, aside from Logistics and Program, which were matched by fewer than 8 employers and not truly representative, the rest of the occupational data ranges fall well within the overall 50th percentile.  In other words, the occupation or job family doesn’t impact the going rate for a job very much at all, and it would be very easy to just use the overall data, without any occupational designations, as the basis to determine your market position.

Think about it.

You go crazy trying to match multiple benchmark jobs in surveys.  Then you take that data and apply a secret formula (perhaps weighted averages by incumbent count, for example) to arrive at a “going rate” for your midpoint.  But the data you are combining isn’t really that different; our data shows you could just take the range we report and go from there.  Much easier.

A New Vision for Salary Survey Data

Birches Group believes that salary survey data should be job-based, not personal.  Salary ranges represent for an employer the potential range of salary which the organization is willing to pay for a job at a specific grade level in the organization.  In other words, the range represents the value the organization attaches to all jobs at that grade level, which are deemed to have equivalent worth because they have been evaluated to the same grade.  Salary ranges, not incumbent data, represent job-based values which are appropriate for benchmarking salaries.

By comparing salary ranges instead of incumbent data, employers avoid using personal data, which is volatile and introduces a level of false precision which is misleading when specific jobs or occupations are compared to each other.

Introducing Community™ Market

Community Market is the new name for the Birches Group salary and benefits survey.  The survey format has been streamlined and simplified and includes several new features, including an easy and convenient way to assess your market position at a glance.  Another important change is the way job information will be captured.  We will no longer show separate market values for each benchmark job.  Instead, we will show data aggregated for all jobs at the same Birches Group level.  We will still identify which jobs are in which grade, but as we’ve demonstrated, the occupational differences reported in surveys (including ours) are resulting from personal data, not job-based information, and are not appropriate for benchmarking.

Beginning in October 2019, the new format will be the standard report output for all our surveys.  And starting in April 2020, we will no longer collect incumbent-based data since it will no longer appear in the survey reports.

Community™ Market is part of the Birches Group Community™ platform for integrated HR management.  The platform includes modules for job evaluation (Community™ Jobs), skills assessment (Community™ Skills) and performance management (Community™ Performance) in addition to market surveys.  The job levels established using our Community™ Jobs methodology are used to provide job levels in our surveys, and to assess skills and performance against standards that reflect the same job levels.  It’s the first integrated approach to human resources management.

Learn More

Contact us to learn more about the changes in our survey methodology, or to explore how the Community™ platform can be useful for your organization.

Integrated Human Resources Management Workshop

Integrated Human Resources Management Workshop – Nairobi, Kenya
July 29-August 2, 2019

Birches Group is pleased to announce it will continue to run its Integrated Human Resources Management Workshop for the Development Community, which focuses on Job Design and Evaluation, Compensation Management, and Recognition and Reward.  The 5-day session will be held on July 29-August 2, in Nairobi, Kenya.

This course is designed for professionals in the development community who wish to emerge as strategic partners of their organization. In the span of five intensive days, workshop participants will learn the fundamentals of how to link four critical areas of Human Resources:

  • Evaluation of Jobs
  • Design of Salary Scales
  • Assessment of Skills
  • Measurement of Performance

The workshop is built on Birches Group’s integrated Human Resource platform – Community™. The Community™ application will be used across the job evaluation, skills assessment, and performance evaluation exercises. Practical exercises and diagnostic activities are also included.

Participants will not only know more about each of these components, but how they can be integrated to accomplish the organization mission. Join us and learn from the experience and expertise of our facilitators and from other participants.

To know more about the course, please view our training prospectus here

Integrated Human Resources Management Workshop

Integrated Human Resources Management Workshop – Johannesburg, South Africa
May 20-24, 2019

Birches Group is pleased to announce it will continue to run its Integrated Human Resources Management Workshop for the Development Community, which focuses on Job Design and Evaluation, Compensation Management, and Recognition and Reward.  The 5-day session will be held on May 20-24, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

This course is designed for professionals in the development community who wish to emerge as strategic partners of their organization. In the span of five intensive days, workshop participants will learn the fundamentals of how to link four critical areas of Human Resources:

  • Evaluation of Jobs
  • Design of Salary Scales
  • Assessment of Skills
  • Measurement of Performance

The workshop is built on Birches Group’s integrated Human Resource platform – Community™. The Community™ application will be used across the job evaluation, skills assessment, and performance evaluation exercises. Practical exercises and diagnostic activities are also included.

Participants will not only know more about each of these components, but how they can be integrated to accomplish the organization mission. Join us and learn from the experience and expertise of our facilitators and from other participants. 

To know more about the course, please view our training prospectus here.