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What are Job Families?

If you are unfamiliar with the term ‘job families’ or ‘job family’, the easiest way to explain this is as a group of related jobs organised in terms of rank. For example, human resources can be the name given to a job family which encompasses all of the roles in this area – these may include roles such as HR Advisor, HR Assistant and HR Manager.

The job family framework is designed to not only makes the career ladder much clearer to employees, but also to make it easier for employers to understand how much a job role, and the responsibility that comes with it, is worth. This enables employers to adjust their pay grading system for different managers in different departments, rather than simply putting them into the same pay grade.

What is Broadbanding?

Broadbanding is a pay structure that differs from traditional methods by offering much more flexibility. Instead of the focus being on the employee’s position within the company, more emphasis is placed on the employee’s development in terms of skill. In theory, this means that there is greater opportunity for an employee’s wage to increase as more value is placed on their skill and knowledge rather than on climbing the career ladder.

In recent years, there has been a great deal of interest in moving away from traditional job grading systems.

Organisations have taken cost and complexity out of their job structures by reducing the number of levels from top to bottom. It is inevitable that pay structures with a large number of levels lead to ‘grade hunting’, as people search for small changes in their responsibilities to justify a re-grading and a shift in pay. Additionally, such complex pay grading arrangements have traditionally consumed a great deal of management time simply to administer and maintain.

Against this familiar background, the appeal of broadbanding is clear. Rather than have multiple pay grades, you can simply use broadbands to offer employees the opportunity to increase their wages and remove or reduce the issue of grade hunting. For example, a job structure which might previously have included 20 or more pay grades can be described in six to eight broadband levels.

This approach offers clear benefits such as:

  • Maintenance becomes significantly less arduous
  • Employees are less inclined to build empires instead of acquiring competencies or driving performance
  • Pay management is radically simplified

Broadbands Raise New Challenges

Broadbands do, however, have limitations. If an organisation classifies its employees pay in a small number of pay bands, it is inevitable that the bands will be wide – that’s why they are called ‘broadbands’ after all. Consequently, the bands lack the level of detail needed to reflect the market differences between occupational groups. Benchmarking internally and externally is therefore difficult. Furthermore, employees struggle to identify how they can progress in terms of both their development and their pay – the steps between broadbands are big and progression within this structure is often unclear.

Employers have looked to combine the benefits of a simplified banding structure with something that facilitates robust pay management and pay progression. Businesses need to give employees a clear view of their career paths and a true sense of their value to the organisation. Employers are increasingly turning to job families and career families to square this particular circle.

Using Job Families

The notion of looking at similar types of roles as an entity is not new. Occupational classifications have existed for as long as job evaluation has. The twist that makes job families more enticing is how they allow such groupings to work in tandem with simplified broadband structures.

The Characteristics of Job Families

Job families are groupings of jobs related by a common vocation or profession. Accordingly, these families have many similarities, most of which directly relate to competencies. Jobs in a job family are similar in that they:

  • Require similar knowledge, skills, abilities and competencies
  • Have a continuum of knowledge, skills and abilities that represent a career path from the lowest to the highest level job
  • Possess associated and related key behaviours
  • Have similar market competitive pay characteristics

Advantages of Using Job Families

There many advantages of using the more traditional job family structure, such as:

  • A job family structure can recognise that career progression patterns may vary between different occupational groups.
  • They can be used to map out career paths by defining the competencies required at different levels and showing clearly how progression can take place within families.
  • They enable the size and speed of reward progression to be varied.
  • They can reflect the market rates of pay for different groups.

Disadvantages of Using Job Families

While there are many advantages to the use of job families, they can also create some new challenges that must be addressed:

  • Although some occupations are best treated separately because they are different, job family structures can be divisive by creating occupational ‘chimneys’ and by apparently favouring some roles and occupations. This can be overcome by careful positioning and not assigning job families organisational significance.
  • Job families may further career development within a family, but they could inhibit career flexibility between families. However, most people tend to spend most of their careers in one job family.
  • In the absence of a common grade structure, with each grade having the same range of job evaluation scores, it is hard to ensure that equal pay for work of equal value is achieved across job families. This can be overcome by underpinning the job families with job evaluation and market benchmarking.

Using Career Families

Career families are an increasingly popular way of gaining the benefits of job families whilst addressing the lack of flexibility between the different groups. By assessing levels in job families against a common evaluation framework, it is possible to see how the groups relate to one another without the need to evaluate every role. A career families approach aids overall pay management, ensures greater consistency and significantly helps ensure compliance with equal pay requirements.

Many employers regard the career families pay structure as the ideal middle ground between job families and broadbanding but ultimately, it is the decision of the company to decide what works best in the culture of their business.

For more information on how best to organise your company’s pay structure, please get in contact with a member of our team today.

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