A more efficient way to gauge your workplace value

We're all advised to manage our own careers. A deeper understanding of the Hay Job Evaluation System is one focused, substantive way to do that.

Many senior executives are familiar with the Hay Job Evaluation System. More mid-level and junior executives should be as well.

Why? First, a description of the system, per Wikipedia: The Hay Job Evaluation is a methodology used by corporations and organizations to map out their job roles in the context of the organizational structure.

It is by far the most popular and frequently used such system in the world. So, why learn more about it?

Doing so can provide important insight for people early in their careers as to how corporations create organizational structure, as well as why positions receive the compensation they do. If you aspire to more responsibility and greater compensation, learning this system is a smart move.

Specifically, each position in the Hay system is evaluated on three criteria: accountability, problem-solving, and know-how. Hay defines each as follows:

"Accountability" is defined as the "freedom to act" – the degree of empowerment an individual has to take action, as well as the scope and scale of impact.

"Know-how" refers to technical and specialized skills (the breadth and depth of technical or specialized knowledge needed to achieve the desired results), managerial skills (such as planning and organizing staff), and human relations skills (the interpersonal skills required to successfully perform the job).

"Problem-solving" refers to the "thinking environment" (i.e. the job’s context and the degree to which problems and solutions are defined) and the "thinking challenge" – the nature of addressable problems and the difficulty in identifying solutions that add value.

So why do I share this level of detail? Careers are usually built on one of two things: leverage or expertise. I’ll explain the latter first.

It’s possible, albeit somewhat rare, that you can develop such expertise of a high-value subject that your career trajectory and compensation will steadily progress northward while you don’t take additional responsibility for people in the corporation. A brilliant scientist in a pharma R&D function can be an example of this.

However, achieving this standard is quite difficult. You really must have talents dramatically superior to others and in an area that is considered vitally important to the corporation.

Far more common, in terms of receiving promotions and greater compensation, is the leverage track.

Leverage means more responsibility – for more business performance and for more people. You manage more. You are accountable for more. You’re rewarded for more.

Let me be clear: you still need expertise for leverage. You cannot credibly lead a large organization – or a small one, for that matter – without the credibility and know-how the subject requires. You just don’t necessarily need to be uniquely brilliant at the subject.

What you do need, though, is the ability to lead, inspire, and execute. In short, the ability to get things done through the collaborative efforts of a high-performance team. Those leadership skills create leverage (i.e. one person managing many), which in turn makes it worth it for a company to pay you a lot of money.

Leadership is often viewed as a soft skill, one that is hard to teach and something you either have or you don’t. That’s not true. Kudos to the Arthur Page Society, for example, for including leadership development in its Future Leaders program, a course successfully led by Gagen MacDonald CEO Maril MacDonald.

For those still in the formative stage of their careers, knowing how companies create their organizations and job descriptions can be informative and helpful. We’re all advised to manage our own careers and take charge of our professional options. Getting a deeper understanding of the Hay Job Evaluation System and making sure you acquire the requisite skills to succeed is one focused, substantive way to do that.

Bob Feldman is cofounder and principal of PulsePoint Group, a digital and management consulting firm. He can be reached at bfeldman@pulsepointgroup.com. His column focuses on management of the corporate communications function.

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