Q&A: The new P&S classification and compensation structure

Emma Mallarino Houghton head shot


Meetings are underway between human resources delivery teams and division/college leaders to link professional and scientific (P&S) employees into job titles in the new P&S classification and compensation structure. That process will conclude by the end of March, and then employees -- or their supervisors -- may request a review of their new classification title if they think it's inaccurate.

Inside asked Emma Mallarino Houghton, director of classification and compensation in university human resources (UHR), to provide some insight and help set expectations about the process.


Q: Tell us about the new P&S classification and compensation structure.

The new structure currently has 569 job titles in 29 job families. Each title reflects both the primary functions of the job performed and one of three levels of responsibility: management, individual contributor or support contributor roles. Employees can use the level guides to see how their job might progress. Our former P levels are gone, replaced by 15 pay grades which are based on market data. Pay grade no longer is synonymous with a P level. Pay grade is influenced by both the responsibility level and primary functions of the job.

The strength of the new structure is that job titles more accurately reflect the work employees are doing, and the compensation framework reflects the market value of that work. It gives UHR and managers a better tool to identify any issues of internal equity or market equity.

Q: What is our "market?"

The president and senior vice presidents decided that we'll use a blend of higher education and industry markets, depending on the job family. It could be one or both. In light of the relative low cost of living in Ames and central Iowa, we are targeting the national median, which will help us be more competitive not just locally, but nationally. For more information on this topic, watch the March 13, 2018 seminar (from the P&S Council seminar series). This and other resources are on the class/comp review website.

Save the date

Houghton will provide an implementation update and answer questions at the P&S Council's April 14 seminar (2-3 p.m., MU Pioneer Room).

Q: How will you link employees into the new structure?

First of all, central UHR staff won’t. We asked HR delivery staff to work with college and division leaders to determine the process that makes the most sense for their areas; they'll decide how deep into their management chain they want to go. So, leaders from the department level to the division level will make the job-linking decisions for their employees. The HR delivery staff will provide coaching, as needed, to make sure the job framework stays intact.

If local leaders want assistance narrowing things down a bit, we completed a preliminary linking of all P&S employees. But they don't have to use it. It's very important that local leaders --who know best what their employees do -- make these job title decisions.

This initial process in March is the first step. In April, employees -- or managers on behalf of their employees -- can ask questions, get clarification or ask for a review of the original decision.

Q: What will change for P&S employees in the new structure?

  • In most cases, your job title. For some, your new and old job titles may look similar, but foundationally they're quite different because the current and new systems are so different.
  • With your job title, you'll receive a job description that includes examples of tasks performed for that job title. This is a high-level description, and all 569 of these will be available to the university community in time for the review process in April. The current system's position descriptions, specific to an individual employee, no longer will be used to classify positions. Questions about your position description, now known as the position description and responsibilities (PDR) document, can be directed to your HR delivery team.
  • A new pay grade associated with your assigned title. The new pay grade will more accurately reflect the market for your job.
  • Some P&S job titles will become nonexempt. Any time we review positions, we are required by federal law to review for exemption. Legal staff still are reviewing exemption status for titles, and we don't know yet how many employees will be impacted.

Learn more

Human resources FAQ

Q: What won't change?

  • The work you do.
  • Your supervisor.
  • Your salary.

Q: What's the point of a new structure if no one's pay is improving?

The purpose of this review was not to raise salaries. It was to more accurately label the work P&S employees do and connect ISU jobs to what the market dictates for each job. Through that process, we expect to find where any inequities exist. Over time, managers will address inequities.

With any system overhaul of this magnitude, we have to take the long view, and the university’s budget constraints make that especially true. The new structure provides a framework of job classifications that people can understand. It lets us compare apples to apples so we can do our best to provide equal pay for equal work. And because it's tied to the market, the new structure lets us know for sure the market value of a job.

Finally, it creates a framework for career development; it gives employees a transparent pathway if they want to do something different. They can see what it would take to do that, and what the impact would be on earning potential.

Q: Employees' duties may have changed a lot since they filled out the job profile tool (JPT) in June 2017. Are those being used to assign employees to new job titles?

No. We're not looking at the JPT or even the current position description, because for too many employees, those aren't up to date, either. The conversation in meetings this month is about the work you do right now. If you've been misclassified for a while, now is the time to fix it. That said, we don't want to rob employees of promotional opportunities in the future.

Q: Will my supervisor help determine my new job title?

Yes. Whether they're part of the linking meetings in March, or they get involved in a review discussion in April, they will be involved. If managers don't agree with a job title decision for one of their employees, they can request a review.

Q: Will the developments with COVID-19, and the university's planning related to the virus, affect implementation of the new class/comp structure?

The situation with COVID-19 is rapidly evolving and we are monitoring the developments. Based on current information, we have asked HR delivery to continue with linking meetings as planned. We intend to continue moving through the next steps of implementation. At the end of March, we will check in on the overall progress of the linking meetings. Following our review, we may need to modify the current timeframe to ensure the process is moving forward effectively. We will continue to communicate with employees as new information is available.

Q: When will I learn my new job title and pay grade?

We will share more information about the timeline for job title and pay grade after our March 31 assessment of the job linkings supervisors have completed.