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Transitioning From Jobs to a Job Architecture

When most people think of job architecture, specifically levels, what they’re really thinking about is job titles. Job titles help clarify what a job involves and how it functions within a company. Assigning the right job the correct title can make all the difference when it comes to finding quality candidates and compensating them accordingly. But, when compensation professionals are pricing jobs at scale, the job title alone is just a starting point.

Early on, companies can easily get away with just having jobs - after all, there’s only one customer success team, one software development team, one HR team, etc., each staffed by just a few people. However, as companies grow—adding business units, acquiring other companies, and expanding into new markets—jobs alone aren’t sufficient. HR and comp teams need a formal job architecture.

What is a Job Architecture?

crane-with-blocks-building-job-architectureA job architecture, alternatively known as a job structure or leveling convention, is a formal map of the infrastructure of jobs in your organization. People often hear this and think of a reporting structure or org chart, but that’s actually too granular. Instead, this is a structure that can be applied across teams, divisions, and geographies. It provides clear competency requirements for job titles, supports career development and internal mobility, and helps determine the value of jobs to your organization. 

Job Architecture Components: Families, Levels, Etcetera

A job architecture consists of both job families and functions and a leveling convention. Having a clear understanding of each is vital to building an effective job structure.

Job families are high level groupings that capture broadly the functional area of a set of jobs. For example software engineering or HR. Functions are sometimes known as sub-families and create more definition between sets of jobs. Thinking about the software engineering family, some of the functions contained in that grouping could be front-end development, back-end development, and quality assurance.

Job levels provide clarity on the differences in responsibility, skills, and knowledge required. They also create a career progression framework that organizations can use to develop employee career pathing programs. 

Why Create a Job Architecture?

Having a formal job architecture in place is valuable for more than just comp professionals. HR teams, people managers, and employees all benefit from the clarity that this structure provides. 

One of the core benefits across the organization is ease of communication. A recent survey by Lattice found that 67% of employees want more transparency in compensation decisions. Creating a framework for compensation relative to job level and family makes that type of transparency much easier. Being able to communicate how compensation lines up with competencies and provide employees with a clear picture of how they can move within the organization and grow their career can also increase engagement and reduce turnover.

For comp professionals, a job architecture is more than this. It's a valuable tool they use every day to price jobs.

Job Architecture and Market Pricing

A well-defined job architecture, complete with job titles, descriptions, and levels, makes market pricing significantly easier. It allows comp teams to more easily map the internal framework to external market data. It also creates consistency across business units, geographies, and other internal divisions, streamlining the market pricing process and significantly improving accuracy and responsiveness.

When to Implement a Job Architecture

Not every company needs a formal job architecture. Here at BetterComp, we have a small team with just a few people in each job family. Creating and documenting a job architecture for our company at this stage would be premature. However, for a large, multinational organization lacking a job architecture is a recipe for disaster.

Most organizations fall somewhere between startup and a spot on the Fortune 500. Understanding when the best time to formalize a job architecture for them is a bit art and a bit science. Deloitte’s job architecture guide, Laying the Building Blocks for Effective Human Capital Management, calls out a few triggers that indicate starting a job architecture project is worthwhile:

  • Implementation of HR or compensation technology
  • Substantial changes to organizational structure, including spinning off new business units, new acquisitions or mergers, and expansion into global markets
  • Redesign of compensation programs

While any of these are signs that it’s time to build or formalize your job architecture, experience tells me that earlier is always better. Having something basic in place early on in the organization - even if it’s just aligned with titles or is specific to individual families - sets the foundation for more structured, complex architectures later on.

Developing Your Job Architecture

Once you’ve determined the need to formalize your job architecture, it’s time to get started. Your first step is aligning with stakeholders from across the organization - not just HR and comp. Getting executive leadership, subject matter experts, and other business leaders on board with the project is critical to success.

Steps to Building Your Job Architecture

Creating a job architecture is less about building from scratch and more about bringing structure and alignment to something that already exists. There are 4 key steps to creating your job architecture:


1. Information gathering

The first step is always to understand where things stand currently. Gather information on all your jobs including departments, titles, descriptions, competencies, and current pay. You may find that some employees are handling oversized loads, or you may identify overlapping responsibilities. That’s a natural part of investigating your business’s structure. 

2. Aligning job titles, competencies, and levels

Once you have the full picture of your existing jobs, you can begin to evaluate the hierarchies that appear in each family. You’ll create your leveling convention by deciding on the right number of levels for each family and defining your leveling criteria. If you’ve been market pricing at the job level, your market survey data may have leveling conventions included that you can use for guidance. 

The most important thing here is that your levels make sense and align with both the value each job creates for your organization and with your company values. Once you have your levels and competencies set, work with subject matter experts and HR to revise job descriptions and titles to match your new leveling convention.

3. Aligning compensation practices

Align your levels with your preferred market data providers if you haven’t already done so. From here, you will be able to build your global pay structures relative to both market pricing and company requirements. Test and evaluate your work to ensure it will have the impact you want and to find potential flaws or unintended consequences. 

4. Implement and communicate

Once you have your framework created and it passes muster with your SMEs and business leaders, it’s time to implement. This involves things like setting up your leveling convention in your comp software, communicating with recruitment and hiring managers, adding appropriate information to your HRIS systems, and communicating with your staff.

If this all sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is. If your internal resources aren’t sufficient to the task, consider hiring an outside consultant to help. Companies like Culpepper, Korn Ferry, Aon, and WTW provide consultation services alongside market data surveys. Not only will they have experience creating job architectures for their clients, they’ll bring fresh eyes and perspective to your project. Technology can help, as well. Mercer, for example, offers a tool that can help you build and maintain your job architecture.

Implementing Job Levels with Your HR and Comp Technology

One of the most important things you will do is ensure that your job architecture is accurately reflected in your compensation and HRIS systems. At BetterComp, part of our implementation process involves setting up your leveling convention in the system. Whether you’re enhancing an existing architecture or starting from scratch, we have tools to help you effectively marry your job architecture with survey data to streamline your market pricing processes.