“Match the role not the person”

Job matching is at the heart of successful compensation assessments and one of the most repeated mantras here is “match the role not the person”.

All too often when going through the job matching process or when viewing matches, I hear something like “well the job is a level 3 but the team really isn’t performing so I have matched most of them to a 2”. To a consultant, that is not good to hear but why exactly is it an issue?

Well let’s take a step back – not thinking about structure design or anything else just yet, let’s assume that we are matching jobs with the goal of making an assessment of pay competitiveness relative to market.

If we take a role and under-level it due to performance, what we will ultimately do is overstate our position relative to market, hiding potentially major issues with the levels of pay that we offer current and existing candidates. If we have an under-performing individual in a role that is, in the manager’s view, overpaid we want to see that, we don’t want to hide it away. The problem isn’t with compensation, the problem is that you have an under-performing individual. The objective of an assessment is to uncover issues, not hide them away by over- or under-leveling employees.

The challenge is that often, particularly with smaller companies or divisions, the individual has effectively defined the role meaning the role and the person are one and the same. In this scenario, a good question to ask is, “if we had to replace that person, what level of skill and experience would we look for”. The answer to this question is generally a more accurate reflection of the requirements of the role, as opposed to the particular contribution of the individual occupying it.

This seemingly simple concept is essential to effective job matching and probably the most common mistake I find when reviewing internal job matching exercises. If you are going through an internal job matching or leveling exercise, It is certainly worth a small amount of training with managers to ensure they understand the objectives of the exercise and the distinctions between individual performance and role requirements.

Good grief.

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