The University Record, June 17, 2002

New job classification system coming

By Dave Reid
HR Communications

Richard Nixon was sworn in for the second time as U.S. president, Tony Orlando and Dawn had a number one hit with “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around the Old Oak Tree,” having a personal computer in your office was still a futuristic idea, and the University implemented its job classification system. A lot has changed in 29 years, but many staff members say the University job classification system is one thing that hasn’t.

Since 1973, the University’s job titles for professional/administrative classifications have grown from 500 to a current count of about 1,700. These titles are spread across approximately 43 salary ranges within the professional/administrative, office, allied health and technical job families. Since most classification systems have a life expectancy of 8–10 years when consistently updated, many feel the current job classification system has to change. Managing the system is challenging, and the process of reviewing the current number of classifications and identifying paths for career progression is daunting for current staff and prospective employees alike.

In 1997, a Universitywide Compensation Review Task Force began to recognize the need for change in the classification system framework. The collective talents of staff members throughout the University are now being called upon to redesign the current system to better meet the needs of the University. The new classification system that results will encompass only those positions that currently belong to the professional/administrative, office, technical and allied health job families.

A steering committee of representatives from business units, schools and colleges across the entire campus, including the UMHS, Dearborn and Flint, has been assembled to oversee the project. The committee is charged with ensuring that the new system is well linked to the mission and values of the University and its schools, colleges, administrative units and regional campuses, and that it meets the operational needs of each.

The new system will be proposed by the design team, comprised of key unit and core human resources administrators. The team will oversee the detailed design phase and make its recommendations in 2003 for the new classification system.

Steering committee members say the new classification system will better help the University recruit and retain the best possible staff. In the new framework, current job families will be replaced with career tracks. Such a system would allow a staff member or prospective employee to see a path of potential jobs within a particular discipline or career. For example, accounting positions may be grouped as a career family that would allow easy identification of the various paths in that discipline and related fields throughout the University. When specific jobs can be readily identified, staff can work to build skills needed for progression into those positions. Likewise, the skills that are transferable to other positions will become more apparent.

As the University moves toward the concept of career families, staff can expect to see changes to University job titles within career tracks. Reducing the number of official titles will help simplify the system, but units may choose to implement more specific operational titles as needed.

Design team members say they don’t know specific changes yet, but they do know that the revamping process does not include an analysis of each job and its classification. Nor does it include a review of each staff member’s pay. The University’s approach to pay remains that the individual units drive pay and job classification decisions, but a more universal framework will help guide unit decisions on a Universitywide basis.

Human Resources and the classification teams are committed to providing ongoing updates throughout the project. Current news will be available through the University Record, e-mail and forums. A project Web site has also been established at www.umich.edu/~hraa/class/ for background information, project goals and steering committee and design team members. The site will be updated throughout the project. Your questions and comments are a vital part of the communication process and can be submitted through the Web site or by sending e-mail to ClassQuestions@umich.edu.