Using Job Architecture to Enable Digital Transformation

March 6, 2019

As companies ramp up hiring for technology roles, it can be challenging to determine where tech jobs fit in their job structures. Business and HR leaders are asking big picture talent questions that can actually be answered by revisiting their job architecture.


Introduction

The world is undoubtedly more connected and reliant on digital technologies. As companies develop their long-term business plans to keep up, they are finding that implementing a human capital strategy to support their business plan is just as important.

Organizations that were not traditionally classified as technology companies are now faced with recruiting talent typically found in the technology space — from IT and engineers to marketing, product management and HR professionals versed in digital human resources information systems. This talent is needed for companies across all industries to build and sustain new ways of doing business, such as utilizing artificial intelligence to improve customer experience, leveraging data analytics to improve supply chains or enabling software for online banking and e-commerce.

In their quest to hire and retain talent with the specialized new skills they need, HR leaders are asking these types of questions:

  • What are the skills and people we need to compete now and in the future?
  • Do we have the right job structures in place and are we sufficiently flexible to adapt our workforce as needed?
  • Where do technology and IT jobs fit into our company?
  • How do we provide our employees with both vertical and horizontal career opportunities?

Each of these questions can be answered through the development of a well functioning job architecture that meets the unique needs of each organization. In what has been referred to as the fourth industrial revolution, companies need to create job structures that balance both consistency and flexibility to develop compelling career paths that resonate with new talent. It might seem that consistency and flexibility would be at odds, but the key is making job descriptions and progression criteria specific enough that they are easily understood by stakeholders, but not so rigid that they are overly prescriptive and not adaptable to changing business needs. 

Sometimes managers think of job architecture as simply putting together job titles  and descriptions, but effective architecture can do so much more. At its core, good job  architecture should:

  • Hold a validated set of jobs that is specific enough for purposes of talent  deployment, training, compliance and recruiting, but not so specific that each  person has a unique job and title;
  • Provide a necessary array of career opportunities within a given field and reflect  the dual nature of career ladders where technical experts are not required to  manage people to progress (a particularly important attribute for technology talent);
  • Clearly define criteria for high performers to get promoted through the  organization and the progressive responsibilities at each level;
  • Include job titles that employees and other interested stakeholders (e.g., customers,  competitors, trade associations and regulatory bodies) can rely on to understand  who they are interacting with and their level of accountability;
  • Allow a company to easily and accurately assess human capital costs for budgeting,  accruals, headcount analysis and bonus planning by categorizing jobs and people  clearly and systematically;
  • Enable HR to monitor and ensure pay is distributed equitably by having a  classification system in place to group employees and measure how pay is  distributed; this is paramount in today’s environment where pay fairness and  transparency are leading rewards issues most organizations are concerned about;  and
  • Empower leaders by providing flexibility and agility in how they develop  their people and structure their teams.

Sometimes managers think of job architecture as simply putting together job titles and descriptions, but effective architecture can do so much more.

How Digital Transformation is Altering Job Architecture

Companies transforming themselves through the increased use of technology find themselves asking big picture talent questions that can actually be answered by revisiting their job architecture. 

These questions typically fall under three buckets.

Handling Hot Jobs or Skills

  • As new skills or talent requirements come into the market, what is that doing to our structures?
  • We’re finding ourselves creating new jobs for every new skill or over-leveling to match market pay. Is there a better way to handle this?

Manager vs. Individual Contributor

  • Can there be individual contributors with people they manage and managers that don’t have direct reports?
  • How do we accurately determine the scope of responsibility for managers when the number of people they have isn’t consistent?

Finding the Right Number of Job Levels

  • We have a lot of highly tenured employees, but no ability to promote them. How can we change this?
  • Do we really need a principal level in HR or Finance? How about Legal?
  • How do we provide career opportunities without losing control of our organizational structure?

Drawing from our experience helping companies spanning all industries with their job architecture, we have found certain characteristics that make technology companies’ structures unique. The goal for non-technology companies hiring for new jobs isn’t to imitate technology companies, but, rather, to identify the structural attributes that help to attract and retain people who are ‘tech savvy’ or ‘digital natives.’

As other industries seek to hire technology talent, they need to think about ways to incorporate some of these attributes into their job structures. These common attributes include:

  • Dual career tracks,
  • Greater agility and flexibility to move throughout the organization,
  • A global leveling structure that also enables mobility, and
  • Simplified job structures with broader job families.

The sample approach below is a method that enables dual career paths for an individual wanting to move up the traditional career ladder in managing teams and an individual contributor that doesn’t want to manage but seeks to become a seasoned expert in their respective field. Virtually all large technology clients we work with use this type of career ladder.

Illustration of Dual Career Paths

Case Study: Modernizing the Job Architecture at a Leading Logistics Business

Situation

As the competitive market for logistics equipment and services began to change, our client found itself needing to improve its information technology capabilities to manage both business expansion and development of new products and revenue streams. Existing job architecture had not been fully evaluated in several years. This resulted in a patchwork of old and new jobs with inconsistent descriptions, roles and structures that were considered out of date and not competitive with the talent market. 

Challenge

The emergence of new skills and ways of delivering value to clients was challenging the the company's current structures and programs. The company was finding itself competing with technology companies and other firms outside its traditional talent market and was having difficulty attracting and retaining employees due to outdated job titles and lack of career options. Furthermore, leaders needed a better understanding of development opportunities and career progression to ensure that the organization was growing the talent and the leadership it would need to manage business and technology changes.

Solution

Our experts worked directly with the company's Chief Information Officer to identify areas for consolidation and change based on the new strategy and succession plans. Following the initiative, we formed a team to assess the client's current job architecture and descriptions. We proposed a new leveling, hierarchy of roles and modernized titles based on market practice and the proposed organizational changes. Finally, we designed new salary structures, with corresponding bonus targets and equity grant guidelines, to support market competitiveness and reinforce internal equity between functions.

Results

Through Aon's partnership, the company was able to improve its organizational effectiveness by eliminating siloed work between different IT functions and promote greater collaboration between technical teams. The new, simplified job architecture streamlined job families and clearly laid out career progression between job levels. 

The client found out methodology and processes so effective that they have retained Aon to expand that work into other areas of the business outside of the IT division. 

Our ability to work seamlessly with and blend expertise across multiple industries helps us provide deeper insights and develop programs and structures that are grounded in real-world expertise and business knowledge. 

Conclusion

Next Steps

In order to attract and retain talent with in-demand technology skills, organizations must lay out an easily understood road map for future workforce growth. This often means creating dual career ladders and balancing flexibility and consistency. 

  • The degree to which you revamp your architecture to accommodate new jobs will depend on the system you're currently using, the amount and types of new jobs you're acquiring and whether your company is growing organically or through acquisition (in which case you're probably inheriting a different job architecture system and need to reconcile that with your current structure). 
  • At a minimum, job architecture that covers technology-related jobs should be updated regularly to reflect market prevalent roles, levels, titles and career frameworks. Being mindful of how quickly business plans and jobs change, regular maintenance of your job systems is best practice for competing for talent in the digital age. 
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