University Human Resources Begins Classification Briefings

New structure aims to recruit and retain staff at George Washington University.

Professor's Gate
November 23, 2015

By James Irwin

Vice President for Human Resources Sabrina Ellis provided an outline Friday of the George Washington University’s new job classification structure, expected to be implemented in early 2016.

The structure will replace the existing 24-level pay grade system for staff employees  and will add uniformity to job titles and definitions for positions with similar responsibilities at GW. Faculty positions will not be affected.

“This is something the university has seen as a key priority in terms of bringing some uniformity, consistency and transparency to how we recruit staff and retain staff,” Ms. Ellis said at a briefing in Duques Hall.

Speaking at the first of four briefings scheduled for late November and early December, Ms. Ellis and Associate Vice President for HR Talent Management John Kosky provided details and examples of how the new structure is an improvement over the existing one.

The new structure

University Human Resources has spent three years on the project, working to identify all positions at the university and compiling information from supervisors and staff about their needs, Ms. Ellis said. An advisory group made up of representatives from 22 divisions and schools across the university was involved in this process, she said.

In the new structure, all staff positions will be assigned to a job family—information technology, development, finance, enrollment management and human resources are some examples. An accounting position would belong to the finance and business job family; an admissions or financial aid position would belong to the enrollment management family, Mr. Kosky said.

From the job family, positions are assigned to a sub-family. There will be about 150 of them, Mr. Kosky said. Sub-families can differentiate within the family—an admissions officer and a financial aid employee would both be within enrollment management, but would be in different sub-families, for example, Mr. Kosky said.

Career stream—executive, management, individual contributor and service and support roles—would then help categorize jobs by the nature of the position and how it relates to other positions. This also will help develop uniformity across departments and divisions regarding job titles. For a position to be considered “management,” a staff member must manage a department and at least the equivalent of two full-time employees.

A better career roadmap

GW’s current structure includes more than 1,100 classifications for about 4,000 positions. It is overgrown, Ms. Ellis said. By way of comparison, the university’s faculty and research structure has far fewer levels and layers. The staff classification structure is infinitely more complex making it difficult for employees and supervisors to understand and navigate, she said. 

That creates issues for staff advancement at GW, she added. There are currently seven classifications in GW’s staff structure that represent, essentially, the same job as an executive aid, Mr. Kosky said. It makes it difficult for employees to develop a career path at the university because job titles, roles and position descriptions lack continuity across departments and divisions.

“We lose some people because they don’t know their career path here,” Ms. Ellis said. “There are quite a lot of people who figure it’s too difficult to understand, and they look outside the university. We hope this brings clarity and more retention of staff.”

The new structure will reduce the number of classifications from 1,100 to about 580, based on type of work and the scope of the job, Mr. Kosky said. Beginning Feb. 1, university staff will be able to log into GWeb to view their career stream, job family and sub-family.

It will provide current employees with a way to build a clear path at GW, Ms. Ellis said. A person interested in event planner positions, for example, would not only know his or her family, sub-family, stream and level (an experience-based hierarchy within the stream), he or she also would be able to view available positions of interest and their classifications as well and visually see a path to advance at GW.

“It will improve the way we recruit and help facilitate how we retain,” she said. “It will provide more transparency.”

Not a restructuring of offices

The project also will not do some things, Ms. Ellis and Mr. Kosky said, namely automatically change pay or job duties. Questions raised Friday centered on whether the classification project would affect those areas.

The main goals, Mr. Kosky said, are to create a career development framework and clean up a classification structure that is repetitive.

The classification project, Ms. Ellis added, is not a restructuring of university jobs—it is a restructuring of how the university groups and organizes jobs internally, by discipline, function and role.

“I don’t want us to confuse the classification project as a restructuring of the university—that’s not what this is,” Ms. Ellis said. “Every unit leader and manager can and will continue to restructure their units as they need to. I think that’s just a natural part of what an organization does. But as that evolution happens, they need to have a framework. As supervisors and managers want to make future decisions about how to make changes, we are trying to help bring a little more uniformity to how that is done across the university. The migration to the new framework will not result in any pay changes, up or down”


Human Resources to Host Classification Project Briefings

November 18, 2015
Events on Foggy Bottom, VSTC campuses will provide information on new job classification structure.

Clarity, Uniformity at the Heart of New GW Classification Structure for Staff

April 01, 2015

University to launch new staff classification program in the fall.