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6.3: Types of Pay Systems

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  • Learning Objectives

    1. Explain types of job evaluation systems and their uses.
    2. Be able to define and discuss the types of pay systems and factors determining the type of pay system used.
    3. Know the laws relating to compensation.

    Once you have determined your compensation strategy based on internal and external factors, you will need to evaluate jobs, develop a pay system, and consider pay theories when making decisions. Next, you will determine the mix of pay you will use, taking into consideration legal implications.

    Figure 6.2 The Process for Implementing Compensation Strategy


    Job Evaluation Systems

    As mentioned when we discussed internal and external factors, the value of the job is a major factor when determining pay. There are several ways to determine the value of a job through job evaluation. Job evaluation is defined as the process of determining the relative worth of jobs to determine pay structure. Job evaluation can help us determine if pay is equitable and fair among our employees. There are several ways to perform a job evaluation. One of the simplest methods, used by smaller companies or within individual departments, is a job ranking system. In this type of evaluation, job titles are listed and ranked in order of importance to the organization. A paired comparison can also occur, in which individual jobs are compared with every other job, based on a ranking system, and an overall score is given for each job, determining the highest-valued job to the lowest-valued job. For example, in Table 6.1 “Example of a Paired Comparison for a Job Evaluation”, four jobs are compared based on a ranking of 0, 1, or 2. Zero indicates the job is less important than the one being compared, 1 means the job is about the same, and 2 means the job is more important. When the scores are added up, it is a quick way to see which jobs are of more importance to the organization. Of course, any person creating these rankings should be familiar with the duties of all the jobs. While this method may provide reasonably good results because of its simplicity, it doesn’t compare differences between jobs, which may have received the same rank of importance.

    Table 6.1 Example of a Paired Comparison for a Job Evaluation

    Job Receptionist Project Manager Account Manager Sales Director
    Receptionist X 0 0 0 0 = 4th
    Project Administrative Assistant 1 X 0 0 1 = 3rd
    Account Manager 2 1 X 0 3 = 2nd
    Sales Director 2 2 2 X 6 = 1st
    Based on the paired ranking system, the sales director should have a higher salary than the project administrative assistant, because the ranking for that job is higher. Likewise, a receptionist should be paid less than the project administrative assistant because this job ranks lower.

    In a job classification system, every job is classified and grouped based on the knowledge and skills required for the job, years of experience, and amount of authority for that job. The US military is perhaps the best known for this type of classification system. The navy, for example, has job classification codes, such as HM (hospitalman). Then the jobs are divided into specialties, such as HM-8483, the classification for surgical technologist, and HM-8451 for a hospitalman-X-ray technician. The federal government and most state governments use this type of system. Tied to each job are the basic function, characteristics, and typical work of that job classification, along with pay range data. A sample of a job classification system is shown in Table 6.2 “Example of a Job Classification System at the University of Washington”.

    Table 6.2 Example of a Job Classification System at the University of Washington

    Job Code Job Title State Job Class Code Reference Representative Group Pay Table Pay Range Minimum Mo. Rate Maximum Mo. Incremental Rate OT Eligible
    7715 ACCELERATOR TECHNICIAN 1 SEIU Local 925 Clerical Nonsupervisory B4 40 $2689 $3583 Y
    7300 ACCOUNTANT 1 SEIU Local 925 Clerical Nonsupervisory B4 40 $2689 $3583 Y
    7301 ACCOUNTANT 2 SEIU Local 925 Clerical Nonsupervisory B4 44 $2949 $3956 N
    7302 ACCOUNTANT, SENIOR SEIU Local 925 Clerical Nonsupervisory B4 50 $3410 $4587 N
    7011 ACCOUNTING SUPERVISOR SEIU Local 925 Clerical Supervisory B4 50 $3410 $4587 N
    7045 ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT A SEIU Local 925 Clerical Nonsupervisory B4 39 $2623 $3493 Y
    7044 ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT A-SUPV SEIU Local 925 Clerical Supervisory B4 41 $2751 $3667 Y
    7046 ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT B SEIU Local 925 Clerical Supervisory B4 42 $2816 $3763 Y
    7080 ADMINISTRATIVE COORDINATOR SEIU Local 925 Clerical Nonsupervisory B4 37 $2506 $3325 Y
    7490 ADMISSIONS SPECIALIST SEIU Local 925 Clerical Nonsupervisory B4 41 $2751 $3667 Y
    7583 AFFIRMATIVE ACTION/HUMAN RIGHTS ASST SEIU Local 925 Clerical Nonsupervisory B4 41 $2751 $3667 Y
    8696 ALCOHOLISM THERAPIST 1 WFSE HMC B0 56 $3507 $5021 Y
    6119 ALCOHOLISM THERAPIST 2 359F Classified Non-Union C0 63 $3761 $5224 Y
    6329 ANATOMIC PATHOLOGY LABORATORY LEAD 315H Classified Non-Union C0 73 $4154 $5771 Y
    6328 ANATOMIC PATHOLOGY LABORATORY SUPERVISOR 315I Classified Non-Union C0 79 $4412 $6126 N
    8146 ANATOMIC PATHOLOGY TECHNICIAN SEIU Local 925-HMC Technical B7 55 $3472 $4822 Y
    8326 ANATOMIC PATHOLOGY TECHNICIAN SEIU LOCAL 925 Medical/Laboratory Tech B7 55 $3472 $4822 Y
    8145 ANATOMIC PATHOLOGY TECHNICIAN TRAINEE SEIU Local 925-HMC Technical B7 40 $2991 $4155 Y
    8325 ANATOMIC PATHOLOGY TECHNICIAN TRAINEE SEIU LOCAL 925 Medical/Laboratory Tech B7 40 $2991 $4155 Y
    8147 ANATOMIC PATHOLOGY TECHNOLOGIST SEIU Local 925-HMC Technical B7 66 $3874 $5383 Y
    8327 ANATOMIC PATHOLOGY TECHNOLOGIST SEIU LOCAL 925 Medical/Laboratory Tech B7 66 $3874 $5383 Y
    6313 ANESTHESIOLOGY TECHNICAL SERVICES SUPV 320H Classified Non-Union CA 61 $3686 $5277 N
    6310 ANESTHESIOLOGY TECHNICIAN 1 320E Classified Non-Union CA 13 $2287 $3271 Y
    8312 ANESTHESIOLOGY TECHNICIAN 2 SEIU LOCAL 925 Medical/Laboratory Tech BS 46 $3344 $4933 Y
    8960 ANESTHESIOLOGY TECHNICIAN 2 1199NW-HMC Respiratory/Anesthesiology BS 46 $3344 $4933 Y
    6311 ANESTHESIOLOGY TECHNICIAN LEAD 320G Classified Non-Union CA 52 $3370 $4826 Y
    8959 ANESTHESIOLOGY TECHNICIAN LEAD 1199NW-HMC Respiratory/Anesthesiology BS 53 $3585 $5288 Y
    7724 ANIMAL TECHNICIAN 1 SEIU Local 925 Clerical Nonsupervisory B4 25 $1903 $2506 Y
    7725 ANIMAL TECHNICIAN 2 SEIU Local 925 Clerical Nonsupervisory B4 26 $1948 $2567 Y
    7726 ANIMAL TECHNICIAN 3 SEIU Local 925 Clerical Nonsupervisory B4 30 $2134 $2816 Y
    4727 ANIMAL TECHNICIAN SUPERVISOR 525H Classified Non-Union C1 35 $2370 $3063 Y
    4658 ASSISTANT FACILITIES DESIGNER 540L Classified Non-Union C1 48 $3213 $4214 Y
    8874 ASSISTANT STEAM ENGINEER WFSE Skilled Trades BL 46G $3566 $4106 Y
    8507 BAKER WFSE Campuswide BI 30 $2113 $2789 Y
    8508 BAKER LEAD WFSE Campuswide BI 33 $2266 $2994 Y
    4700 BIOMEDICAL ELECTRONICS TECHNICIAN 1 511E Classified Non-Union CA 54 $3438 $4924 Y
    4701 BIOMEDICAL ELECTRONICS TECHNICIAN 2 511F Classified Non-Union CA 68 $3954 $5659 Y
    4702 BIOMEDICAL ELECTRONICS TECHNICIAN 3 511G Classified Non-Union CA 78 $4368 $6249 Y
    4703 BIOMEDICAL ELECTRONICS TECHNICIAN LEAD 511H Classified Non-Union CA 83 $4591 $6568 Y
    4704 BIOMEDICAL ELECTRONICS TECHNICIAN SUPV 511I Classified Non-Union CA 88 $4826 $6903 N
    8875 BOILER OPERATOR WFSE Skilled Trades BL 42G $3247 $3736 Y
    7613 BOOK PRODUCTION COORDINATOR SEIU Local 925 Clerical Nonsupervisory B4 44 $2949 $3956 Y
    7075 BOOKKEEPING MACHINE OPERATOR SEIU Local 925 Clerical Nonsupervisory B4 29 $2088 $2751 Y
    7550 BROADCAST TECHNICIAN 1 SEIU Local 925 Clerical Nonsupervisory B4 41 $2751 $3667 Y
    7551 BROADCAST TECHNICIAN 2 SEIU Local 925 Clerical Nonsupervisory B4 47 $3166 $4255 Y
    7552 BROADCAST TECHNICIAN 3 SEIU Local 925 Clerical Nonsupervisory B4 51 $3493 $4699 Y
    7553 BROADCAST TECHNICIAN SUPERVISOR SEIU Local 925 Clerical Supervisory B4 55 $3856 $5186 N
    7335 BUDGET ANALYST SEIU Local 925 Clerical Nonsupervisory B4 42 $2816 $3763 Y
    7336 BUDGET/FISCAL ANALYST SEIU Local 925 Clerical Nonsupervisory B4 46 $3093 $4154 N
    7337 BUDGET/FISCAL ANALYST LEAD SEIU Local 925 Clerical Nonsupervisory B4 51 $3493 $4699 N
    7339 BUDGET/FISCAL OPERATIONS SUPERVISOR SEIU Local 925 Clerical Supervisory B4 57 $4053 $5448 N
    7338 BUDGET/FISCAL UNIT SUPERVISOR SEIU Local 925 Clerical Supervisory B4 54 $3763 $5059 N
    7021 BUILDING SERVICES COORDINATOR SEIU Local 925 Clerical Nonsupervisory B4 33 $2289 $3023 Y
    7022 BUILDING SERVICES SUPERVISOR SEIU Local 925 Clerical Supervisory B4 38 $2567 $3410 Y
    5215 BUILDINGS AND GROUNDS SUPERVISOR A 598G Classified Non-Union C1 49 $3293 $4322 N
    5216 BUILDINGS AND GROUNDS SUPERVISOR B 598H Classified Non-Union C1 55 $3819 $5010 N
    7119 BUYER 1 SEIU Local 925 Clerical Nonsupervisory B4 38 $2567 $3410 Y
    7120 BUYER 2 SEIU Local 925 Clerical Nonsupervisory B4 44 $2949 $3956 Y
    7122 BUYER 3 SEIU Local 925 Clerical Nonsupervisory B4 49 $3325 $4472 N
    Source: Reprinted from The University of Washington website, Compensation: A Division of Human Resources, (accessed September 14, 2011).

    Another type of job evaluation system is the point-factor system, which determines the value of a job by calculating the total points assigned to it. The points given to a specific job are called compensable factors. These can range from leadership ability to specific responsibilities and skills required for the job. Once the compensable factors are determined, each is given a weight compared to the importance of this skill or ability to the organization. When this system is applied to every job in the organization, expected compensable factors for each job are listed, along with corresponding points to determine which jobs have the most relative importance within the organization. Tompkins County in New York uses a point-factor system. Some of their compensable factors include the following:

    1. Knowledge
    2. Autonomy
    3. Supervision
    4. Psychological demands
    5. Interpersonal skills
    6. Internal and external contacts

    In this point-factor system, autonomy ranks the highest and is given a weight of twenty-nine, while knowledge is given a rate of twenty, for example. Each of the compensable factors has a narrative that explains how points should be distributed for each factor. In this system, one hundred points are given for knowledge for a bachelor’s degree and two to three years of experience, and eighty points are given if an employee has an associate’s degree or high school diploma and two to three years of experience. The points are then multiplied by the weight (for knowledge, the weight is twenty) to give a final score on that compensable factor. After a score is developed for each, the employee is placed on the appropriate pay level for his or her score, as illustrated in Figure 6.3 “Example of a Point-Factor System”.

    Figure 6.3 Example of a Point-Factor System


    Another option for job evaluation is called the Hay profile method. This proprietary job evaluation method focuses on three factors called know-how, problem solving, and accountability. Within these factors are specific statements such as “procedural proficiency.” Each of these statements is given a point value in each category of know-how, problem solving, and accountability. Then job descriptions are reviewed and assigned a set of statements that most accurately reflect the job. The point values for each of the statements are added for each job description, providing a quantitative basis for job evaluation and eventually, compensation. An advantage of this method is its quantitative nature, but a disadvantage is the expense of performing an elaborate job evaluation.

    Pay Systems

    Once you have performed a job evaluation, you can move to the third step, which we call pay grading. This is the process of setting the pay scale for specific jobs or types of jobs.

    The first method to pay grade is to develop a variety of pay grade levels. Figure 6.4 “Sample Pay Scale for General Federal Jobs” shows an example. Then once the levels are developed, each job is assigned a pay grade. When employees receive raises, their raises stay within the range of their individual pay grade, until they receive a promotion that may result in a higher pay grade. The advantage of this type of system is fairness. Everyone performing the same job is within a given range and there is little room for pay discrimination to occur. However, since the system is rigid, it may not be appropriate for some organizations in hiring the best people. Organizations that operate in several cities might use a pay grade scale, but they may add percentages based on where someone lives. For example, the cost of living in Spokane, Washington, is much lower than in New York City. If an organization has offices in both places, it may choose to add a percentage pay adjustment for people living within a geographic area—for example, 10 percent higher in New York.

    One of the downsides to pay grading is the possible lack of motivation for employees to work harder. They know even if they perform tasks outside their job description, their pay level or pay grade will be the same. This can incubate a stagnant environment. Sometimes this system can also create too many levels of hierarchy. For large companies, this may work fine, but smaller, more agile organizations may use other methods to determine pay structure. For example, some organizations have moved to a delayering and banding process, which cuts down the number of pay levels within the organization. General Electric delayered pay grades in the mid-1990s because it found that employees were less likely to take a reassignment that was at a lower pay grade, even though the assignment might have been a good development opportunity (Ferris, 1995). So, delayering enables a broader range of pay and more flexibility within each level. Sometimes this type of process also occurs when a company downsizes. Let’s assume a company with five hundred employees has traditionally used a pay grade model but decided to move to a more flexible model. Rather than have, say, thirty pay levels, it may reduce this to five or six levels, with greater salary differentials within the grades themselves. This allows organizations to better reward performance, while still having a basic model for hiring managers to follow.

    Figure 6.4 Sample Pay Scale for General Federal Jobs


    Rather than use a pay grade scale, some organizations use a going rate model. In this model, analysis of the going rate for a particular job at a particular time is considered when creating the compensation package. This model can work well if market pressures or labor supply-and-demand pressures greatly impact your particular business. For example, if you need to attract the best project managers, but more are already employed (lack of supply)—and most companies are paying $75,000 for this position—you will likely need to pay the same or more, because of labor supply and demand. Many tools are available, such as, to provide going rate information on particular jobs in every region of the United States.

    Compensation Strategies

    (click to see video)

    The president of HR That Works provides some tips on determining compensation.

    Another pay model is the management fit model. In this model, each manager makes a decision about who should be paid what when that person is hired. The downside to this model may be potential discrimination, halo effects, and resentment within the organization. Of course, these factors can create morale issues, the exact thing we want to avoid when compensating employees.

    In addition to the pay level models we just looked at, other considerations might include the following:

    1. Skill-based pay. With a skill-based pay system, salary levels are based on an employee’s skills, as opposed to job title. This method is implemented similarly to the pay grade model, but rather than job title, a set of skills is assigned a particular pay grade.
    2. Competency-based pay. Rather than looking at specific skills, the competency-based approach looks at the employee’s traits or characteristics as opposed to a specific skills set. This model focuses more on what the employee can become as opposed to the skills he or she already has.
    3. Broadbanding. Broadbanding is similar to a pay grade system, except all jobs in a particular category are assigned a specific pay category. For example, everyone working in customer service, or all administrative assistants (regardless of department), are paid within the same general band. McDonald’s uses this compensation philosophy in their corporate offices, stating that it allows for flexibility in terms of pay, movement, and growth of employees (McDonald’s Corporation, 2011).
    4. Variable pay system. This type of system provides employees with a pay basis but then links the attainment of certain goals or achievements directly to their pay. For example, a salesperson may receive a certain base pay but earn more if he or she meets the sales quota.

    How Would You Handle This?

    You have been working for your organization for five years. After lots of hard work, you are promoted to sales manager. One of your first tasks is to develop goals for your sales team, then create a budget based on these goals. First, you look at the salaries of all the sales staff to find major pay discrepancies. Some salespeople, who perform equally well, are paid much lower than some sales staff whom you consider to be nonperformers. As you dig deeper, you see this is a problem throughout the sales team. You are worried this might affect motivation for your team if they find out what others are making. How would you handle this?