Sarah Jefferys shows how broadbanding has created flatter organizations with fewer opportunities to advance. Job levelling and improving career pathways can help keep top talent from fleeing, and attract job seekers.
career pathways 

The law of unintended consequences suggests that any intervention may or may not have the intended outcome, but will have unexpected results. So it is, for some, with broadbanding. Removing the bureaucracy and focus on status associated with multiple layers of job and pay grades has made career pathways much harder to distinguish.

In a well-intentioned effort to reduce the emphasis on hierarchy, many employers replaced their traditional multi-grade pay structures with broadbanding: a system that consolidates salary grades into fewer, but broader, pay ranges.

This change effectively flattens organisations and reduces promotional opportunities, allowing for pay increases typical of more lateral moves or skills development instead. The system clearly has its advantages, but needs to be paired with some light touch form of analytical job evaluation that helps employees grasp what is required of them in order to progress.

There’s a need to surface career pathways

The pendulum has swung too far towards reward — and away from reliance on career pathways. This is especially true for younger employees, many of whom entered the workforce during the height of the recession. They probably found their careers slow to take off, but are now trying to progress more rapidly under improved circumstances. In fact, 91% of millennials consider the potential for career progression a top priority when choosing a new job. And whilst three-fifths (60%) would like formal feedback on career and professional development every one to three months, under two-fifths (38%) receive it only once a year at the most.1

Against this backdrop, employers have shifted towards job levelling — an analytical process that helps people understand the competencies and skills needed to progress to different career levels. Its purpose is to determine the relative value of jobs in an organisation and provide a foundation for reward and talent management progammes. The process also helps ensure that line managers are better equipped to provide regular and meaningful feedback to employees.

It’s too easy to divorce organisations

Besides job levelling, it’s essential to focus on the medium and long term aspects of reward, as well as short term considerations. It’s all too easy for employees to leave their employer without any negative financial consequence. Organisations should ensure that if their best talent walks away, they leave value on the table.

What’s the score for contractors?

The 901,0002 people in the UK employed on zero-hour contracts in their main job, and the estimated 1.3 million3 working in the gig economy don’t have access to a career pathway. Even if the government heeds the call for labour law changes made in the recent Taylor Review4, this situation is unlikely to change.

Gig economy work and zero-hour contracts both treat workers as contractors and offer no pay guarantee. But gig workers are normally paid per piece (gig) — such as a set rate to deliver a package — whilst zero-hour contractors receive hourly pay with no set minimum.

The Taylor Review called for a new worker category that gives contractors some employment rights and ensures a decent wage, but falls short of providing employment status and its full protections. However, a move towards the independent report’s recommendations was evident in the Employment Tribunal ruling that awarded a group of Hermes couriers basic employment rights.5

It’s important to remember that some of these workers prefer to be free of employment obligations. They may not have career pathways mapped out, but they do have more freedom to do as they wish. This autonomy is a proven way to enhance mental wellbeing — an insight that can easily be lost in rules-based world.

  1. Robert Walters, ‘91% of Milliennial professionals think career progression is a top priority’, accessed August 2018
  2. Office for National Statistics, ‘Contracts that do not guarantee a minimum number of hours’, April 2018
  3. Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), ‘To gig or not to gig? Stories from the modern economy’, March 2017
  4. Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, ‘Millions to benefit from enhanced rights as government responds to Taylor review of modern working practices’, February 2018
  5. People Management, ‘Hermes tribunal result intensifies calls for “long overdue” gig economy laws’, June 2018