Current human resource management philosophy favours fewer grades

Dear Editor,

My friend and senior professional colleague, Mr EB John, has been doing yeoman service in pointing out deficiencies, flaws and anachronisms in various aspects of human resource management, including the improprieties in the categorization/classification of jobs within the public/ civil services of Guyana; his latest appeared copiously in various issues of the local media last week.

I feel obliged to support Mr John’s repeated calls for urgent remedial action which, incidentally, resonate with the recent Report of the CoI into the Public Service of Guyana. As an adjunct to his extensive contribution, I wish to point out that there are varying ‘systems’ of job evaluation/classification of which the one used for jobs in the Guyana Public Service is among the oldest; this undoubtedly adds to the anachronisms indicated by Mr John.

A significant consequence of the system in use within the Guyana Public Service is the multiplication of ‘finite’ grades or classifications, in this case  a total of 14 grades. I know of another arm of the government where there are 15 grades which in my view can be beneficially halved. In contrast, for example, I am reminded of at least two systems, namely: Elliott Jacque’s ‘Time Span of Discretion’ and Tom Patterson’s ‘Decision Band’ systems, both of which provide for about six hierarchical classifications. Of more recent vintage is the ‘Broad-banding’ approach which also caters for about half a dozen classifications within most organizations.

Undue multiplication of grades with corresponding increases in the number of narrow salary scales tends to result in steep hierarchical, top-heavy organizational structures with invisible walls/ceilings which often frustrate career growth by constraining natural job enlargement/enrichment ‒ the epitome of employee commitment, job satisfaction and growth.

Current Human Resource Management philosophy and practice favour fewer grades and flatter organizational structures. For example, Zingheim & Schuster, joint authors of The New Pay and Pay People Right are among the more popular current proponents of the best thinking on compensation principles and practices. Their expositions on the Broad-banding approach emphasize that “Broad grades and career bands are the newer kids on the block and have become popular pay infrastructure…reflecting a flatter, de-layered organization…with less hierarchical, more expansive opportunities for base pay growth to correspond with individual growth.” This supports the broadening of jobs which is conducive to organizational growth and staff development etc, etc, all of which are true motivators over and above normal interest in financial rewards”.

Readers who are professionally interested in the subject matter might also find comfort in recent publications of the Harvard Business Review such as on ‘Change Management’, as well as ‘HBR’s 10 Must Reads’, published by Harvard Business School in 2017.

Yours faithfully,

Nowrang Persaud

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