Month: June 2020


In our work with hundreds of organizations, many apply long-standing, well-accepted approaches for the management of human resources. The HR function is steeped in traditional methods and so-called best practices for everything from job evaluation and compensation management to performance management. At Birches Group, we believe for organizations to innovate and thrive, they must be willing to try new things. Our Community™ Jobs approach provides a fresh perspective on one of the most misunderstood areas of human resources – job design and evaluation. Good job design and clear job evaluation are critical to fully support all other programs in HR.

How Community™ Jobs is Different

Job evaluation is traditionally a highly technical area of HR, reserved for the “job evaluation high priests” to compile results and share with the organization. Usually, job evaluation systems are complex and hard to understand, using many different factors to determine results.

Birches Group built Community™ Jobs to be simple and transparent, and easily understood by HR, managers and yes, even staff.  We also believe that job evaluation forms the fundamental underpinning of everything HR does – from compensation and recruitment to development and performance.  Every area of HR is impacted by job evaluation and job levels.

Just Three Things

Community™ uses three factors to assess work: Purpose, Engagement, and Delivery, across fourteen job levels, as shown in the diagram below:

The primary factor is Purpose, which answers the most critical question: why does this job exist in the organization? Purpose enables us to examine each role within the organization and determine its primary objectives and how it supports the overall mission of the organization.

The second factor of Community™ Jobs is Engagement, identifying how each job interacts and collaborates with internal and external stakeholders to carry out its function.

Delivery, the third factor of Community™ Jobs, examines how each role plans, organizes and delivers work to fulfill the organization’s mission. It focuses on how a job manages tasks, transactions, services, projects, or programs under its purview.

The three Community™ factors taken together allow us to understand how an organization conducts business across all levels of work, starting with defining the purpose of its jobs, determining their level of engagement, and examining how each of its roles organizes and delivers service.

The Six Indicators

For each of the three job evaluation factors, we have identified two indicators to connect the job directly to the skills and knowledge required for success:

Each of these indicators is used in applying the Community™ Jobs evaluation methodology.  But importantly, the same criteria are also used to develop standards in the other modules of Community™.  Community™ Skills allows organizations to measure experience explicitly by evaluating an employee’s accumulation of skills and knowledge over time.  Community™ Performance provides a standard for measuring achievement by considering how employees have performed against the standard established for their job level.

Job Evaluation in Action

What are some examples of how job evaluation results (job grades or levels) can be used in other areas of human resources?  Here are just a few:

  • Job descriptions.  One of the most unstructured and tedious task managers face is writing job descriptions.  And most of the time, they are just a listing of tasks and inputs.  Birches Group believes job descriptions should be purpose-driven, output-focused and written from the perspective of what the job must deliver.  Our approach for job description writing uses the job evaluation factors and indicators as a basis to describe duties and responsibilities.  Best of all, no job description will ever exceed one page!
  • Salary bench-marking.  We use Community™ Jobs as the job evaluation methodology when conducting our salary surveys in over 150 countries.  Every employer’s jobs are matched to a Birches Group level, enabling a consistent and fair comparison to jobs in the market with similar levels of contribution to the organization.
  • Salary management.  Organizations use job grades to build salary structures, which in turn provide managers with tools to optimize the organization’s competitive position and ensure high levels of employee engagement.
  • Skills assessment.  Managers will often say that employees with more experience should be paid more. But there is no standard for measuring experience other than time, until now.  Using the Birches Group Community™ job levels, we have developed explicit measures for each job evaluation indicator, arrayed over five separate skill levels.  This skills assessment tool can be used for multiple purposes, including pay management, learning and development planning, succession planning, promotion readiness, and ensuring unbiased application of starting salaries, to name a few.
  • Performance management.  The same three factors used for job evaluation – purpose, engagement, and delivery – can be used to measure achievement.  For example:

Purpose – Does the employee have good ideas?

Engagement – Did they listen and adapt to customer feedback?

Delivery – Did they deliver on time with high levels of quality?

Community™ Performance has a structured approach to measuring achievement by linking back to the job evaluation factors.

By focusing on the Community™ Jobs factors — Purpose, Engagement, and Delivery — managing all areas of HR is now possible using a simple, consistent, and integrated approach.

Bianca manages our Marketing Team in Manila. She crafts messaging around Community™ concepts and develops promotional campaigns answering why Community™ should be each organization’s preferred solution, focusing on its simplicity and integrated approach. She has held various roles within Birches Group since 2009, starting as a Compensation Analyst and worked her way to Compensation Team Lead, and Training Program Services Manager. In addition to her current role in marketing and communications, she represents Birches Group in international HR conferences with private sector audiences.


As the human resources function has improved and modernized over the years, a lot of positive changes have resulted. HR in many organizations is now a respected partner to business leaders, and increasingly are being asked to provide strategic insights about the overall people management for the organization. In most HR departments of any size, there is usually a “hard side” – job evaluation, compensation, benefits, etc. – and a “soft side” – recruitment, learning and development, succession planning, and performance management.  These two sides of HR are often managed separately and from totally different perspectives.

And that’s a problem!

While some argue this arrangement has worked in their organizations, what they don’t realize is this disconnect between the hard side and the soft side of HR has led to many of the issues organizations face today – poor job alignment, loose enforcement of compensation policies, and how reward and recognition are often confused with each other.

For the longest time, organizations have managed these areas separately, patching together using different tools built on different methodologies. How can we expect HR to provide a clear base of policies if their own approaches are not aligned and don’t even use common standards?

Community™ – HR Management Integrated

Community™ is Birches Group’s methodology and platform that integrates critical areas of human resources: job design and evaluation, compensation management, skills measurement, and performance management. Community™ uses a simple, clear, and consistent approach across all areas of HR, and the key is Jobs.

We provide a robust and powerful job evaluation system, Community™ Jobs. It is designed to focus not only on the nature of work and its value, but also connect the purpose of each job to the fundamental skills required for the role and the corresponding metrics that define its success. The job levels defined using Community™ Jobs extend the job levels into all other areas of HR – compensation and benefits, individual skills assessment, and performance management. 

Organizations using Community™ are able to integrate the key areas of their HR program and achieve better workforce engagement. When participating in salary surveys, performing market analysis is easy because all job levels are mapped to Birches Group’s Community™ levels, which serve as the common standard across all comparators. Community™ Skills makes it easy for managers to assess the accumulated skills and knowledge of their staff using explicit criteria outlined across five skills stages, anchored to the Community™  job levels. This enables companies to understand the capacity of their workforce and provide focused learning and development to build capacity for the future.

And finally, performance management becomes a seamless process because using the Community™ job levels to evaluate employee achievement by considering what outputs are expected for the job.  A 360-degree approach is used to capture the perspectives of the employee, the manager, and peers with whom the employee interacts, inside and outside the organization.

Community™ Solutions

Birches Group’s Community™ platform offers four solutions – JobsMarketSkills, and Performance, all integrated into one intuitive platform. Jobs and Market define the structural elements of an organization, while Skills and Performance focus on the organization’s people and capacity.

Organizations can enter the Community™ system through any of its solutions depending on their needs. Using Community™, organizations can start by defining jobs and job structures, and use these to ensure a competitive market position. Skills provides a mechanism to measure individual capacity, and can be used for setting individual pay, learning and development and more.  Performance is focused on how the achievements of individual staff are measured and rewarded.

Through Community™, our clients have access to an integrated solution that aligns both structure and capacity using one simple approach. It closes the gap that many systems have failed to address, bridging the hard side with the soft side of human resources.

Contact us to learn how Community™ can power the success of your organization.

Bianca manages our Marketing Team in Manila. She crafts messaging around Community™ concepts and develops promotional campaigns answering why Community™ should be each organization’s preferred solution, focusing on its simplicity and integrated approach. She has held various roles within Birches Group since 2009, starting as a Compensation Analyst and worked her way to Compensation Team Lead, and Training Program Services Manager. In addition to her current role in marketing and communications, she represents Birches Group in international HR conferences with private sector audiences.


The Future of Work

Nowadays the HR community often finds itself in the midst of a whirlwind.  There is almost no end to the articles, conversations, and learned prognostications about the future of work. By all accounts, it seems we stand on the precipice of a new world which will be vastly different from the world of work in which we all labored at the end of the twentieth century. The revolutionary changes which are just beyond our horizon are expected to either herald the long-awaited man-made utopia where we are freed of mindless repetitive tasks or the frightening dystopia where we are reduced to characters best depicted in Disney’s Wall-e.

As all this swirls around us, managers and staff are often looking to HR to provide some guidance, some safe path that will get us to and through this uncertain future while magically sparing most of us from little more than having our hair mussed. Within the HR community, we are generally dumbfounded. We just don’t know what to do since we simply do not know what to expect! We have all seen in the past twenty to thirty years the gradual disappearance of many classic office positions and occupations which fifty years ago formed the backbone of office functions.  Stenographers, switchboard operators and typing pools have gone the way of blacksmiths and bridle makers. So, we labor on and for most of us, we will deal with the future when it gets here. It is not that we are confident that we can confront the challenges; it’s just that thinking about them makes our heads hurt, so we would just rather not. 

Understand the Future by Remembering the Past

There is no point in being either Pollyannish or morose about the future.  As with most things regarding the future, insight into the future of work can be gained by taking a few steps back and looking at what has happened at similar crossroads we encountered in the past. This is not the first revolution. The current challenge is often referred to as the fourth industrial revolution, and it is said that the changes which are coming will be unlike any past transition. Yes, technological change can be very intimidating, but to assert that what is coming will be disruptive in a manner far exceeding past transitions isn’t quite right. The changes in society that came in the latter part of the nineteenth century and into the early part of the twentieth represented a massive shift in so many industries that the transformation which occurred touched every life on the planet. In the space of twenty to thirty years, ocean travel was transformed from wood and canvas to steal and steam. As a result, it enabled not only faster and larger forms of transport, it supported the massive waves of migration which defined this period. With trains and cars, the millennia dependence on horsepower disappeared. As a result, farms, which were the “gas stations” of the day concentrating on the production of fodder, shifted to growing a wider range of crops for human consumption, lowering food costs and supporting a population shift to urban centers.

The electrification of cities and factories not only spurred new methods of working, it transformed lives in unimaginable ways.  Inventions such as refrigeration (have you seen your iceman lately?) and the creation of modern sanitation and high-rise elevators literally enabled the cities we know today.  Air travel, radio and television were just a few years further on in the transformation of how we work and live.

Through all of these changes, the simultaneous destruction of old jobs and creation of new ones took place at a dizzying pace.  Another important change occurred that fundamentally redefined how we work.  Time began to matter.   Before travel in steamships and trains, it was not possible to accurately determine the time it would take to travel between two cities.  With the invention of the steam engine and all that followed, schedules could be devised, and our lives more closely governed by the ticking of the clock.  Time standards were developed in the 1880’s to bring order to the mess created by railroads, which each set their own time.

Time measurement combined with the development of more modern methods of production such as the assembly line transformed how we defined work from the effort to produce a finished product to a series of inputs that together make up the process that results in a finished product.  Moving from outputs — being paid for what we produce – to becoming a provider of one of many of inputs which contribute to production – led to the restructuring of work and reward.  Salaries were born.  We would not be paid for what we produced, but for the time we spent at work, molting into the 9 to 5, Monday to Friday definition of work.

The Next Revolution is Upon Us

What scares many of us today is the 9 to 5, Monday to Friday construct is crumbling before our eyes. How can we value contribution if not through the measurement of time? The answer to this question also lies in our past.  It is to focus on the outputs we create and not how long we spend making them. Returning to an output-based foundation for defining work is not an easy transition. Our minds and behaviors have been so conditioned and regimented by the clock that we fear without a time-based approach we will be exploited and find ourselves continually at work. Conversely, the promise of focusing on outputs can liberate us from a daily regimen and provide us true recognition for what we actually accomplish.

This is the challenge that lies before us: Can we transform our thinking and concepts of work that are only slightly more than 100 years old to enable a return to a view of work that prevailed for millennia before that focused on true value? Our only certainty is that how we work in the coming years will bear little resemblance to the man in the gray flannel suit that so colors our subconscious.

In our next blog on Let’s Talk about Work, we will examine how the new world of work is emerging and how human resources can help lead organizations through the changes that are upon us. To map this path forward, all we need to bring is an open mind, and perhaps to let go of some time-worn notions. It has been done before; after all, who ever thought humans could fly… until we did!

Gary is the founding and managing Partner of Birches Group.  He has worked in the areas of organization design and compensation management for over forty years.  Following a career with the United Nations, Gary has led the Birches Group consulting practice working with many leading international organizations in over 100 countries.  Gary has pioneered a new simpler way to integrate job design with skills and performance through Birches Group’s Community™ platform.  He is recognized as a global expert on job theory and design delivering workshops and lectures around the world