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Bespoke or off-the-shelf Job Evaluation frameworks – which is right for your organisation?





Posted by Cathryn Edmondson on 09 June 2021

Bespoke or off-the-shelf Job Evaluation frameworks – which is right for your organisation?

Evaluate | Job evaluation

A common question we often find prospective new clients weighing up is whether to go for a bespoke framework or an off-the-shelf framework. In short, there is no right or wrong answer to this question, however in our experience we have found that a bespoke framework for one client can end up looking quite similar to a bespoke framework for another client because there are factors that are common across most businesses regardless of sector or size. 

There are advantages to both bespoke and off-the-shelf frameworks, and it is about weighing up these pros and cons. 

  • A bespoke framework can use language your business is familiar with and the factors can be tailored to reflect your business, but it will take more resource to design and validate to make sure you get it right, and it will not benefit from the rigorous anti-bias testing that a good off-the-shelf framework will have had. 
  • An off-the-shelf framework is ready to roll out so takes a lot less resource to implement and as it has already been rigorously tested so you can be certain that the framework is free of bias. But may not use the exact terminology that is common in your business

Regardless of which approach you decide on there are some key considerations to bear in mind:

  1. Simplicity vs granularity. There is a balance to be struck between a framework that is simple enough for employees to understand but one that also provides enough granularity to truly differentiate between roles. On the face of it having a large number of levels in the framework can be appealing to provide granularity. However, on the other hand, this can make it difficult to explain the true difference between each level. A key consideration should be around how easy a framework will be to communicate to your employees. Even if you don’t intend to communicate the full framework, employees need to understand what the levels mean and how they differ from each other in order to trust the process. This was a key premise when we designed and built Evaluate. Evaluate differentiates between levels based on the value roles at each level bring to the organisation. This means that the five or six levels in the framework are easy to explain and employees can see the difference.
  2. Consider the practical application of the framework. This is particularly important when designing a bespoke framework. It can be tempting to include a large number of factors against which to evaluate a role, to try and cover every aspect of every role and to satisfy multiple stakeholders, but this can mean evaluating a role is a lengthy process. The framework needs to be thorough and cover the core elements important to your business but it also needs to be practical. We advise clients not to over-engineer the framework, to focus on the core elements that define roles in the organisation. 

Considering the practical application also applies to the process of evaluating roles as well as the framework itself. An online system can initially appear to be unnecessary, and more expensive, especially for smaller organisations but it’s important to weigh this against the time you will spend documenting and tracking evaluations in a separate process if you do decide to use a paper-based framework. Capturing the outcome of evaluations and any notes relating to that evaluation is an important part of the process. Thinking through the practicalities of keeping on top of this information and how much additional time it will take vs how much time an online system will save by capturing all this, should be considered alongside the cost.

There is also the value of additional insight that an online framework can bring. Additional functionality in an online tool can help provide that overview so you can see the shape of your organisation, and see where there might be gaps in resource or unrealistic spans of control and so you can look across the business and check for consistency. It can make sense checking easier – for example, does it feel right that a Senior Sales Executive and an IT Developer are at the same level. 

Many of our clients are growing organisations and a common conversation we have with them is about thinking through what they might need down the line as well as what they need now. Removing a job evaluation framework that is well embedded is disruptive and you want to avoid finding that a few years down the line it is no longer fit for purpose. Clearly none of us have crystal balls and job evaluation frameworks can still require tweaking or changing over time but if the business has clear growth or diversification plans then taking these into account when assessing the best option will save time and disruption in the long run. The framework or the platform may feel unnecessary in the here and now, but it will make more sense as the business evolves.

Finally, consider the defensibility against equal pay claims. Introducing a job evaluation framework is an investment and one of the key principles is that it ensures roles are sized and placed in a hierarchy that is free of bias. The easiest way to be sure a framework is free of bias is to adopt a proprietary analytical framework that has been rigorously tested and that you can be confident will stand up to scrutiny if you ever face an equal pay claim. The cost of dealing with an equal pay claim can dwarf the cost of a robust job evaluation framework. Alternatively, if a bespoke option is the best approach for your business then you can add a scoring mechanism and have it tested to ensure it is free of bias but this does add additional time and resource.

As always, there is a balance between cost, time and resource when deciding what framework to adopt and while an analytical framework with a scoring mechanism is the most robust approach in providing a defence against equal pay claims, for some organisations other priorities mean it is not feasible. In these cases, there is still value in a well-designed framework that brings greater consistency and objectivity to how you size roles, even if the framework is not fully defensible against equal pay claims.

If you would like more information about Job Evaluation frameworks, or if you would like to see our Job Evaluation tool, Evaluate, in action, please contact me. I can be reached via email at, or call our consultancy team on +44 (0)20 3457 0894.

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