How a company organizes itself can play a major role in how successful (or unsuccessful) it is. So if you want to set your company up for success, there’s one organizational step you’ll need to consider — job architecture.

Job architecture is a must for companies that want to continue to stay competitive in the ever-changing world of work. According to Sara Causey, founder of staffing and recruiting consultancy Causey Consulting, “companies that will be the most successful in the future will have a well-developed job architecture.” 

Below, we’ll take a closer look at job architecture, what it is, why it matters, and, most importantly, how it can benefit your organization. 

What Is Job Architecture?

Job architecture is an organizational framework for understanding the roles within a company. “[It’s] the structure of roles and leveling — [or] hierarchy — of jobs in an organization,” explained Theresa M. Haskins, EdD, Adjunct Associate Professor of Human Resource Management at the University of Southern California, Bovard College. “It captures skills and capabilities that define a role and its alignment to hierarchy, function, and discipline.”

With job architecture, you can collect the data and information necessary to clearly and uniformly define the different roles and levels within your organization, and then use those definitions to drive a variety of strategic decisions.

“Job architecture informs compensation decisions, captures hierarchies within an organization, and leads to the development of career pathways to support internal mobility and succession planning,” Haskins said.

Why Is Job Architecture Important?

Job architecture is so essential because it gives companies an objective way to manage and grow their teams. “A well-defined job architecture provides organizations with a consistent and systematic approach that serves as the foundation for managing roles, compensation, career development pathways, and promotions,” said Haskins.

Job architecture can also help different teams and departments within your organization get on the same page and ensure that each team’s or department’s decisions are aligned with the larger organizational strategy.

“If your internal teams are making up job titles, job descriptions, and pay rates out of thin air with no real rationale behind it, you are in big trouble,” cautioned Causey. “Using job architecture helps you gather — and then interpret — the data you need to make sound decisions.”

For example, say your organization has two administrative assistants — one supporting the marketing department and one supporting the customer service department. Without job architecture, the assistant in the marketing department might have a job title of Marketing Assistant and make $40,000 per year, while the assistant in the customer service department might hold the title Customer Support Specialist and make $45,000 per year — even though their roles, duties, and responsibilities are essentially the same.

But with job architecture, there would be a clear framework for defining these roles (including responsibilities, compensation structure, and career path), which would ensure that each assistant had equal opportunity for growth and comparable compensation and responsibilities — regardless of which department they’re in. 

5 Ways Job Architecture Benefits Organizations

Clearly, job architecture is important, but you may be wondering if the investment in time, energy, and resources required to implement it at your organization is worth it. Is it, and here’s why.

1. Job architecture improves role clarity.

Job architecture is about clearly defining roles within the company — and when a role is clearly defined, it gives hiring managers the information they need to find and hire the right person for each position.

“Job architecture improves role clarity,” noted Haskins. “This helps recruiters attract the right talent.” Improved role clarity also “helps employees understand where they fit in the organization and the expected skills and competencies required to be successful in the role,” she continued. 

This transparency into exactly what’s expected from the role (and where candidates can expect the role to take them their careers) can help prospective employees better evaluate whether a position is the right fit for them and their long-term goals. With job architecture in place, when a candidate accepts an offer for a specific role, they know exactly what they’re getting into, which can lead to improved job satisfaction and employee retention.

2. It identifies talent gaps.

Role clarity isn’t the only way job architecture can lead to better hiring; it can also help your organization identify when there are talent gaps in your workforce. 

“Architecting specific positions and how they fit into the broader organizational structure is important because it intentionally identifies the kinds of jobs and expertise needed to meet business objectives,” said Julie Jensen, founder of HR strategy and consulting firm Moxie HR Strategies. Job architecture can also help companies identify what jobs and expertise they may be missing from their current organizational structure. Once a company has that information, Human Resources can adjust their recruitment strategy to fill those talent gaps and hire the people the organization needs to achieve its business objectives.

3. It strengthens compensation strategies.

If there’s no framework for determining how roles within an organization should be compensated, it leaves the door open for pay inequity. This can impact anyone, but tends to disproportionately affect women, people of color, and other marginalized groups.

Job architecture helps eliminate this problem because, as Haskins explained, it “provides increased transparency and takes the subjectivity out of compensation and promotion decisions, which helps support diversity in the workplace and promote pay equity.”

Not only does job architecture help ensure that employees are being paid in line with their coworkers, it also helps ensure that they’re being paid in line with your company’s competitors, which can help you keep top talent at your organization. 

“[Job architecture] allows [an] organization to review its compensation structures and ensure levels by role are competitive with the market,” Haskins noted.

4. It enhances employee experience.

Job architecture can also benefit your organization — and your employees — by improving employee experience and engagement.

“Most employees may not give job and organizational architecture much thought,” said Jensen, “but when it's done well, it provides governance and efficiencies to areas like recruitment, pay, and talent management. [Job architecture] can also provide speed in which organizations move, and creates consistent and fair practices.”

In addition, Jensen continued, “clear structural lines provide clarity on role expectations, responsibilities, and accountability, which increases employee engagement in key areas such as onboarding and performance management, and provides transparency for how employees can advance their careers.”

5. It improves HR functions.

While job architecture benefits organizations as a whole, there’s one department that has the most to gain from it: Human Resources. One major benefit of job architecture for HR is that it helps identify gaps in Human Resources practices and programs. Job architecture “identifies HR practices that may be required, like career progression, strategic workforce planning, and succession management,” Jensen pointed out. 

Job architecture can also help HR leaders figure out the best way to support their teams and give their staff members the support they need to achieve their career goals and grow within the company. “A solid job architecture helps inform internal People development programs,” said Haskins. “It brings clarity [about] skills required to be successful [and] leads to the development of needed programs to upskill employees and ensure they are continuously ready for the future of work.”

Lastly, job architecture can help HR teams take advantage of the variety of tools, technologies, and software available to help grow, manage, and support their teams. “A well-defined job architecture is foundational to leverage the many talent management and HRIS tools being rolled out today,” Haskins said. “As more and more employees expect employers to have systems that ‘know who they are’ and can make custom recommendations for learning and job opportunities, we need to build the back-end infrastructure — including job architecture — to meet employee expectations.”

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Job architecture gives your organization the framework it needs to build a stronger business. By creating a clear hierarchy of roles within your organization, and using that hierarchy to drive strategic decisions, you can create an environment that supports equity, growth, fairness, and opportunity, while building the kind of workplace that attracts — and retains — top talent.