Employee Growth

What Is Job Architecture and Why Does It Matter?

January 10, 2024
January 10, 2024
Deanna deBara
Lattice Team

At some companies, especially those that have recently experienced rapid growth, job data may be in a chaotic state. From one department to the next, similar jobs might have vastly different titles, levels, and salary ranges. These discrepancies can hurt employees’ role clarity, not to mention expose the organization to future pay equity claims, among other issues.

The solution? A thorough, future-proofed 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 all the roles within a company, including what they bring to the table and where they fall within a job hierarchy. 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.

While a job architecture can be developed at a company of any size, it is especially valuable at larger companies, as it helps standardize job titling and pay across different business units.

A visualized example of job architecture as a flowchart starting at job function and breaking down into two job types, which each break down into several job levels.
Within Lattice Grow, job architecture is available as three default user attributes: job function, job type, and job level.

What are the components of a job architecture?

While each organization will structure its job architecture differently, all are intended to help define the job structure and hierarchy of an organization. To do that, job architecture “captures skills and capabilities that define a role and its alignment to hierarchy, function, and discipline,” said Theresa Haskins, EdD, adjunct associate professor of human resource management at USC Bovard College.

According to Deloitte, the following are four components of a job architecture:

  • Job Levels: Job leveling delineates the steps of career progression within a particular role. Organizations should determine the best number of job levels per job type based on the needs and structure of their business.
  • Job Documentation: Less detailed than a job description, job documentation should be a record of general expectations, job functions, and entry requirements. This information can be used to form job families.
  • Job Titles: Titles should be developed to indicate a position’s level, competencies, and responsibilities.
  • Compensation Solutions: Pay structures can be developed for different job levels based on market benchmarks and the value of jobs.

As Haskins explained, “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.” 

If your internal teams are making up job titles, job descriptions, and pay rates out of thin air...you are in big trouble.

Why does job architecture matter?

Job architecture is 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 stakeholders within your organization get on the same page and ensure that each team’s or department’s decisions are aligned with the larger business 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,” warned Sara Causey, founder of staffing and recruiting consultancy Causey Consulting. “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 the 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 growth paths), ensuring that each assistant had equal opportunity for success and comparable compensation and responsibilities — regardless of which department they’re in. 

[Role clarity] helps employees understand where they fit in the organization and the expected skills and competencies required to be successful...

5 Ways Job Architecture Benefits Organizations

Clearly, job architecture is important. Below, we’ll explore five precise ways job architecture can benefit your business.

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 onboard the right person for each position. Thorough job descriptions and documentation can help accomplish this aim.

“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 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 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. With 83% of organizations facing workforce skills gaps, addressing these gaps is a nearly universal imperative. 

“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 Lamothe-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 its recruitment strategy to fill those talent gaps and hire the people the organization needs to achieve its business objectives.

3. It strengthens compensation strategies.

A 2022 Lattice survey of 3,000 employees found that 67% of US employees want more transparency from their organization about pay practices. And more than 30% of US employees surveyed said they didn’t understand the process behind promotion and pay raise decision-making at their company. 

Further, 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 and people of color.

Job architecture helps mitigate both these problems because employees and those making pay decisions know the strategy behind compensation changes. 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, but it also helps ensure that they’re being paid in line with your company’s competition, which can help you keep top talent from looking for new jobs. “[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 Lamothe-Jensen, “but when it's done well, it provides governance and efficiencies to areas like recruitment, pay, and talent management.”

In addition, Lamothe-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,” Lamothe-Jensen pointed out. 

Job architecture can also help HR leaders figure out the best way to support their teams and staff members in achieving their career goals and growing 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 HR technology, tools, 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.”

Signs that Your Job Architecture Is Working

Now that you’ve seen the benefits of effective job architecture, you may be wondering how to measure whether your approach is working. If you see improvements in any of the below areas, signs point to your organization having an effective, thoughtfully designed approach to job architecture.

  • Pay Equity Analyses: These studies of compensation data can help you determine whether people in similar roles at your company are being paid equitably. Job architecture streamlines pay equity analyses by facilitating easier comparisons and justifications of roles and compensation disparities across an organization.
  • HR Analytics: HR analytics track and measure the impact of HR initiatives on business markers like performance, compensation, employee engagement, and more. Because job architecture offers a consistent framework for job levels and pay values, it can support HR analytics and lead to more accurate and meaningful data insights.
  • Workforce Planning: The process of analyzing skill needs within your organization and predicting future talent gaps based on company growth plans is called workforce planning. Job architecture can help optimize workforce planning by aiding in determining the ideal organizational structure and adjusting to business changes like growth or mergers and acquisitions.
  • Employee Engagement: In a 2023 Gallup article on employee engagement, author Jim Harter called clarity of expectations “the most foundational of all engagement elements.” By clarifying roles, responsibilities, and career paths at every level of an organization, job architecture can set the foundation of clarity on which employee engagement flourishes.
  • Efficiency: According to a 2020 Mercer survey of HR experts, 67% of organizations indicated “they expect a 20% efficiency increase in HR and business from implementing a career framework.” Their expectations might not be too far off. By standardizing job profiles and pay ranges, a job architecture framework could help streamline recruitment and lead to more efficient hiring practices.

Maximizing Organizational Potential With Effective Job Architecture

Job architecture gives your organization the framework it needs to build a stronger business, and it’s a must for companies that want to continue to stay competitive in the ever-changing world of work. As Causey said, “Companies that will be the most successful in the future will have a well-developed job architecture.” 

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 career opportunities, while building the kind of workplace that attracts — and retains — top talent.

To learn how Lattice Grow empowers HR teams to build an approach to job architecture that’s equitable, scalable, and gives employees the career clarity they need, schedule a free demo today.