March 20, 1997......Volume 26, Issue 24

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Welcome to "Glad You Asked," a column where employees can get answers right from the source.

Q. Recently I submitted a request for a job upgrade. I filled out the necessary forms, the request was approved by my immediate supervisor and then by the head of my college. The request was then sent to Human Resources, where a gentleman who doesn't have a clue as to who I am or what my job is like, determined that I did not qualify for an upgrade. Why is this obviously archaic system used? Who knows better than my supervisor whether or not I deserve an upgrade? Why are these demeaning forms necessary?

-- Curious at University Park

A. Job evaluation is a system used to establish the value of work in an organization. This in turn is tied to a pay system. That pay system is based to a degree on the marketplace for a particular set of skills and what an employer is capable of paying to maintain a motivated and competent workforce.

Job evaluation systems are not performance systems. This is a common misconception. How well an employee performs his or her duties does not determine the grade of a job. However, employees may from time to time have substantial changes in their jobs that require an examination to determine if their job is properly evaluated. Since job grade changes are based on the duties performed, the University must have a way to describe and measure the amount of change to make a grade determination. The way this is accomplished at Penn State is through the completion of a Position Information Questionnaire (PIQ). Without the PIQ, the employment/ compensation specialist cannot make an evaluation and a determination of which job specification (SPEC) best fits the level of the job responsibilities performed. It is important to note that all exempt and nonexempt staff employees use the same PIQ to describe their job responsibilities.

Following the submission of the PIQ, the evaluation phase begins, which focuses on the job duties, scope and level of responsibilities, and several other factors in order to reach a decision. The employment/compensation specialist compares the employee's responsibilities to others across the University who report that they do similar or closely related work. Those employees also have PIQs on file with our office. We use these as reference points to ensure that we are using the same yardstick to measure the level of a job.

-- Milton R. Trask, manager, Employment & Compensation Division

If you have a question for the Glad you asked column, please send it, along with your name and office phone number, via e-mail to For publication purposes, Intercom and Online Intercom will use the initials of the individuals sending the questions and their campus location or department, depending on the nature of the question. Requests for anonymity will be honored.

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