Chapter 3: Classification
Changes in duties and responsibilities can occur with a departmental reorganization or as business needs in a department change requiring a different configuration of job responsibilities. For these reasons, The Staffing and Compensation unit of HR reviews jobs that have changed significantly in addition to reviewing new positions. Staffing and Compensation provides the following services to the campus:
- Designing and implementing effective classification methodologies for the campus.
- Classifying and reclassifying positions using the full range of UCSF job titles.
- Providing information on how to write job descriptions.
- Consulting on how changes in duties may affect a job.
- Conducting departmental studies/unit organization reviews.
- Working with departments to determine more appropriate and cost effective structuring of jobs to meet unit needs.
- Providing campus liaison with the Office of the President on major classification and compensation issues.
- Guiding Principles
- How the System Works
- Job Vacancy Listing Checklist
- Other Resources
- Reclassification Review Checklist
The goal in preparing a job description is to develop a complete, concise, and accurate description of the duties and responsibilities assigned to a position to help classify that position and to be used as a tool for recruiting, training, and evaluating employees as well as a guide for developing performance standards.
How the System Works
The purpose of a job description is:
- To accurately describe the duties and responsibilties assigned to a position This description is then used to determine the proper classification or grade level for a position
- To develop recruitment and hiring specifications
- To design and restructure jobs
- To provide effective employee training and development
- To help develop performance standards
Who Prepares a Job Description?
The classification process begins when you submit a new or substantially revised job description with supporting information to the Staffing and Compensation. Your Staffing and Compensation Analyst is available to field questions you may have before writing the description.
The job description can be completed by the employee or the immediate supervisor, depending on which person is more familiar with the position. If the incumbent is new to the job or the position is new, you may wish to complete the job description. If the employee completes it, you should review and validate it, because you are the person with authority to determine the actual duties and responsibilities assigned to the position. After you review and sign the job description, the department head or designated business officer/administrator reviews and signs it. Your signature does not imply that you are in support of any particular classification level. It simply indicated that you have validated that the description accurately reflects the duties and responsibilities assigned to the position.
Some departments, colleges, or control units have personnel managers who review the job description, compare it to positions within the department, school, or college, and provide guidance on reclassification requests; they may also have delegated authority to classify positions.
Completing the Job Description
A well-written job description should be easily understood by anyone who reads it - not only by those familiar with the position. Some technical abbreviations, language, or documentation unique to the unit may be quite understandable when used within the unit, but might require further explanation for classification. When writing a job description, always be clear, concise, and complete.
A results-oriented description explains why functions are performed and allows you to more effectively manage the objectives of the position; it also helps the Staffing and Compensation Analyst evaluate the position more quickly and effectively. Remember to develop the following information in the job description:
- Introduction: State the function of your unit and the primary purpose of the position in a brief narrative paragraph.
- Duties: Identify the major duties (those that require at least 10% of time over a specific time period such as annually, monthly, weekly). Use specific action verbs to describe duties; for example, “open, post and distribute mail,” not “handle mail.” Avoid vague terms like “assist in”, “arrange for”, or “administer,” which do not describe job duties.
- Responsibility: As applicable to the job duties, define the authority and/or responsibility to make decisions, develop and revise procedures, make official commitments, etc. Indicate to whom recommendations are made, and for whom analyses are performed and reports are prepared. Describe the impact of decisions made by the employee on the department and/or campus.
- Supervision Exercised: If supervisory responsibilities are assigned, explain the employee’s role; for example: interview and select employees; train; plan, schedule, and assign work; evaluate performance; and take disciplinary action. Be precise and specific in identifying all supervisory tasks.
- Position Controls: You may complete this section separately in a narrative form or with the description of the duties and responsibilities.
- Assignments: Document from whom and in what form the assignments are received, and what kinds of instruction and directions are given. For example, what work is performed independently and what work is routed to you for review?
- Guidelines: Give brief, clear examples of resources used for guidelines or consultation in performing the job. Include examples of problems that require assistance from you or other sources.
- Indicate essential duties: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), functions considered essential should be shown with an asterisk (*). A job function is considered essential if:
- Performance of the function is the reason for the job existing.
- A limited number of employees are capable of performing the function.
- The function is highly specialized, requiring unique expertise or abilities.
Questions to Ask Yourself
After you have completed the job description, review it and ask yourself these questions:
- Is it logically organized to describe all the duties and responsibilities?
- Does it avoid using vague terms? Is it clear and current?
- Is it specific in explaining what is done and why? Are good examples used to illustrate complex and abstract issues?
- Is it concise? Are major duties addressed, rather than giving a detailed list of tasks?
- Does it include only material describing the position? Are personal references to the incumbent avoided?
- Are essential duties (as determined by the ADA) indicated with asterisks?
- Does the description provide a valuable introduction for a new employee in the position?
Completing a Departmental Cover Letter or Supervisor’s Checklist
It is often helpful if the job description is accompanied by a cover letter from the immediate supervisor, the department or unit head, or a designated representative. The cover document should address the following:
- Significant changes to the position since last review: Identify specific areas of change. This section is extremely valuable for the Staffing and Compensation Analyst’s review. The more information you provide on relevant changes, the more easily the Analyst can make an informed decision. If you have a copy of the duties previously performed, attach it to the description.
- Recommendations: If you are requesting a specific classification level, your reasons for recommending a reclassification and/or title change should be noted in the cover letter.
Preparing an Organization Chart
Submit a current organization chart with each classification/reclassification request. A formal printed organization chart is not required, but it should be sufficiently detailed to reflect departmental structure and the position’s relationship in the current organization.
The Classification/Reclassification Process
Reasons for Classification Review
When developing your reasons for the classification review, ask yourself whether the duties and level of responsibility have changed significantly.
Normally, descriptions are not submitted for review unless they have changed substantially and significantly since the last review. If you are uncertain, you can discuss the changes with your Staffing and Compensation Analyst. You may also want to review the job specifications available by request and on the web at
Sometimes a reclassification request is motivated by the desire to reward a top performer. When an employee exceeds performance standards, you may feel pressure to show appreciation through reclassification. Such efforts are more appropriately recognized through the merit and Staff Performance Award programs. Note: See the next chapter, Compensation, for an explanation of merit increases.
It is important to request a job review only when appropriate and to thoroughly prepare your request, including determining whether budget dollars are available to fund the reclassification, if approved. Although the majority of reclassification requests are approved, the ones that are denied can cause frustration for the employees involved. This can be de-motivating and can become a source of conflict when the employee feels that the supervisor did not fully support the reclassification request.
A reclassification is normally effective on the first of the month following receipt of the request in the Office of Human Resources (for example, a reclassification request received in June, if approved, would take effect on July 1).
When reviewing a position for classification, the Staffing and Compensation Analyst reviews the job description and other related materials such as the supervisor’s cover memo and organization charts submitted for review. Such documents highlight important information related to changes in the position.
The analyst considers how a position has changed (additional duties, supervision exercised and received, and other critical components of the position) and compares the position to the published classification standards for the job series and to similar positions within the orgaization.
In some cases, the analyst will consult with campus experts in the field to obtain their perspective and assessment of the position.
A job series or job family is a group of jobs with similar functions that require similar specialized knowledge and skills. Examples of job series include the clerical/administrative series, student affairs officer series, and the programmer/analyst series.
The job specifications identify the different levels of work within a series. For example, within the clerical/administrative series, three levels of (_) Assistant (I, II, and III) are identified and defined.
Staffing and Compensation Analysts consider these important factors when classifying a position:
- Nature or type of work performed
- Level of responsibility
- Impact of position on the unit, department, or campus
- Reporting relationships
- Scope of duties
- Complexity of work
- Supervision received
- Supervision exercised
- Knowledge and skills required to perform the duties
Other factors that are typically not considered in classifying a position are:
- Performance of the incumbent
- Longevity of the incumbent in position
- Unusual qualifications
- Financial needs
Based on the review and comparisons, the Staffing and Compensation Analyst determines the appropriate title. The analyst may call you during the course of the review to discuss the findings. You will receive written confirmation of the decision, usually through email.
Appeals and Reviews
Check the relevant personnel policy or contract for guidelines on formally appealing or reviewing a classification decision.
Job Vacancy Listing Checklist
____ The Job Description
____ Employee Requisition Form (ERF)
____ An organization chart
____ A cover letter describing changes in the position, where appropriate
____ Appropriate signatures, including approval for exception to any funding freeze, when required
- Course Catalog and Enrollment
- HR Fundamentals Courses
- Staffing and Compensation Analysts in the Office of Human Resources
- Classification Standards/Concepts available in the Office of Human Resources
- The Classifcation/Reclassification Process
- Collect Bargaining Agreements
Reclassification Review Checklist
____ The current job description
____ The former job description
____ A cover letter describing changes in the position
____ An organizational chart
____ Appropriate signatures, including approval for exception to any funding freeze, when required