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Position Classification

[Policy] Last Updated: October, 2016

The job evaluation system which applies to Civil Service positions at NIU is based upon a comparative method called Position Classification, which involves comparing each individual job description against a set of criteria, called classification specifications, which define a number of pre-existing job "categories." A specific job (position) is assigned to one of the existing job categories (classes) based upon the work content of that job. (This method is different from some evaluation systems, in that it is designed to compare duties and responsibilities rather than compare attributes of the persons who carry out the job, i.e., other things remaining constant, a change of employees at the same "desk" will have no effect upon the category to which the position is assigned.)

A common set of job categories and supportive evaluative devices are applicable to all institutions and support agencies of public higher education in Illinois. A copy of a complete set of the class specifications is available for your review on the State Universities Civil Service website. 

These evaluation criteria are developed and distributed by the staff of the State Universities Civil Service System of Illinois. The criteria are issued to (not by-the) campus Human Resource Services who are, in most cases, authorized to make classification determinations on behalf of the Merit Board in order to expedite the job evaluation process. Biennial audits are conducted at each campus by the State Universities Civil Service system to assure consistent application of existing standards and to determine the need for revision of those standards to accommodate changing technology, etc.

Because of the collectively large number of positions among the university campuses which comprise the scope of the State Universities Civil Service System, comparisons between selected individual positions having similar characteristics would not necessarily give the same results as a simultaneous comparison of all positions at all institutions having similar content. Coupled with the possibility of using an erroneously classified position as a point of reference, no viable method of comparison exists at the campus level other than comparing each position against the System-wide standards. You should, therefore, avoid comparisons between one specific position and one or two other specific positions, or within an artificial grouping based upon irrelevant factors such as building designations, supervisor's rank/title, etc.

Each position's work assignments are reflected in a "job description" which originates in the employing department at the time the position is originally established, with subsequent changes in job content reported to Human Resource Service. When indicated by cumulative changes in the content of a particular position, the position may be reassigned to a different classification. This process is called "reclassification."

While there are several processes which may apply to an employee whose position is to be reclassified, it is generally required that an employee pass an examination for the new classification in order to be promoted. However, it is not advisable to have the employee take an examination before the classification re-evaluation has been concluded, because:

  1. the test may be unnecessary,
  2. the employee may take the wrong test,
  3. the employee may be referred to-and accept an offer from -another department (passing the promotional exam places the employee's name in a register which is sent in response to vacancies throughout the campus).

Because of the great variety of job types found in the Civil Service, no standardized form has been found which adequately covers all aspects of a given position. As a result, no form is required. However, a guide containing general suggestions on how to write a job description (called Writing a Job Description) follows this section.

A job description is a written report which outlines the work assignments allocated by management to be performed by one Civil Service employee on a permanent and continuous basis. Merit Board regulations require that a job description be used as the basis of determining the classification of newly established positions, as well as any subsequent changes in classification. In addition, a current job description must be on file before referrals can be sent for interviewing. Currently, a time lapse of more than two years will disqualify a job description for this purpose.

The initial job description originates with the persons who assign work, the unit supervisor and department head. The job description is then routed through the college or divisional office for review and endorsement and finally to the Human Resource Service from the vice presidential office. Signatures of the several parties agreeing to the work assignments are affixed to indicate knowledge and approval of the proposed work assignments. In the absence of such signatures, the Human Resource Service is not free to begin the job evaluation process.

Once the position has been assigned to a Civil Service job category (called a classification) the department is notified.. The department head or unit supervisor is responsible for:

  1. Providing the supervisor and employee with copies of the job description.
  2. Assuring an annual review of the job description with each employee by the supervisor to discuss changes which may have occurred, levels of performance, etc.
  3. Reporting changes in job content to Human Resource Service via a revised job description or completing a Position Review Certification form as appropriate .

Human Resource Service maintains the official job description for the position. The Human Resource Service cannot, however, provide copies to applicants. It is the responsibility of the interviewing department to discuss the current job description with those applicants officially referred to the position.

When a Civil Service employee leaves a position, an internal check is made by HRS to assure that the current job description has been reviewed within the twenty-four month time span previously mentioned. If it has, normal recruitment and applicant referrals follow. If it has not, the department is asked to submit a new job description. In the latter instance, a re-evaluation of the position will be made to determine if the previous classification is still appropriate before the recruitment/ referral process is initiated.

An employee or supervisor may request a re-evaluation of a position at almost any time. There is a 90 day limit between re-evaluations of the same job. Normally, such requests are initiated as a result of recent job changes. However, recent changes in work content are not a prerequisite for a re-evaluation request, and a re-evaluation may be requested even though no recent changes have occurred.

Each Civil Service employee has an absolute right to have their position re-evaluated by the Human Resource Service, up to four times a year.  Agreement with the employee's opinion as to proper classification is not a condition required of management officials signing the description; the latter's signatures are limited to verification as to the accuracy of the description of work assignments. No comment or "approval" of an employee's contention as to proper classification of the position is expected or required.

An appeal process exists which provides for a review of the Human Resource Service's decisions (as delegated by the SUCSS) concerning individual cases. Copies of this procedure are available upon request from the Human Resource Service.