This leader toolkit provides you with helpful information regarding the Job Family Compensation Structure that will be implemented in January 2021. Take time to review the information so that you are prepared for questions your employees may have about the new structure. The compensation team is available if you have additional questions, a link of team members is available in the additional links to the right.

Leader Talking Points


What is changing about compensation at UT?

  • The University of Tennessee is transitioning to a market-based compensation structure. A market-based structure uses external salary information to evaluate pay in specific positions across an industry. The new structure allows for more well-informed pay decisions.
  • As part of this project, new job families, roles, and levels have been created to better describe the work of employees. Job families are a set of jobs grouped together that perform similar functions.
  • Each impacted staff/administrative role will be placed into a new job family, role, and level as part of this project.
  • New market-based ranges were established to replace the current pay grades of impacted staff/administrative roles and have been assigned to each job family, role, and level.
  • New compensation policies and procedures will go into effect with the implementation of the project.

Why are we transitioning to a market-based structure? What was wrong with the old system?

  • Old System
    • Current job titles and descriptions were vague and created inconsistencies in the way positions were classified across campuses and institutes.
    • Missing job families resulted in “best fit” situations. Distinctions between grades were not clear within the same job title making classification ambiguous and difficult to understand.
    • There were over 200 job titles with multiple grades and over 100 job titles had more than three grades assigned, again making it difficult to understand the differences between roles.
  • New System
    • Job families allow us to group similar jobs together based on actual work performed and that work’s relationship to the market.
    • The new market-based structure provides leadership with the framework to assess the competitiveness of our compensation and, as funding becomes available, to set strategic priorities in addressing market gaps over time.
    • The layout of the new structure enables leaders to identify appropriate job families, levels, and roles when creating/redesigning positions and organizational structures.
    • Each job family has defined roles and levels with designated market ranges.
    • Positions can be more consistently classified across the UT system.

What were the steps to implement the new market-based structure?

Phase 1: Staff Position Descriptions
Implementation of the new position description form, went into effect on July 1, 2017. This form made it easier to create and update staff position descriptions—the first step in our three-phase project.

Phase 2: Job Families
A statewide human resources team was appointed to review and update job families—classifications grouped by similar types of work and required training, skills, knowledge, and expertise.

Focus groups with subject-matter experts were held at each campus and institute to gain a better understanding of the roles and levels within each job family. The focus groups provided essential feedback to ensure the new and revised roles within each family are an accurate description of work. Position descriptions for regular staff were used to validate the new job family descriptions.

Human resources offices requested updated position descriptions as the work began on each of the job families. All job families are available on the dedicated Job Family Page.

Phase 3: Market-Based Pay Ranges and Benchmarking
Job families were finalized, and a system-wide market assessment was conducted and market-based pay structures were developed. Positions were assigned to pay ranges more reflective of relevant job markets. The job family project is budget neutral.

What is the difference between the working (position) title and the classification (job) title?

  • The working (position) title is more descriptive of the function or responsibilities of an individual position and should be easily recognized and understood by internal and external constituencies. Working titles are typically used in emails and business cards. The classification (job) title is the official title that corresponds to the position classification and is recorded in the Human Resources (currently IRIS) system.

What positions are included in the new compensation structure?

  • All regular staff, excluding faculty, some postdoctoral associates, temporary staff, those in the Extension job family, and students.

You say that there are no pay increases associated with the project at this time, but how will it affect my pay going forward?

The new compensation structure is the first step in building a solid foundation to make compensation decisions moving forward. The new structure will provide the tools that leadership needs to build a compensation strategy to address salaries going forward. Budget availability is a major factor in building a compensation strategy, and it will be different for each campus and institute. Leadership at each campus and institute can provide additional information that aligns with their respective strategy.


Implementation scheduled for January 2021

Leader Resources

Project Overview

The following link is a preview of the K@TE course that will be assigned to all employees that will be affected by the implementation of the new compensation structure. As a leader, you will be able to view this prior to your employees receiving the assignment. Familiarizing yourself with the content will help you in supporting questions your employees may have.

Employee K@TE Course
Additional Leader Resources

How can I support my employees during this transition?

  • Be mindful that this is a significant change in how compensation has always been handled at the University of Tennessee and that for some, change will be difficult.
  • Understand that those employees that report to you want to hear about significant changes from their leader and will look to you to gauge whether this is a positive or negative change.
  • Be open and available to listen to employee concerns. Sometimes employees don’t need an answer as much as they need to be heard.
  • Keep a list of questions that you do not have the answers for and work with your compensation specialist or HR partner to get the answers and, most importantly, follow up with the employee in a timely manner.

Use the resources listed below to assist you in leading through Organizational Change.

What positions were not included in this project?

Temporary, instructional faculty, students, some post-doctoral research associates, and positions in the Extension job family were not included.

How were positions assigned to the job families?

Updated position descriptions (PDs) were requested and used to assign positions to the new job families.

How was it determined to which job family a position belongs?

The job families were developed to describe specific fields of work. Position descriptions were reviewed and assigned to job families based on the nature and majority of the work described in the position description.

Are managers reviewing new job family classifications?

Each campus and institute have conducted management review sessions to review the job family classifications. These reviews were conducted according to the respective campus/institute’s structure and needs.

Will employees receive information on their new job family classifications and market ranges?

Yes, each campus and institute will disseminate information to employees.

Are current posted positions using the old structure or the new structure?

Until the new structure is implemented, posted positions should follow the current recruitment procedures. There is a plan to move positions that are posted at the time of the project implementation to the new job family structure. At that time, posted positions will be subject to the new procedures.

How do I get a copy of my position description (PD)?

Work with your supervisor to request a copy of your PD.

What if my PD needs to be updated?

Work with your supervisor to determine if your PD needs to be updated. Each campus and institute have their own procedures for reviewing PDs. Contact your Human Resources office for additional information.

What is the difference between management and professional roles?

Management roles have the primary responsibility for managing people and programs/departments and setting and participating in strategic planning. Professional roles have the primary responsibility to perform professional functions and managing people is a secondary part of the role.