Sample Material of Public Administration Study Kit: Personnel Administration: Position Classification

Sample Material of Public Administration Study Kit (Paper - I)

Chapter IX - Personnel Administration: Position Classification

Meaning and Definitions

“A position is a group of a current duties and responsibilities, assigned or delegated by competent authority, requiring the full time or part time employment of one person.”

Under this definition a position is composed of assignments of duties and delegations of responsibilities. It may be part time or full time, temporary or permanent, occupied or vacant. It does not depend for its existence or identify upon whether or not it is occupied by an employee. It often exists as a vacancy before it is occupied by anyone and it resumes its status as a vacancy when an incumbent is separated from it.

The duties and responsibilities of a position are, however, not always fixed and immutable. They may change from time to time, abruptly or gradually and because of anyone of a number of different reasons. Hence, since a position is characterised by its current duties and responsibilities, it follows that a material change in the duties or responsibilities of a position has the effect of creating a new position different, to the extent of the change, from the old one.

As we have observed that the process of classification consists of placing things in classes; that the nature of a class of items in any system of classification implies that each individual item which the class contains shall be like every other item in certain respects; that these respects depend upon the basis of the particular classification concerned; and that in position classification we select as the basis of classification duties and responsibilities of the positions being classified. Hence, a class of positions is a group of positions which, irrespective of the particular operating units in which they are located, are sufficiently alike in their duties and responsibilities to justify group treatment in nomenclature, selection, pay and other personnel processes.

Thus the term ‘Class’ is defined as: “The term ‘Class’ means a group of positions established under these rules sufficiently similar in respect to the duties, responsibilities, and authority thereof that the same descriptive title may be used with clarity to designate each position allocated to the class, that the same requirements as to education, experience, capacity, knowledge, proficiency, ability and other qualifications should be required of the incumbents, that the same tests of fitness may be used to choose qualified employees, and that the same schedule of compensation can be made to apply with equity under the same or substantially the same employment conditions.”

It appears from above definition that if two or more positions are “sufficiently similar in respect to their duties and responsibilities”, they belong in the same class; otherwise they belong in different classes. It is the decision whether or not positions are in fact ‘sufficiently similar’ that constitutes the essence of classification. We should note that equality of rank is not alone sufficient to establish positions in the same class. Two positions that may properly be paid according to the same pay scale-one composed of stenographic work and the other statistical work-are not allocable to the same class of positions, because they do not conform to the other standards of sufficient similarity.

A ‘class of positions’ is, of course, a group concept, as contrasted with ‘position’, which refers to duties and responsibilities performed by an individual employee. In a given organisation there are as many positions as there are employees and vacancies waiting to be filled, but there are only as many classes of positions as there are distinct kinds of positions, one compared with another. The duties and responsibilities making up a position may make it anything from peon to the Secretary. The duties and responsibilities of a class of positions can, however, properly include only those having essential features of similarity.

Thus, every employee occupies a ‘position’ in the service. A position of an employee depends upon the duties and responsibilities of the post which the employee is occupying. The group of persons who have the same position or nature of duties and responsibilities, is a class. The duties and responsibilities of the positions and the consequent qualification requirements are considered to be the criteria by which the classes are determined. According to Morstein Marx, “By Classification is meant the grouping of positions on the basis of similarity of duties and qualifications required.” In the words of Dimock and Dimock, “Classification may be defined as the systematic sorting and ranking of positions in a hierarchical sequence according to comparative difficult and responsibility.” Pfinner says, “Position with like functions and like responsibilities are grouped into a single class without regard to the department or service in which they are located.”

Simon observes, “The position classification plan is device widely used in public civil service jurisdictions to simply and standardize personnel procedures. The position, the fundamental building block in such a classification, is a group of duties and responsibilities that are to be assigned to a single employee. The basic idea in a position classification is that all these positions in an organisation which involve closely similar duties and responsibilities should be grouped together for purposes of recruitment, compensation and other personnel matters.”

In brief, positions are classified on the basis of what the incumbents do, not how well they do it. Classification is of the position and not of the person who is currently holding it.

The civil services are placed into various classes, categories and grades. This classification is made of all the employees of government. It is not confined to the employees of any one department. It is of the positions on the basis of common duties and responsibilities. Positions performing similar duties and responsibilities are placed in the same class.

Advantages of Position Classification

The movement for position classification started with the demand of equal pay for equal work. In the words of L.D. White, “The position classification plan of whole is the skeleton on which the personnel requirements of the services are build.” Some of the advantages of position classification are as follows:

1. Classification leads to standardization of salaries on the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’.
2. Classification facilitates budget making. The budget office calculates salaries on the basis of class position of the employees.
3. Only under a classification plan salary could be determined keeping in mind the duties and responsibilities of an office.
4. The work of recruitment is greatly facilitated by position classification system. It provides a basis for determining recruitment procedures.
5. Position classification leads to uniformity of treatment in promotions. Employees know the lines of promotion and consequently the avenues of promotion are always discernible.


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