A Blueprint to Thrive: Position Class Specs are Strategic and Critical Building Blocks for Organizational Success

CATEGORY: Blog Posts
CLIENT TYPE: Public Employers
PUBLICATION: California Public Agency Labor & Employment Blog
DATE: Jul 09, 2024

Assembling and maintaining your workforce is a crucial step in the execution of your organization’s mission and goals. Every employee is fulfilling a purposefully designed role within your operations and their current duties are supposed to be set forth by their position’s classification specification (“class spec”).  The upkeep of class specs can understandably get lost in the busy day-to-day operations and viewed as a rainy day project. When was the last time your organization reviewed class specs to ensure their accuracy and necessity? 4 years ago? 10 years ago? 20 years ago? Do not let these foundational tools become antiquated and irrelevant.


Resource Allocation – Pay for the work your organization needs.

A strategic review of class specs will distinguish the critical work roles within your operations. This will assist in prudently allocating financial resources to those positions necessary to thrive as an organization. Accurate class specs will also help in clearly identifying comparable positions within the competitive labor market to effectively adjust compensation rates for strong recruitment and retention outcomes.

Workforce Engagement – Pave the way for your workforce’s future.

A creative design of class specs will generate career mobility roadmaps within job families and beyond. This will help your staff take a methodical approach to their professional development by mastering essential functions of their current position and augmenting targeted knowledge, skills, and abilities of the position next level up. You will reap the rewards of an engaged, exceeding standards employee while ensuring the systematic growth of your organization’s next generation of leaders.

Title VII and FEHA Compliance – Fortify your unbiased stance in personnel actions.

A clearly defined class spec will serve as an objective, non-discriminatory foundation for all recruitment and performance based personnel decisions. Merit-based recruitments proficiently operate by the guidance of established essential functions, knowledge, skills, and abilities within the position’s class spec. In addition, formally addressing job performance issues through written evaluations and disciplinary actions requires accurate and current class specs.

ADA and FEHA Compliance – Ensure employee health and safety during job performance.

A class spec that distinctly describes essential functions, their frequency, and the environments in which they are performed will aid your occupational health provider in determining an applicant’s or employee’s fit for duty status. An employer must rely on these independent job-related medical determinations to safely put workers in appropriate roles. If significant restrictions are deemed necessary or an unfit for duty status is determined, the class spec will serve as an impartial starting point in the interactive process while exploring possible accommodations.

FLSA Compliance – Compensate as required.

Class specs assist in properly identifying qualifying exemptions from overtime to assist in the lawful recording of hours worked and payment of wages. In addition to minimum compensation requirements, FLSA overtime exemptions (Executive, Administrative, Professional, Computer, and Highly Compensated Employees) are based on the nature of an employee’s duties. Accurate depictions of an employee’s essential functions within their position’s class spec will directly govern exemption status and help your agency to ensure compliance with the law.


Incumbent Perspective – Gain first-hand knowledge of what the job entails from those doing the actual work.

Develop a written questionnaire to provide incumbents the opportunity to describe and pinpoint their duties and responsibilities. Encourage as many details as possible including the environment, tools, and frequency involved with each job function.

Supervisor Perspective – Compare and contrast first-hand knowledge gained from the incumbent with insights from those who supervise the function.

Develop a similar written questionnaire to provide supervisors the opportunity to describe and pinpoint the duties and responsibilities of their subordinates. Encourage as many details as possible including the environment, tools, and frequency involved with each job function.

Executive Perspective – Properly place gathered job details within the organization’s structural context as described by those who are responsible for leading the delivery of desired services.

Craft a big-picture interview questions list to provide management the opportunity to expound on the relevancy of services delivered by the incumbents and supervisors. Encourage commentary on why the service is provided and how it currently interconnects within the larger scope of the organization’s mission.

Reviewer/Analyst Perspective – Verify and clarify any discrepancies in job details with on-site observations from an independent source.

Schedule time to job shadow an incumbent. Make notes, take pictures, and ask clarifying questions. Utilize this time to make final verifications of information gathered.

Historical Perspective – Review and understand how the role has been described in the past.

Read the prior class specs with the job analysis knowledge gained from the prior steps detailed above and identify how the position has changed based on technology advancements, organizational restructuring, shifting service providers, and evolving community priorities.

Collaboration of Perspectives – Taking into account all the information gathered during the job analysis, rework the class spec to best represent the present day demands of the position and include validated minimum qualifications that correlate to actual job duties.

Utilize a working draft document in track changes to easily account for and reference proposed updates to all stakeholders. Complete updates within a single job family or career ladder prior to moving on in order to ensure congruency and outlined mobility for incumbents and future staff.


Labor Relations – Meet and Confer Obligations: Updated class specs will likely trigger certain meet and confer obligations with the exclusive representation of any represented positions.   This may only require negotiations over the impacts of your changes, but may also cause the labor organizations to seek additional compensation for some of the class spec changes as they may perceive the changes as making the classification a higher level.

Consistent and transparent communication with your represented labor groups will foster a greater ability to productively collaborate on management initiatives. Prior to initiating a job analysis and class spec review, inform the involved labor groups of the upcoming process and the desired outcomes. Let them know their members will be integral to the success of updating class specs. Following the review and analysis, be prepared to encounter compensation-related requests from labor organizations during meetings with them. Depending on the significance of updates, your organization may want to proactively pursue a subsequent compensation study to determine comparative market positioning.

Governing Authority – Personnel Review Board or Civil Service Commission Approval: Depending on the structure of your organization, updated class specs may need to be presented and justified to a governing body or their proxy.

Management’s desire to complete an update of class specs should be shared as a proposed organizational goal with the governing authority. Typically, it is best to avoid surprises with those who are elected to lead. This organizational goal can be presented as a best practice in safeguarding efficient usage of public funds on labor costs, as well as a necessary component of continuing compliance with Federal and State labor and employment laws. Following the review and analysis, be prepared to give a high-level presentation of updates and have detailed redline documentation ready as-needed. In addition, there could be labor negotiation activity depending on the happenings during the meet and confer process.

Confirm the last time your organization completed an update of class specs and consider all the recent technology advancements, organizational restructuring, shifting service providers, and evolving community priorities. Determine strategic timing to conduct your next class spec update and evaluate your Human Resources Department’s bandwidth to complete this crucial process in-house. For external support, a team with legal and human resource expertise can assist and lead in designing a high functioning classification plan.

Accurate and updated class specs are a critical element for organizational success. They will lead to clear work expectations, high performance, and appropriate compensation. A strong classification framework directly impacts your organization’s ability to achieve its goals by properly staffing the required workforce and building operational efficiency long-term.

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