Why GCC companies should implement job levelling
Now Reading
Why GCC companies should implement job levelling

Why GCC companies should implement job levelling

Regional companies can help their employees improve their career paths

Gulf Business

The Gulf Cooperation Council has become one of the most desirable regions for professionals across all industries and career levels thanks in part to its tax-free environments, attractive packages, high quality of life and varied job opportunities.

Many global organisations have established regional hubs in countries like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, making it increasingly important to not only attract but also retain employees in success-critical jobs, in addition to capable employees that contribute greatly to the long term success of the business.

Both employers and employees in the region cite career advancement opportunities among the top attraction and retention drivers, according to Willis Towers Watson’s Talent Management and Rewards and Global Workforce Study 2014. So how can organisations ensure the right strategy for career management and provide clear career paths for their talented employees?

Job levelling and its benefits

Job levelling is the process of defining a job hierarchy by assessing the job requirements and relative worth of one job compared to another – in terms of complexity, responsibility, impact, leadership requirements and so on. It is a must for companies that are committed to professional, effective and efficient human capital management in order to attract, engage and retain their employees.

Job levelling has numerous benefits. It helps organisations manage the opportunities and challenges of talent and reward programme design and delivery. Organisations that implement globally consistent job levelling typically report more effective programmes such as performance management, competency models and leadership assessment and development.

The question is not whether an organisation should implement job levelling, but how to identify the right methodology and approach based on the organisation’s objectives and needs.


Job levelling methodologies can be either more analytical or more descriptive. Widespread approaches to job levelling in the market include, for instance, WTW’s ‘global grading system’ and ‘career map’. GGS is an analytical method that gives a single grade to each job within a structure. It works to a maximum of 25 grades, which is as many as the the largest and most complex global organisations might have. The ‘career map’ framework facilitates career management and job levelling at the same time.

The most successful companies combine a more granular grading with career-based approaches to satisfy multiple needs. An example of this is having a transparent career/job levelling framework that can be understood and communicated broadly to line managers and employees. There must also be a robust, more detailed, job grading structure which is used for salary benchmarking and setting adequate pay levels.

Implementing job levelling frameworks

One best practice example of a regional organisation that recently implemented career mapping is the National Bank of Abu Dhabi. They moved away from their employees’ over-focus on grades to an approach that now emphasises contribution and development by implementing a career and levelling framework. As a result, the conversations between managers and employees have now turned into meaningful conversations on what is required to progress in their own careers, as well as to further contribute to the organisation.

Regional challenges

While human resources strategies are becoming a bigger focus for organisations in the Middle East, there is still room for improvement. According to the latest WTW research on job levelling in the Middle East, more than 70 per cent of companies in the region have job levelling systems in place and those who do not are considering introducing one. But despite this, many companies are not realising their full potential. As an example, there are only a small number of cases where companies utilise job levelling for defining career paths and connecting it to required competencies.

Transparency is also an issue. When it comes to open communication of job levelling frameworks, the Middle East is lagging behind Europe and other parts of the world. In the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia only 20-25 per cent of companies openly communicate details for job grades and/or career levels to their staff, both as a whole and individually. This is compared to approximately 40 per cent in Europe.

Another key challenge for companies in the region is that more than 30 per cent of human resources departments lack the required buy-in from their key business stakeholders and line managers, even though this is critical for wide acceptance of job levelling in an organisation. In the UAE and Saudi Arabia, we also observe an over-focus on grades rather than contribution, as well as an inflation of grades, along with issues related to the process and governance of job levelling.

The way forward

Our research shows that 40 per cent of companies would like to use job levelling more for talent programmes and make it more transparent. Respondents also acknowledged that it should be more career oriented and they intend to move to a more career-based levelling approach.

In contrast, less than 10 per cent want to move to a factor-based or points-based levelling approach. These results confirm the general trend of moving to less granular job levelling frameworks which can be openly communicated to managers and employees so they understand what is needed to make the next career move.

For a job levelling framework to be successful, companies should first build a job family structure (‘job architecture’) that organises roles into job clusters. By identifying core jobs and mapping them to the architecture, this provides a solid structure for companies that need to permanently change or adapt their organisational structures according to their business needs.

With job levelling, companies can achieve a lot. It is not only about managing pay and having consistent, competitive and efficient human resources solutions. Job levelling also helps to facilitate the transfer of employees to jobs located in multiple regions or across different lines of business. It can also help to integrate employees after a merger, acquisition or other structural change and to support transparent career development.

Whichever way you look at it, whether you are a big company or small, job levelling can help you provide clear and progressive career paths for your employees in a variety of different ways.

Christian Brück is project director for rewards at Willis Towers Watson


Scroll To Top