State of Alaska, Department of Administration, Division of Personnel and Labor Relations

Classification: Frequently Asked Questions

Classification System and Method Questions

What is a position?

A position is a group of duties and responsibilities assigned by the appointing authority that are designed to be performed by a full-time or part-time individual, or the part-time employment of two or more individuals, and which is authorized and designated by a position control number (PCN).

What is a job class?

A job class is a group of positions that are sufficiently similar in duties and responsibilities, degree of supervision exercised or required, and entrance requirements that they may be treated the same for purposes of recruitment, selection, compensation, transfer and layoff.

What is a class series?

A class series is a grouping of two or more job classes sharing a common title, and characterized by duties that are similar in nature but with different and progressively higher degrees of responsibilities.

What is the classification plan?

The classification plan is the orderly arrangement into job classes of all positions in the classified and partially exempt services.

What is a pay plan?

A pay plan is the system by which salary ranges composed of incremental steps are assigned job classes and pay rates are assigned to the salary ranges.

Within the State of Alaska each position is assigned to a job class, each job class is assigned to a pay range, and negotiated dollar values are assigned to each pay range. The first two steps embody the State's principal policy of maintaining a system of personnel administration based on the merit principle and ensuring that the pay plan reflects the principle of like pay for like work. The third step involves consideration of the State's competitiveness in labor markets and negotiation with collective bargaining representatives of employees.

What is the merit principle?

The merit principle is the foundation on which our system of personnel administration is built. At its most basic the merit principle requires standards for hiring and promoting based on specific, objective qualifications, so that persons best qualified to perform the functions of the State will be employed, and that an effective career service will be encouraged, developed and maintained.

AS 39.25.010(b) defines the merit principle of employment as including:

"(1) recruiting, selecting, and advancing employees on the basis of their relative ability, knowledge, and skills, including open consideration of qualified applicants for initial appointment;

"(2) regular integrated salary programs based on the nature of the work performed;

"(3) retention of employees with permanent status on the basis of the adequacy of their performance, reasonable efforts of temporary duration for correction in inadequate performance, and separation for cause;

"(4) equal treatment of applicants and employees with regard only to consideration within the merit principles of employment; and

"(5) selection and retention of an employee's position secure from political influences."

What is the Classification method of job evaluation?

Classification is a job evaluation method that compares positions on a whole job basis and establishes written specifications for each group. In the classification method positions that have similar duties and levels of complexity and responsibility, similar training and experience requirements at the time of recruitment, and are compensated at the same general levels of pay are grouped together and specifications for each group are established.

The classification method is designed to facilitate a number of human resource management goals including recruitment, selection, and salary administration in an organized and consistent fashion. As a system of job evaluation, a classification system is structured to aid administrators in understanding, organizing and dealing with an array of job functions. This is accomplished by having a systematic method for describing and providing titles for the different types of positions, utilizing common terminology and characteristics.

What factors are considered when classifying a position?

There are eight factors in the State's Whole-Job classification:
  1. Nature, variety and complexity of work.
  2. Nature of supervision received by the incumbent.
  3. Nature of available guidelines for performance of work.
  4. Initiative and originality required.
  5. Purpose and nature of person-to-person work relationships.
  6. Nature and scope of recommendations, decisions, commitments, and consequence of error.
  7. Nature and extent of supervision exercised over the work of other employees.
  8. Qualifications required.

What factors are not considered when classifying a position?

The factors not considered are all of the things that are not part of the eight classification factors, including such elements as:
  • The passion and enthusiasm of an employee;
  • The financial need of an employee.
  • Relative efficiency of an employee.
  • The amount of work assigned an employee.
  • Possession of unusual qualifications by an employee.
  • An employee's length of service.
  • An employee's personality.
  • The scarcity of new employees.

What are the target Client Service Standards for reviewing and classifying a position?

Client Service Standards are calculated starting from the day the PD submission is received by the Division of Personnel and Labor Relations through OPD.

Priority 1 DEPARTMENT PRIORITY TARGET: 14 calendar days

A PD may be designated as a departmental priority by that department's Administrative Services Director (ASD). When this occurs, the Priority 1 PD bumps all other PDs that are being reviewed by Classification from that department. If a department has 4 or more departmental priority PDs at the same time, your department's ASD may be asked to re-prioritize the priority 1 PDs, and they are worked on in the resulting priority order.

Priority 2 NEW POSITION TARGET: 14 calendar days

Positions that have been authorized in the budget but have not yet been established and classified (i.e., a PCN and job class that has not yet been assigned).

Priority 3 AWAITING RECRUITMENT TARGET: 14 calendar days

Vacant positions that need a PD to be processed before they can be filled with a new incumbent. Sometimes, recruitment may occur while the PD is in the Classification Section.

Priority 4 FILLED RECLASS TARGET: 35 calendar days

The position has an incumbent and the department is requesting the position be allocated to a different job class.

Priority 5 FILLED UPDATE TARGET: 58 calendar days

PDs must be updated whenever supervisory relationships have changed, new primary duties have been assigned or the positionís focus has changed, essential duties have been modified, and/or the Work Demands section has been modified.

Position Description and OPD Questions

What is a position description (PD)?

A position description is the formal management documentation of the essential functions of the position and the actual skills and abilities required to perform the tasks assigned a position in the classified or partially exempt services. The position description is used to determine the classification of the position, the compensation of the employee, the eligibility of applicants when hiring, and the work on which the employee is evaluated.

When should I update a position description?

A new or revised PD is submitted when one or more of the following has occurred:
  • The supervisory authority assigned to the position is changed or modified (e.g., direct report positions added, changed, deleted, etc.)
  • A new primary duty (the main duty for which the position exists to perform) has been assigned
  • The position's focus has shifted (e.g., responsibility shifts from reviewing a form for completeness to approving the action requested on the form, OR the position supports Program B while its PD indicates it supports Program A)
  • The mission, goals, or objectives of the position, or the program the position supports is changed or modified (e.g., new statutory mandates alter the program function, department executive team establishes new goals or mission that impacts the work performed by the position in question)
  • Essential duties have been added, deleted, or modified
  • The work demands section has been modified. This information is necessary to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) blood borne pathogens standards.

How do I update a position description?

Position descriptions for positions in the classified and partially exempt services are updated in the Online Position Description (OPD) system. To update information on positions in the exempt service contact the appropriate HR staff serving your department.

What happens to a position description once it's sent on from the supervisor?

OPD requires three steps within the department before a position description is sent to Classification. The first is the supervisor's review and certification that the position description is complete and accurate. When the supervisor sends the submission forward it goes to the division for review and approval. The Division Approver (typically the director's designee) verifies the request is appropriate in the division structure and, when approved, sends the request for department-level approval. The Department Approver (typically the administrative services director's designee) reviews the submission, ensures the necessary attachments are included, certifies any required budget approval process has been completed, and, when approved, sends the submission to Classification. You may also want to review our Individual PD Allocation Workflow Chart for an overview of the process, ranging from initiation of the submission through its closeout in OPD.

What happens to a position description after it gets to classification?

Submissions coming to Classification first go to a Pre-Assignor stage, where it is given a technical review, assigned a PCN if it's a new position, and has the attachments converted to .pdf if they're in another format. The Pre-Assignor sends the submission to the Assignor stage. (If the submission is for a classification study, the system will route it to the Study Assignor.) The Assignor checks the priority and assigns it to a classification analyst. The analyst conducts the job analysis, determines the allocation, and documents the findings, then sends it to the Approver stage. The Approver verifies the job analysis and findings and ensures all the required documents are prepared and sends the submission to be closed-out. At close-out the actions are finalized in the OPD system, the notifications sent out, and the action forwarded for action by the payroll and position control sections. You may also want to review our Individual PD Allocation Workflow Chart for an overview of the process, ranging from initiation of the submission through its closeout in OPD.

What is the difference between a "reclassification" and a "reallocation"?

They both mean the action taken to place an existing position into a different job class and are used interchangeably by Classification.

Position Change Questions

If I disagree with the classification analyst's decision on my position's allocation, how do I contest it?

There is no formal procedure to contest allocations.

Some unions may have specific provisions for classification reviews and employees should consult their appropriate Collective Bargaining Agreements.

Flex/Multiple/Coupled/Parallel/Closely-related Questions

What are flexibly-staffed positions?

Flexible staffing is a recruitment and retention and workforce planning tool that facilitates entry to an occupational field and provides a formal training path so higher level work can be performed. It may also facilitate knowledge transfer for advanced or expert positions that otherwise cannot be filled.

Flexible staffing plans are established individually for single positions. Classification must approve and establish positions as flexibly staffed before recruitment or reallocation of a filled position is conducted using the flexible staffing provisions. Classification may approve the establishment of a flexible staffing plan for a position when the following conditions are met:

  1. The job class series includes a journey or higher level;
  2. Management certifies there is a consistent need for, and sufficient work exists at, the journey level or higher level;
  3. Management certifies the work at the highest level will be reassigned to other positions should an incumbent be hired at the lower level;
  4. Experience in the lower level class(es) will qualify an employee to advance to the higher level class(es);
  5. Position descriptions (PDs) exist describing the duties for each level (e.g., trainee and journey or journey and advanced);
  6. The work at all levels must be within the same bargaining unit; and
  7. The employing agency has developed a formal approved flexible staffing plan for movement to each level.

How do I make a position flexibly-staffed?

Flexible staffing plans are established individually for single positions and must be directly related to achieving the ability to perform the duties required at the next higher level job class. Briefly, when submitting a request to Classification to establish flexible staffing, a department must:
  1. Create a position description submission describing the duties and other responsibilities for each level of the job classes included in the plan;
  2. Develop a flexible staffing plan, which consists of a training plan and rating device, for movement to each of the higher job class levels; and
  3. Submit a rating sheet used to determine when training has been successfully completed.

It is recommended that a department contact Classification to verify the appropriateness of requesting a flexibly staffed position before submitting a request through the OPD system.

How do I create a training plan and flex criteria?

A flexible staffing plan must be directly related to achieving the ability to perform the duties required at the next higher level job class. It must contain the following:
  1. A list of the criteria required to perform at the next higher level job class (e.g., duration and type of training required to build the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed);
  2. A list of the knowledge and skills that are to be acquired in each segment of the training;
  3. A description of how the incumbent will be trained to perform the higher level work (e.g., training classes, job shadowing, etc.);
  4. If the training includes subjects or courses that must be taught sequentially, this must be indicated in the plan;
  5. A rating device to record whether or not the criteria has been met;
  6. A section for the supervisor to certify whether or not the incumbent:
    1. Has met the criteria and completed the flex training plan;
    2. Meets the minimum qualifications of the higher-level job class;
    3. Is capable of performing the duties at the higher level; and
  7. An incumbent signature line.

How do I change the levels in a flexibly-staffed position?

An incumbent at a lower level job class may be advanced to a higher level job class ONLY after the supervisor has certified that the incumbent:
  1. Has met the criteria and completed the flex training plan;
  2. Meets the minimum qualifications of the higher-level job class; and,
  3. Is capable of performing the duties at the higher level.

Contact the appropriate HR staff serving your department for additional information on advancing an incumbent within a flexibly-staffed position.

An incumbent who is not certified by departmental management as meeting all the conditions above will not be advanced to the higher level job class.

Failure to successfully complete training within a reasonable period of time, including time to correct deficiencies, is cause for non-retention or separation for cause from the flexibly staffed position.

What are multiple class positions?

Multiple class positions are a recruitment and retention tool that allows management to fill a position for either licensed or non-licensed work, depending on applicant qualifications. Multiple class positions use more than one job class, all of which are performing related work (e.g., Licensed Practical Nurse, Nurse I, and Nurse II). It may be comprised of multiple levels within a class series or multiple related classes and may be combined with flexible staffing. It may apply to either a single position or all positions within a job class.

Classification must approve and establish a position as multiple class before recruitment or reallocation of a filled position may be conducted using the multiple class provisions. It is recommended that an department contact Classification to verify the appropriateness of requesting multiple class positions before submitting a request through the OPD system.

Recruitment difficulties typically exist at the highest licensed level before this option is implemented.

How do I establish a position with multiple classes?

Classification may approve the establishment of a multiple class position under the following conditions:
  1. The highest level job class requires licensure to perform specific duties (e.g., Nurse); and
  2. Similar work is performed in the non-licensed, or differently-licensed, lower level job classes (e.g., Licensed Practical Nurse);
  3. The job classes must be determined closely related for purposes of voluntary demotion;
  4. Management must be able to assign either licensed or non-licensed duties to the position;
  5. PDs exist describing the duties for each job class (e.g., licensed and non-licensed work);
  6. The work at all levels must be within the same bargaining unit; and,
  7. A memorandum outlining the licensing or certification requirements is drafted and approved.

Multiple class positions may be combined with flexible staffing. In the Licensed Practical Nurse, Nurse I, and Nurse II example a flexible staffing agreement may be established for Nurse I and Nurse II; however, movement from a Licensed Practical Nurse to a Nurse I occurs through an expedited reclassification process only if the incumbent obtains the required registered nursing licensure.

What are coupled class positions?

As defined by AAM 130.280,coupled job classes are used to fill positions where the journey (or full working) level of work requires specific certification and training (e.g., Correctional Officers). Employees are hired at the trainee level and must complete specialized training before advancing to the journey level. Because of the specialized training requirements, positions may be filled at the journey level job class only by transfer, rehire, or layoff recall.

Classification may establish coupled job classes under the following conditions:

  1. A trainee level job class exists in the class series;
  2. The journey level of the class series has specific certification and training requirements;
  3. For every position in the trainee job class, the same specific training program is needed and provided to all new employees, and must be completed by an employee prior to advancement to the journey level in the class series; and,
  4. The work at all levels must be within the same bargaining unit.

How do I make a position a coupled class?

Coupled classes are established through the classification study process. To request a consultation regarding the establishment of a coupled job class, the first person to ask is your supervisor to ensure that you have departmental approval to pursue this option. You should also contact the appropriate HR staff serving your department.

Your Division Director (or appropriate delegate) should submit an email to:

  1. The Classification Section; and, carbon copies to,
  2. Your department's Administrative Services Director (if submitted by a delegate, please also cc your Division Director) ; and,
  3. The appropriate HR staff serving your department.

This email should include:

  1. A description of the specific aspects of the work that appear to be no longer appropriate to the existing class structures and why.
  2. The job class(es) impacted by the change or concern.
  3. The PCNs of all impacted positions.
  4. Details regarding pertinent prior recruitment efforts (e.g., scope and duration, number of applicants, disposition of applicants, and hires made), ongoing training efforts, turnover, and non-retention, etc.
  5. Any solutions proposed by your department.
  6. Any additional agencies who utilize the impacted job class(es).
  7. Your department's designated contact for this request.

What are parallel job classes?

As defined in AAM 130.260, parallel job classes are classes whose:
  • Definitions are so closely related that typical incumbents of either class series could satisfactorily perform the duties of the corresponding level in the other class series, and typical incumbents of either class series could satisfactorily perform the duties of lower levels in the other class series;
  • Educational requirements are interchangeable;
  • Experience requirements are sufficiently related as to be interchangeable in terms of type, level, and length of experience required and that advancement in either class series is not unreasonably accelerated or retarded by the movement between the two class series;
  • Experience in either class should qualify an employee for promotional examination in the other class series; and,
  • Pay ranges are typically the same.

Note: The positions are normally in the same bargaining unit. The bargaining unit of each position is a consideration in analyzing whether the first criterion is met.

Why does it matter if job classes are parallel?

Parallel and closely-related job classes may be considered as the same job class or class series for purposes of transfer, rehire, or voluntary demotion (i.e., the non-competitive appointment of an employee to a lower level in the same class series with a step placement based on creditable State service rather than the minimum rate of pay). Transfer or rehire actions may be affected without selecting the individual from a competitive recruitment. Step placements above the minimum in the salary range may be granted for these employees and, in some cases, a new probationary period is not required.

How do I find out if job classes are parallel?

Please contact the appropriate HR staff serving your department.

What are closely related job classes?

For the purpose of voluntary demotion or rehire to a lower class, closely related job classes are defined by AAM 130.265 as classes whose:
  • Class definitions are so closely related that typical incumbents of the current class series could satisfactorily perform the duties of the lower levels in the other class series;
  • Educational requirements of the current class series are the same as or correspond with those of the lower class series;
  • Experience in the lower level series should qualify an employee for promotional examination in the current class series; and,
  • Salary range must be lower for a voluntary demotion or rehire.

Why does it matter if job classes are closely related?

Parallel and closely-related job classes may be considered as the same job class or class series for purposes of transfer, rehire, or voluntary demotion (i.e., the non-competitive appointment of an employee to a lower level in the same class series with a step placement based on creditable State service rather than the minimum rate of pay). Transfer or rehire actions may be affected without selecting the individual from a competitive recruitment. Step placements above the minimum in the salary range may be granted for these employees and, in some cases, a new probationary period is not required.

How do I find out if job classes are closely related?

Please contact the appropriate HR staff serving your department.

Desk Audits Questions

What is a desk audit?

A desk audit is an informational interview conducted to collect information about a position, job, occupational field, unit, and/or division. This informational interview is not intended to gather information on the employee's performance; rather, it's an interview seeking information about a specific type of job, about an occupational field, and/or about the organization. The classification analyst is attempting to discover what the employee's job is like, what they do, what responsibilities they have, and how their job relates to other jobs in the organization.

A typical desk audit will include questions about the details of an employee's duties and responsibilities: how and when tasks are assigned; how specific tasks are carried out; what decisions are made; what guidelines are followed; what restrictions on decision-making are present; how other employees are involved in the tasks; how non-employees are involved in the tasks; what cycle or pattern duties follow; how work is prioritized; and how the position's work fits into the unit's workflow.

In addition, a desk audit for a classification study will normally include questions about work the employee may not perform; an employee's involvement in other areas of the occupation and/or organization; the knowledge and skills required to perform essential duties; how such knowledge and skills were obtained; and other conditions or characteristics present in the job that could influence personnel administration.

How do I prepare for a desk audit?

The most important preparation for an audit interview is to RELAX. The interview is not a test so there is no way you can fail it. If you have duties that are cyclic and are not among the things you are doing right now, it may help to have a brief list of them to ensure they are not missed during the interview. It may help to think about what samples you might provide of your most common work, so that they are easily retrieved if the need arises.

Will my supervisor be present during the desk audit?

Typically, your supervisor will not directly participate in the desk audit.

Can I have my union representative present during the desk audit?

No, unless otherwise specifically determined by collective bargaining. You should consult your Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Class Studies Questions

What is a class study?

A class study is a job analysis-based review of the work (e.g., duties and responsibilities and supervision given and/or received) conducted by one or more State positions with the goal of updating, revising, or establishing job classes and assigning pay ranges to the job classes according to the State's classification and pay plans.

How do I get my job class studied?

The first person to ask is your supervisor to ensure that you have departmental approval to pursue this option. You should also contact the appropriate HR staff serving your department.

Your Division Director (or appropriate delegate) should submit an email to:

  1. The Classification Section; and, carbon copies to,
  2. Your department's Administrative Services Director (if submitted by a delegate, please also cc your Division Director) ; and,
  3. The appropriate HR staff serving your department.

This email should include:

  1. A description of the specific aspects of the work that appear to be no longer appropriate to the existing class structures and why.
  2. The job class(es) impacted by the change or concern.
  3. The PCNs of all impacted positions.
  4. Details regarding pertinent prior recruitment efforts (e.g., scope and duration, number of applicants, disposition of applicants, and hires made), ongoing training efforts, turnover, and non-retention, etc.
  5. Any solutions proposed by your department.
  6. Any additional agencies who utilize the impacted job class(es).
  7. Your department's designated contact for this request.

Will I be audited during a class study?

That depends. Which employees are selected for an audit varies with the scope and size of the classification study.

In a smaller study, such as a study of a single job class and less than a dozen positions, the classification analyst may audit all employees.

In a larger study, covering a class series with many levels or multiple series and hundreds of positions, the classification analyst will audit a sampling of positions. In the larger studies, the goal is to audit:

  • A sampling of positions with experienced employees whose duties and responsibilities are typical of, and can serve as a benchmark for, a type and level of work;
  • A sampling of positions with experienced employees whose duties are markedly different from, or falls between the benchmark jobs; and,
  • Enough other positions to ensure the information gathered is sufficiently complete for classification purposes.

I don't want to be in the class study, can I opt-out?

No.

Why do class studies take so long?

The duration of a study depends on the scope of the study, the number of departments involved, and how much the work being studied has changed. Typically, studies are completed in three to twelve months from the initial planning meeting. The higher the number of job classes and positions included in the study, the greater the number of departments with affected positions, and the more significant the changes in the work the longer it will take to work through each phase.

Additional Information

What is the Point Factor method of job evaluation?

A point factor job evaluation system evaluates each job on a number of "compensable factors" (e.g., knowledge and skills required, accountability and responsibility, and working conditions). Each compensable factor is given a weight. Each job is assigned points for each compensable factor. The points are multiplied by the compensable factor weight and totaled. Jobs are then put into order by the total points.

What if I have a question that isn't answered here?

We encourage you to continue reviewing our other pages. However, if you are either certain that your questions and concerns are not covered elsewhere, or have looked and still not found an answer, please do not hesitate to email us directly at the Classification Section.