How job levels work

Job levels are what we use at Sandhills to provide employees a clear path for growth within their given roles. For every single job title within the company, there are six levels. Those levels represent a linear progression path accompanied by escalating salary baselines.

We collect compensation data from a variety of third party sources and use that to calculate salary ranges for every job title and each level within those titles. That data gets updated on a routine basis.

All employees will be paid at least the minimum salary which our data and calculation prescribe for their current level. If updates to our data result in a salary baseline for a given title + level increasing to a higher amount than an employee with that title + level currently has, the employee's salary will be increased to match the new, higher baseline. However, in the opposite scenario in which our data updates result in a given title + level getting a lower baseline, no changes will be made. We will not lower anyone's salary due to fluctuations in the market data.

The job level review process

Job levels can be changed at any time. There is no official schedule or routine for re-assessing levels and that is on purpose. If an employee has fulfilled all requirements and met all expectations as directed by their supervisor regarding their next level upgrade, they should not have to wait until a pre-ordained time to have their level changed. Conversations between managers and subordinates about the next job level upgrade should be happening regularly to ensure both parties are on the same page.

Managers are responsible for:

  1. Explaining to subordinates what is expected of them in order to earn their next upgrade.
  2. Providing clear, actionable feedback as their direct reports progress.
  3. Recommending a level change when they believe all expectations have been met and improvements have been clearly demonstrated.
  4. Ensuring that level reviews are conducted with each subordinate at minimum once per year.

In most cases, level upgrade discussions involve only relevant department managers, the Operations Director, and sometimes the Managing Director. However, sometimes other managers may be allowed to view the pitches and discussions involving their peers in the interest of learning how best to perform their own in the future.

Employees pursuing a level upgrade are responsible for:

  1. Regularly seeking clarification and feedback from their supervisor regarding their progress.
  2. Providing clear evidence of their improvement and accomplishments when asking for level changes.

Additional information about job levels

Here are a few other important things to know about the job levels system and how we use it:

Job level downgrades

Currently this is not a thing. If an employee's performance regresses temporarily, we will not lower their job level or salary.

Employees paid above the minimum for their level

When an employee's current salary is greater than the minimum baseline for the next level they are pursuing, earning that upgrade will not result in an automatic pay increase. Pay increases from level upgrades will only occur when the minimum salary for a newly earned level is greater than the employee's current salary.

Similarly, when our market data updates result in our benchmarks increasing for a given title + level, but an employee's salary is already greater than that amount, no change in pay will be applied.

Expectations or requirements for growth

Sandhills does not require anyone to continuously earn new level upgrades. Employees are encouraged to progress at their own pace. There is no expectation from the company that employees keep leveling up. This system exists so that everyone in the company has a clear, straightforward path to higher pay as they continue growing and improving. Every employee can decide for themselves how fast they wish to move along that path.

Initial level setting

For new hires or employees being given a new title, a level must be initially applied by that employee's manager. There is no requirement that all employees begin at level 1. Managers will use their best judgement to assign the most appropriate level initially and continue to re-assess after. That said, in many cases sufficient evidence justifying a higher starting level will not yet be available and thus level 1 will be most commonly used to start.

Job level confidentiality

Actual job levels of Sandhills employees are not shared with everyone. Typically, the only people who will know someone's job level are the employee, their manager(s), the Director of Operations, and the partners. At times other managers may become aware of the levels of employees who do not report directly to them as well.