Here’s the scenario: John thinks he deserves to be promoted because he says he’s doing the same job as Steve. John & Steve were hired on the same day and their jobs are assigned to the same series but Steve is a higher grade level than John so Steve is making more money than John. John doesn’t think that’s fair so he asks for a Desk Audit to prove his point. The classifier shows up, asks John a LOT of questions about what he does, how he does it, why he does it, etc … you know the drill … and a few weeks later, John receives the classifier’s audit report but it doesn’t make John happy; the classifier determined that John’s position is assigned to the proper grade level.

How could this be if John & Steve are “doing the same job?

Does this scenario sound familiar?
Do you think you’re position is graded too low but you fear that requesting a “Desk Audit” might end up getting your job downgraded instead?

What do you really know about Desk Audits?
Rather than bore you with the tedious details, let’s just compare “Desk Audits” to this more familiar evaluation process:

One day you will apply for Social Security benefits, if you haven’t done so already. The people at the Social Security Office will figure out your annuity based, in part, on what you tell them about your work history, your marital status, the number of dependents you have, whether you are disabled, etc. Since this is all critical information to their analysis and annuity determination (and if you’re like the rest of us), you’ll be more than willing to gather a lot of information ahead of time, so you can give the analyst accurate and honest information … and since you think the SSA and the IRS share information, you also will be as truthful as possible.

The Desk Audit process is similar to SSA determinations except that Desk Audits evaluate jobs, not benefits (or people). And, whether or not you’ve participated in a Desk Audit before, you may be involved in one someday so here are a few things you can do to prepare yourself beforehand:

  • Take the audit seriously but don’t make yourself crazy.
  • Put together an informal list of work assignments you’ve done in the past 12 months. That way you’ll recall a lot more information when the classifier asks those probing questions about the way you do your job.
  • List four or five reasons why your job exists for the organization; then weight each purpose according to how much time you spend doing that work in an average 40-hour workweek.
  • Think about all the tasks you perform to complete a work assignment … perhaps outline those tasks before you’re put on the spot by the classifier.
  • List the ways your work differs from what’s written in your position description.
  • Identify the work you do that’s recurring, even if it’s not “regular” (i.e., done daily, weekly, or monthly).
  • What internal/external contacts do you need to do your job … and why.
  • Gather samples of your work before the Desk Audit so they are readily accessible for reference and to give to the classifier at the audit.

Why are you doing the same work as a higher-graded employee?
One of the most common problems classifier’s have to address involves position management. This happens when the organization really does want and mean to have each grade level that exists but the supervisor doesn’t properly assign work or just doesn’t pay close enough attention to who’s doing which assignments. As a result, lower graded positions get saddled with higher graded work or higher graded positions might be given lower-graded assignments. As far as some supervisors’ are concerned, this is OK as long as the work gets done; it doesn’t matter who does it. The problem with that sort of thinking is that it really does matter … to each person doing the work!

What does a classifier really need to know?

Classifiers use nine evaluation factors to examine and classify Federal jobs:

  1. Knowledge Needed
  2. Type of Supervision
  3. Guidelines Used
  4. Complexity of Work
  5. Scope & Effect of Work
  6. Personal Contacts at Work
  7. Purpose of Work Contacts
  8. Physical Demands from the job, and
  9. Work Environment

The job information you and your supervisor give to the classifier is part of a two-prong set of criteria used to evaluate Federal jobs. The other criteria come from Job Series Standards defined by OPM. On the one hand, if you’re not prepared for your Desk Audit and don’t thoroughly describe the way you do your work, the Desk Audit can be only as good as the effort you put into preparation. On the other hand, if you know (or you learn) that your job series standard is outdated or inaccurate, that may also affect the outcome of your Desk Audit. (In this case, perhaps you can work with your Agency to get those series standards up-to-dated.)

Will your job be downgraded?

There’s no guarantee that a Desk Audit will result in a promotion; nor is their a promise that it will not be downgraded. The best that can be said about the process is that a Desk Audit will tell you and your Agency the proper grade level for the work you do.

Best advice
Try not to fall into a common trap ~ don’t compare your job to what other people do in your office. Compare your work to what’s defined in your position description and to OPM’s series standard for your position. Otherwise, you might get some very misleading or dissatistying results! If it seems to you that you’re doing “the same work” as higher graded positions, be aware that your supervisor may not understand good position management practices. In these situations, a Desk Audit will not resolve any disparities. In fact, it could open up Pandora’s Box to a number of other concerns.

Remember: YOU are a partner in the Desk Audit. This shouldn’t be an adversarial or confrontational experience for you. It should be informative and helpful! Desk Audits are only as good as the information you give to the classifier! Check out these FAQs at;asp#WhatIsClassification.

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Henry Brown

Great Posting!
Should be mandatory reading by every public sector employee, especially at the federal level, at least every 2 years.

The only possible thing I could add is for the requestor to have read and understood their Position Description, at the very least prior to the arrival of auditor and ideally prior to the request for an audit.