Skip to main content
main content, press tab to continue

Building a job architecture amidst an evolving world

By Claire Gorick and Laurie Bienstock | January 15, 2024

This article series focuses on careers in motion: the opportunities, advances and results that an organization can expect when taking a new approach.
Work Transformation|Employee Experience|Ukupne nagrade |Career Analysis and Design
Future of Work

The vertical career ladders we once climbed have turned into multi-directional career journeys of exploration and adventure. Today, the choices are vast for one’s career, and employees want to lead their own adventures. But what skills and experiences will they need to get there? And how are digital skills and digital talent impacting careers?

Organizations that want to attract and retain the best talent should be thinking about this. Work will continue to change and adapt to new technology. Organizations need to create an integrated Career Ecosystem with a focus on unlocking the potential and performance of people who are a scarce resource as new technologies arise.

In this article series, WTW’s Work, Rewards & Careers experts, Claire Gorick and Laurie Bienstock, discuss why a robust job architecture is essential to an integrated Career Ecosystem, and how it can help your organization become a place key talent doesn’t want to leave. Here, we discover how to create and implement a job architecture that aligns with an organization’s goals, amidst a digitally disrupted world.

What exactly is job architecture and what are the current economic and societal conditions impacting the concept of job architecture?

Claire Gorick: We define job architecture as a common grouping of skills and talent within an organization. This manifests as job families and job functions within an organization and it’s often in combination with job leveling or knowledge architecture. Having fundamental building blocks like these serve as the foundation for many people programs related to compensation, career development and a host of other things. As organizations undergo digital transformations and the nature of jobs evolve, we see new types of jobs emerging in the market. It's important that an organization’s job architecture remains current and is updated to reflect some of that new talent and new skill groups.

We’re all starting to grapple with AI and machine learning and there is a scarcity of talent within these groups. It’s important that organizations update their job architecture to reflect and organize these jobs, so they have a consistent foundation for their people programs.

Laurie Bienstock: I totally agree. The global economy also has a lot of uncertainty, and we often see organizations assessing their talent and being cautious about new hires. Having a job architecture can help organizations understand where there are core common skills that sit across job families. We may see many common skills among jobs that also have some emerging skills. Being able to have a very agile job architecture can also help organizations who are hesitant to hire talent that already exists within the organization. That talent may be able to grow and learn in other job families. Attaching skills to job families has created potential for organizations to be able to provide career experiences for people in-house in new ways. This can unlock potential both for career experience as well as workforce planning and talent pipelines for organizations.

What do we mean by digital talent and how does the concept of digital talent and digital skills impact job architecture?

Laurie: A decade ago, we might say there were tech companies and non-tech companies. Today, every company is a tech company. Technology has infiltrated the way we do all of our work from retail to healthcare to education and more. That has meaning for every type of job, but it also has meaning for the new types of work that are emerging and the types of talent that are needed in all organizations. Software engineers, data scientists and data analysts are in demand across the entire workforce today. This increases the so-called war for talent when it comes to those specialized skills and increases the need for the type of learning and development we need within organizations so everyone can be as tech savvy as they need to be.

It also means certain tasks may be taken over by technology. Even so, we will still need humans in the loop to take the output from automated types of activities and use them appropriately and strategically – and when we have humans in the loop, we need to define their jobs in a robust architecture.

What are these new and evolving sets of skills around digital talent and how does the concept of job families change in light of this?

Laurie: One of the things we've been talking about a lot with our clients is the concept of enterprise-wide job families. Fifteen to twenty years ago, we often started with job architecture mirroring the organization’s structure. We had a finance job family, an HR job family, a technology job family. Now, as those skills become more necessary across the organization, we see things like data analytics sit in a job family that any part of the organization could use, similar to project management, or even emerging areas like security, which could mean digital security, physical security or cybersecurity. The concept of “enterprise-wide” is one of the major changes we’ve seen and it’s to make sure that we're defining the job family, the knowledge and the skills, and that anyone in the organization can use that to define jobs, which can then lean into skills, so we have an understanding of where those skills sit across the organization.

Claire: I agree. In HR and finance, for example, defining the job family and being clear about the knowledge they might need may be enough. For digital talent, however, these skills are evolving so quickly, it’s critical to get to that next level of granularity in order to use that as the currency when growing and retaining talent. I think the concept of job families is relatively stable, but we're finding it can be helpful within these job families to add that extra level of defining the skills required for those talent groups.

How do you assess where your company is on the continuum of digital talent? And how does this impact how you manage talent?

Claire: I think you have to ask yourself, how critical is your digital talent? To Laurie’s point, every company is now a tech company, but there is a spectrum depending on the organization’s primary products and services. Are you a tech company delivering digital products to clients? Or are you in an industry that is not primarily tech but has adjacencies? Once you understand where you are on that spectrum, take a good look at your current job architecture. Many of our clients will have some kind of job architecture, whether they call it that or not, and they need to get clear on how confident they feel about it. Is there a home there for some of these new digital talent groups we are looking to recruit? Is there noise in other parts of the organization about how current salary ranges can accommodate the digital talent we’re hoping to bring in? Do we have career development and clear career paths for digital roles? Very often, clients come to us because they're hearing that something about the current way that they’re managing careers isn't working for some of that new digital talent. If you're hearing that noise, definitely consider making updates to the job architecture.

Laurie: Absolutely. And it’s important to create this at the right altitude, meaning the objectives for an organization building AI driven cars or optical technology will be different from those for a tech enabled organization selling clothing or furniture, perhaps. Define your objectives based on your business goals and meeting your customer needs. This is not an infrastructure just for HR, but rather to help drive your organization’s specific strategic priorities.

What advice do you have for companies embarking on this journey?

Claire: Start by assessing what you already have so you’ll have a better idea of what you need. Our job architecture health-check technology is a quick way to assess the current state of an organizations’ job architecture compared to best-in-class future state and highlight areas of refinement. Is it tweaks around the edges to be able to accommodate some of these new and emerging talent groups? Or is it more an opportunity to do a review of the job architecture and look at other areas of the organization as well? Then, strive to understand the work and how critical it is to the organization. With what level of detail do you need to define this work and start to understand how these jobs are contributing to the organization? Define and organize that. Our advisory analytics team uses cutting edge web scraping technology to conduct research across internal and external market sources to help our clients keep up to date with new and emerging job families. My final piece of advice is that this is not a one and done exercise. Expect that you will have to keep it updated, especially over the next couple of years as these skills continue to change and emerge. Staying on top of it provides huge value to the organization.

Embark on a transformative journey

A versatile and agile job architecture can result in longevity of your organization’s ability to remain agile in the face of disruption. Regardless of the current job architecture and job leveling landscape in your organization, WTW can help review, update and integrate existing solutions into an optimized approach or develop a new solution from the ground up. Let us guide you in creating an integrated Career Ecosystem that ensures your organization is a place where employees can thrive.

Discover the pivotal role of a job architecture – contact us to get started.


Director, Work, Rewards & Careers
email Email

Global Go-to-Market Leader, Work Architecture
email Email

Contact us