Totally agree with iab.
I just spent some time re-defining our roles/job descriptions for our HR.
My team has 3 levels, Designer 1 (Junior/Staff), Designer 2 (Staff/Senior), and Senior Designer.
Within each role description are the required skills and responsibilities. Some skills and responsibilities are shared across all role levels and are defined by basic/expert/master in each role. So, a Designer 1 can look to the Designer 2 role and skill levels to understand where they need to focus to progress. New skills and responsibilities aren’t assigned when someone steps to the next level, they have to have demonstrated a consistent competency with the next level requirements before they can progress. This is somewhat subjective as a manager yes, but it is based on what our team needs and I do my best to help the designers know where they’re at. With this method you might have a Designer 1 with Senior level mastery of rendering, but needs to focus on other areas. On each level the designers are encouraged to find their own initiatives that play to their strengths, ie. things they enjoy working on that benefit the company at the same time, and by the time they reach a high Staff or Senior level they own their own initiatives as specialists nearly entirely. So for example we have a senior designer who enjoys scripting and designing tools that make all of our jobs easier and is at a master level in doing this, and he has free reign to explore and use this skill to contribute and help us improve our jobs/services with minimal direction and management. In no way could I write a job description for a Designer 1/2 that would or could include this requirement, and so that’s why I encourage our designers to take initiatives on things they enjoy that have a clear benefit for our us and the company.
It is an HR requirement that I include years of experience in the descriptions, but that doesn’t have much influence when I look for candidates. Someone kept doing junior level work at another company for 8 years doesn’t get a pass to a Senior position, etc.
I don’t think it has been brought up, but I would caution on associating pay grades or levels too rigidly with the titles. For one, most employees know what pay is associated with the grades, and worse, if it is set up incorrectly you will have employees getting “promoted” simply because their incremental yearly merit increase may bump them to a pay grade associated with a higher job title/level that they really aren’t qualified for. On the flip side, when someone hits the max salary of their position they may get stuck where an increase would prompt a promotion, but you can’t offer the promotion because they aren’t qualified for it, though they may still merit an increase in pay based on performance. In that case you may have to offer lump sums, bonuses, etc., which is fine, but you have to have this in place and be clear about it. This is probably more related to Senior level positions who “max out” the end of an established pay range. It is not, and should not be assumed that the next step from a Senior Design position is a management/leadership position. Personally, I went from a high Staff level to Management because I took on management related initiatives as a designer.
Anyways, this advice is probably more relevant to corporate structures and in that case I recommend overlapping salary ranges between positions rather than hurdles. So, a Designer 1 could be compensated at the high-end of their range, which is within the low range of Designer 2, when they are promoted I prefer to offer a bump above a typical yearly increase because it is in fact a promotion based on performance and competence.
As designbreathing mentioned, keep it simple for HR. I did not keep it simple in my post, but when I re-wrote the role descriptions they take all of this into consideration, but were concise to meet the HR requirements, the rest is up to me to manage in my role.