JHU announces Career Architecture Project

The goal is to clarify, define, and codify every staff job at the university

Jenny Winter

Image caption: "I've never seen a project this big in my eight years here," says Jenny Winter, director of Compensation.


Jenny Winter often opens emails from managers looking for her guidance on advising staff who want to grow in their careers but who have no idea how to do it. Sometimes she can help, sometimes she can't. "Right now, there isn't always a defined pathway," says Winter, director of Compensation for Johns Hopkins University. "There's not one place to point them to. We don't always have a clear structure for job growth."

But, she adds, "soon, we will."

JHU is announcing today a major initiative—the Career Architecture Project, with the goal of clarifying, defining, and codifying every staff job at the university: what people do, how they do it, what the pay structure is, and how staff can grow in their careers.

Chess piece in foreground on otherwise empty board
Advancing Your Career

Courses, resources, and other support for JHU employees

Eventually, every staff member will have access to this information via an online platform where they can log in and discover what skills, "competencies," and additional training they need to get ahead. "For example, if someone works as an entry-level budget analyst but wants to become a finance manager, this will help them understand what experience, skills, and competencies they need to develop to get to that next level," Winter says.

In addition to identifying career paths, the project distinguishes between skills and competencies. The former refers to the ability to perform specific tasks, which can be learned through training and practice; the latter means a combination of skills, knowledge, abilities, and behaviors that people demonstrate in a particular context, such as being influential, that go beyond having specific skills.

The idea is to ensure that people feel good about their jobs and their opportunities for career promotions. "The university wants to be an employer of choice," she says. "Many of its recent innovations have been designed to support retention. Employees need to understand how they can grow and develop here. We want people to stay and thrive."

"The university wants to be an employer of choice. Many of its recent innovations have been designed to support retention. Employees need to understand how they can grow and develop here. We want people to stay and thrive."
Jenny Winter
JHU director of Compensation

This latest project comes against a backdrop of other significant proposals the university has introduced in recent years to strengthen its employees' lives, both at work and at home. The enhanced benefits include, for example, more subsidized tuition, the addition of "navigators" to help employees through the often confusing maze of health care, and increased financial support to enable people to adopt children.

In addition, earlier this year JHU established the Staff Advisory Council, a group of elected staff members tasked with providing input to university leadership in shaping policy as it affects them and the colleagues they represent.

As for the Career Architecture Project, "every staff position across the university is included in this effort," Winter explains. "Every employee will have the benefit of understanding where their job sits in the overall structure, and a clear understanding of how they can develop and grow. Having been in the meetings and having heard the commitments from leadership, I'm really excited about what a huge impact this will have. I've never seen a project this big in my eight years here."

This project is a multiyear effort that will last through fiscal year 2025. It will examine the career tracks of staff in every division and department within the university. This means reviewing more than 2,000 job titles held by an estimated 16,000 staff members.

Staff positions have been grouped into 18 "job families" and include "subfamilies" within them. For example, the Human Resources job family encompasses subfamilies such as Benefits & Worklife, Compensation, and Talent Acquisition.

In preparation for this undertaking, the university worked with Mercer, an independent consulting firm, to design the structure—the job families and their subsidiaries. HR's Compensation team is facilitating the job architecture review process with groups of subject matter experts from across the university, and the Organizational Development team is collaborating on the skills and competency framework buildout. Mercer will continue advising throughout the project.

The reviews will be conducted by 10 members of the Compensation team within central HR. "We are being very intentional that all divisions are represented in this process because we want the jobs reviewed by people who really understand them, and we want the end result to make sense across the university," Winter says. The review is happening job family by job family, which is why the process is going to take a while."

The result will be a career path structure for each job family so that "employees can more easily self-navigate their job growth," she adds.

Eventually, online technology will be available to all staff members, who can log in, enter their job title, see a copy of the job description, and understand what training is available to them to explore their career path, Winter says. "It will show you the career level of your current job, how you fit into the overall structure, and what you need to do to get to another level."

Moreover, access won't be restricted to the staff member's present position. "If you are currently in Finance but aspire to be in HR, you will be able to look at that career in a different job family," Winter says. "People will be able to have access to all the job families."

The project also will create a Center for Staff Life Design as a resource to help staff expand their skills, knowledge, and experiences, and navigate their careers.

"HR leadership is still working through the details related to the Center for Staff Life Design," Winter says. "For now, we're focused on defining the job structures in this initial phase of the project, but there will be much more information shared as we develop the additional employee support tools. Overall, our goal is to support employees in all aspects of their professional journey. We want them to feel valued and understand that they're important to the university."

This project "has been in concept and discussion for about five years," Winter says. "Currently, employees are very dependent on their managers to help them grow. We wanted to create tools that make that process more transparent so employees can take more ownership of their career growth and don't have to rely solely on their managers."

Eventually, there are likely to be title and job description changes, as well as a new pay structure, though Winter stresses that this project won't negatively impact pay or job level. "We will be looking at the outside market to help align our pay structure, but there is a whole lot that has to happen before we get to that stage," she says.

"What we are trying to do is redefine job titles and descriptions and be clear about the skills, experience, and education needed to move forward in your career path," she says. "The overall goal is transparency—and creating opportunity."