Ask an Expert:
Descriptors for Professional
Staff Positions
By Sherrie Thissell, Senior HR Compensation Consultant for Health Sciences, UW Human Resources

What exactly are the descriptors and why were they created?

In the past, information describing the type of work assigned to professional staff payroll titles wasn’t readily available. To address this problem, the HR Compensation Office created nearly 50 professional staff payroll title series descriptors that can be accessed online.

How are the descriptors useful for me as a manager?

The descriptors are a tool for helping you select the best payroll title as part of the hiring process or as part of a position review. The descriptors are already helping to increase efficiency within HR, and we anticipate it will do the same for leaders across the UW.

But the usefulness of the descriptors doesn’t stop there.

At a time when many organizations are restructuring and staff jobs are shifting as a result, the descriptors can assist with assessing the availability of alternative payroll titles.

A change in payroll title—to one that better reflects the current work of the position but doesn’t involve a grade or salary change—can sometimes be as simple as completing one form. And even without a salary or grade change, a new payroll title can be a recognition tool. UW leaders can contact their organization’s internal administrator/HR contact or their HR Compensation Consultant to discuss their options.

Lastly, for those considering restructuring their teams, the descriptors can be an aid for envisioning how new or different positions within your organization might align with the professional staff title options.

You can access a descriptor “how to” and Q&A from the professional staff compensation webpages, or jump straight to professional staff payroll titles and descriptors. Please direct any questions or feedback to with the phrase “descriptor questions” or “descriptor feedback” in the subject line.

Summer 2011 | Return to issue home