Hay evaluation method

The Hay System is a job performance evaluation method that is widely used in North America and Europe. Training in the use of the system takes several days, followed by several months of organizational experience to become proficient in its evaluation style. All jobs are evaluated not only by the interpretation of the factor descriptions but within the context of all other jobs in the organization.

In Ontario, consistent with Pay Equity legislation, four factors are used in job evaluation: Skill, Effort, Responsibility and Working Conditions, which Hay translates into Knowledge, Problem Solving, Accountability and Working Conditions. The system works on an integration of all the factors. A job is evaluated by looking at the knowledge required to do the job (whether practical or intellectual), the kind of thinking required to solve the problems which the job commonly faces, the responsibilities (accountabilities) assigned, and the work environment in which the work is performed.

In each of the following factors there are a series of descriptions and variables with points assigned to each.

Know how

‘Know How’ is defined as the "sum total of every kind of knowledge and skill, however, acquired, needed for acceptable job performance."

There are three dimensions in know how:

  1. Practical procedures, specialized techniques and knowledge within occupational fields, commercial functions, and professional and scientific disciplines.
  2. Planning, organizing, coordinating, integrating, staffing, directing and or controlling the activities and resources associated with the function of the unit, position, section, etc.
  3. Face to face skills needed for various relationships with other people.

Problem solving

‘Problem Solving’ is "the amount and nature of the thinking required in the job in the form of analyzing, reasoning, evaluating, creating, using judgment, forming hypotheses, drawing inferences, arriving at conclusions, etc."

There are two dimensions in problem solving:

  1. The environment in which the thinking takes place.
  2. The challenge of the thinking to be done; the novelty and complexity of the thinking required.

Problem solving is always expressed as a percentage of know how since it directly relates to how one uses the knowledge which he or she must have in the job to solve the problems which are encountered as part of that job.


‘Accountability’ is "the answerability for action and its consequences. The measured effect of the job on end results in the organization."

There are three dimensions in accountability:

  1. "Freedom to Act" which is the extent of personal, procedural or systematic guidance and control on the job.
  2. "Job Impact on End Results" which is the degree to which the job affects or brings about the results expected of the unit or function being considered.
  3. "Magnitude" is the size of the function or unit measured in the most appropriate fashion.

Working conditions

‘Working Conditions’ assess the environment in which the job is performed.

Working Conditions are made up of four dimensions:

  1. "Physical Effort" - jobs, which may require levels of physical activity, which may produce physical, stress or fatigue.
  2. "Physical Environment" - jobs which may include exposure to unavoidable physical and environmental factors which increase the risk of accident, ill health or discomfort to the employee.
  3. "Sensory Attention" - jobs which may require concentrated levels of sensory attention (i.e. seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching) during the work process.
  4. "Mental Stress" - refers to exposure to factors inherent in the work process or environment, which increase the risk of such things as tension or anxiety.

Each of these four dimensions is measured according to duration, intensity and frequency.

All of these factors are evaluated in each job evaluation and the cumulative total is a total point factor for the position. Because jobs have so many different variables it is possible that a job without a high score in Know How but with severe Working Conditions could result in the same number of points with a job that has the opposite components.

For example, an insurance clerk and a bus driver have few job responsibilities that are similar, but might be evaluated in total at the same point level.

Please note that the following examples do not represent jobs at the University of Waterloo and are used only as an explanation of the Hay system.

Factor Intermediate insurance clerk School bus driver
Total Points 155 155
Know how 100 87
Problem solving 19 16
Accountability 25 22

Working conditions:

 Physical effort 2 Physical effort 9
Physical environment 1 Physical environment 7
Sensory attention 6 Sensory attention 9
Mental stress 2 Mental stress 5

Although these jobs have little in common and differ in the Hay Points for individual factors their total points are the same and therefore the jobs are considered to be of equal value.

Obviously the trained evaluator must consider the ratings awarded to a Senior Insurance Clerk and Junior Insurance Clerk to maintain the integrity of the rating within job families when evaluating the Intermediate Insurance Clerk.

While these jobs have been evaluated individually important concepts are consistency of application and the establishment of benchmark positions. All positions within an organization are evaluated in comparison to the benchmarks using a consistently applied evaluation tool.