Ask HR: Why Did Our Pay Structure Change?

By Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP June 24, 2022
Ask HR: Why Did Our Pay Structure Change?

SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is answering HR questions as part of a series for USA Today.

Do you have an HR or work-related question you'd like him to answer? Submit it here. 

My company recently re-evaluated our pay structure. The salary range for my current position was altered. However, my job description remains the same. While my pay was not reduced, the ceiling rate for my classification was lowered significantly. Is such a shift appropriate and common for business? —Sarai

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: A shift in salary range can be disconcerting for you—particularly when your work responsibilities haven't changed. It is natural to want to understand what such a shift means for you now and in the future.

Your company is likely in the process of communicating its reasoning for the change, if it hasn't done so already. While I can't speak to the specifics of your situation, there are a couple of likely reasons why a company may choose to revise its salary ranges.

Employers regularly monitor labor market data to optimize their salary structure. If your job was reclassified or shifted to a different division within the company, the salary range for the new category may be different from the previous one. Additionally, your employer could also have expanded the compensation structure by consolidating or separating positions into new categories with different salary ranges.

Occasionally, organizations will adjust overall expenses in response to financial circumstances. They begin this process by evaluating employee-related expenses, which include salaries. It isn't uncommon for organizations to reduce some or all salary ranges to accommodate financial conditions—especially during times of economic upheaval.

Going further, such a change may also signal a revision to your company's priorities or future workforce planning, based on external and internal evaluations. It is good to be aware of these types of shifts as you move through your career. You'll want to understand how your personal goals fit within the context of your employer's strategic plans.

If your company does not provide clarity in a timely manner, I recommend having a candid, but respectful, conversation with your people manager about your concerns to resolve your uncertainty. Hopefully, your manager can address the issues and provide some context.


In a recent interview, some of the hiring manager's questioning seemed to cross the line into personal questions that were borderline inappropriate. What should I do when an interview steers away from my qualification for the position? —Quincy 

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: I am sorry to hear your interview ventured into uncomfortable territory. The interview process is challenging enough without an undue focus on personal topics not relevant to the work you would be performing.

If HR was not a part of this interview, you should circle back with them to provide feedback. Hiring managers may not always preview their questions with HR or report back complete interview details. Although it is not illegal for an employer to ask personal questions relating to religion, ethnicity or personal life, it is illegal for them to base hiring decisions on those factors.

I'll add this: Even as an external candidate, HR staff should welcome your input because they are chiefly responsible for managing the recruitment process. If there are any problems with professionalism or otherwise, they will want to know.

Interviewers commonly ask you to share some information about yourself—including your work history, where you're from, and your skills and experience. Generally, any kind of personal details are just context for the work-related details they seek.

Should you feel the conversation becoming overly focused on personal information, try to redirect back to your skill set, work experience or job responsibilities. Remember, you aren't under any obligation to answer invasive questioning. You can always respectfully request clarity on how a particular question aligns with the position.

The interview should be a two-way conversation between candidates and prospective employers. As a candidate, you wield significant power in the interview process. You should be inquiring whether the employer is a fit for your career, as well. Ideally, an interviewer should focus on details pertinent to the position, not your personal background. I hope you connect with an employer who appreciates your talent and character.



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