Job Families and Generic Role Descriptors - Guidance Notes

Job Families provide a means of grouping posts together that share similar characteristics / traits, the use of which can help articulate career and development routes, with the writing of job descriptions and further particulars, and when considering development / training needs.

The University, in consultation with the Trade Unions, has developed four Job Families to represent its key job groups.

Job family composition

Each job family is made up of a number of grade levels (corresponding with the grades on the University's pay structure) which represent the varying degrees of responsibility and demand associated with that grouping of roles. The following table illustrates the University's four job families and the different levels within each:

Job Family Composition

Generic role descriptors

Each grade level within a job family is represented by a role descriptor, the purpose of which is to outline the representative work activities and responsibilities / demands associated with roles at that level, together with the type of knowledge, skills and experience required to undertake the post effectively.  Each role descriptor within a family builds on the previous descriptor.

These descriptors are classified as 'generic' as they are not specific to a particular job.  It is, therefore, unlikely that any one job will encompass all the activities mentioned in the descriptor.  Also, as role analysis considers the overall demands and responsibilities of a post, staff at a particular grade may be required to carry out a small number of duties / activities which are covered by a higher or lower role descriptor in their family.  Similarly, staff may be required to undertake certain activities that are not explicitly described within the descriptor.

It should be noted that role descriptors at any given level, regardless of job family, are broadly comparable in terms of job size, i.e. Management, Specialist & Administrative Level 5 is viewed as equivalent in terms of responsibility / demand to Technical Level 5.

The role descriptors for support roles build on the data / statements produced by the University's chosen job evaluation system, HERA (Higher Education Role Analysis), and were developed by using information gathered during the role analysis exercise, and from up-to-date job descriptions / further particulars.  The academic role descriptors, which are currently being finalised, incorporate the National Role Profiles for academic staff and the HERA scheme.

The role descriptors each provide the following information:

  • Role summary - this gives an overview of the key characteristics of roles covered by the descriptor;
  • HERA elements - the descriptor is then broken down into the key elements defined by the University's chosen job evaluation scheme, HERA;
  • Personal skills / attributes - this section provides a list of key skills, abilities and behavioural traits that a role holder would require in order to fulfil the role.  The actual skills / competencies required for a specific role may vary to certain extent, but the aim of the list is to identify typical skills expected at a given level.

Using job families / role descriptors - points to note

  • Role descriptors do not replace job descriptions / person specifications - each post should still have its own job description which is specific to that particular role.
  • The job families / role descriptors outlined in this and corresponding documentation should be used for guidance purposes only.  For example, staff looking to have their grading reviewed or who are considering promotion can use the descriptors as a reference point for grade levels, however they must still adhere to the appropriate policy/procedure when submitting an application. For non academic staff and those academic staff up to grade 6, please view the Grading Review Policy and Procedure. For academic staff seeking promotion to grade 8 and grade 9, please view Academic promotions.
  • The role descriptors will be subject to review and modification as required.
  • Career progression need not be restricted to one particular job family.  For example, if a role has developed into the next grade, but the key characteristics of that post are now more closely aligned to another job family, a request can be made (via Human Resources) to transfer to the more appropriate family. Please note, role holders can also apply for posts outwith their own job family.
  • For details on how roles have been mapped to the various job families please view .

If you have any queries relating to the use of job families / role descriptors please contact the HERA Team, Human Resources on ext: 1670/1650; email:

Job family summaries