Classification Study Process Overview

A study may be requested through the contractual Classification Window by an eligible employee or by Executive Management in a department. Human Resources (HR) may also initiate a study of a specific position or an entire classification. HR reviews the request and notifies the department (and the employee if employee-initiated) whether or not the position warrants study. HR generally reviews the current class specification of the position to determine how closely duties are described by the classification.  For specific information regarding submitting an employee initiated request through the Classification Window, please click on the Classification Window link.

Sources of Information

HR reviews the following material when conducting classification studies:

  • Position Classification Questionnaire (PCQ) The employee completes the PCQ with sections to be completed by the immediate supervisor and the Department/Agency Head.
  • Interviews with the employee. Interviews may be held individually with each employee or a representative sample.  The interview process takes approximately an hour.
  • Information from other counties. For county-specific classifications, HR collects information from comparable California counties on their organizations for comparison purposes.

Notifying the Department

Upon completion of the study, HR forwards a Preliminary Classification Report to the Executive Management of the department. HR tries to resolve any differences within a month or two.

Notifying the Employee

After HR has resolved differences with the department, HR sends a Summary Classification Report to the union that represents the classification(s) under study. This is the employee's first opportunity to review HR's recommendation.

Meetings with the Union

If requested by the union representative, HR participates in discussion sessions to review the report recommendations. After all outstanding issues are resolved with the bargaining unit, the study recommendations are submitted to the Board of Supervisors for final approval. If no change is warranted, then the process ends at this point.
Occasionally, the union and the County do not reach agreement. In this case, HR submits the recommendations for Board of Supervisor's approval, informing them that no agreement was reached. The Board may act on the item or send it back to HR to try to resolve the study with the union.


A classification study can take anywhere from three months to approximately one year. The study length depends on many factors, such as the number of issues, number of employees, number of classifications, and the amount of time it takes to resolve the issues with the department as well as with the union.
The order that studies are conducted is determined by departmental input and contractual timelines. Because some studies are more involved than others, a small #2-priority study may be completed sooner than a large #1-priority study.


The classification study process can accomplish a number of things:

  • Allows for the establishment of new specialized classifications for new programs.
  • May be conducted on filled codes where the duties have substantially changed, unlike the Add/Delete process.
  • Offers solutions to major organization problems.

Why Classification Studies Take So Long?

The Classification Unit is continually faced with changing priorities, due to contractual agreements, budget processes and the specific needs of the departments.

How can a department assist in the classification study process?

  • Have solid business reasons that fit within the current classification policy for requesting a study: Departments can provide more analysis on the management portion of the requests. It is more helpful to HR to have a complete statement from the department describing changes in the organization that might have triggered the study. Simply to say that "this position warrants study" is not helpful.
  • Select a department liaison for large studies: For a large study, HR recommends that the department have a manager or supervisor act as liaison to coordinate the logistics of the study. If at all possible, it is generally helpful for someone in the department to assist the classification analyst in scheduling and coordinating the employee interviews.
  • Use your contacts in other agencies: In doing the research for a classification study, HR usually contacts other agencies to collect salary information, staffing patterns, class specifications, etc. If you have professional contacts in other counties, you can help by providing contact names, direct telephone numbers, or pertinent information to the classification analyst.
  • Provide up-to-date information: HR needs current organizational charts, listing positions by classifications. It is also helpful to clearly identify the positions under study.
  • Identify the problem: Classification studies are generally requested to solve a problem. For example, if the current hiring standards are obsolete, this makes it difficult to recruit qualified candidates for vacancies. When requesting a study, identify the problem and provide necessary documentation. Though there may be high turnover, HR will want to analyze the actual number of employees who have left. If you can provide the information, this will expedite the study.
  • Share with your managers: Share information with other managers in your department and agency. If you are having a new classification developed, share it with other divisions in your department so that there is a coordinated effort of service.
  • Have clear, logical reasons for re-organizations: It is management's prerogative to organize the operation, however, this can be overturned by the Board of Supervisors if a union presents an effective case on why its organization is better or cheaper or is able to provide a higher quality of service. Managers should be very clear in their logic on why they choose to reorganize, particularly if it involves changes in the classification of the employees.
  • Know what classification studies can and cannot do: Classification studies are not meant to solve performance problems; to bypass merit system rules; or to reward high performance. They are meant to deal with changes in the required training and experience of positions; level of management responsibility and decision making assigned to a position and the level of contacts required of the position. If you believe that the study is more related to a performance problem, please let the classification analyst know from the beginning.

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