Use of the Willis System by the Commission

Statute requires that the Salary Commission base salaries on realistic standards and set salaries that are commensurate with the duties of the job. To objectively meet this requirement, at times the Commission has utilized the Willis System to aid in determining appropriate salaries for the state’s elected officials.

Point-Factor Evaluation Systems

A point-factor evaluation system determines the value and requirements of a position. The appropriate salary is then determined by other factors such as market.

Most point-factor evaluation systems are derived from the Hay Point Factor System which was developed in the early 1940’s and is primarily used in the private sector.

The Willis System

The Willis System was developed in the 1960’s by the late Norman Willis. It is an objective and quantitative approach used to evaluate the value of a job. The relative value of a job is determined through the application of compensable factors such as knowledge and skills, problem solving, mental demands, and accountability. Relative value levels within each factor are assigned specific points. The total points assigned to a job determine its location in a pay structure.

The state of Washington began using the Willis System in the mid-1970’s and still uses it today in setting salaries for executive and managerial positions.

Use of the Willis System by the Salary Commission

We used the Willis System in our first and second salary setting sessions to set the salaries of the Executive Branch positions as well as the position of Legislator and began granting additional compensation to legislative leaders. The Willis system was not considered again until late in the 2001 salary session when commissioners became concerned that they were not meeting the intent of the law because they lacked the realistic standards required to do their job. It was difficult to justify the basis on which salary adjustments were made. As the then chair put it, it’s difficult to explain warm and fuzzy feelings about increases. 

All positions for which we have salary setting authority have been evaluated using the Willis System.

  • 2004 – The positions of Legislator and the four levels of the Judiciary were evaluated by the firm of Owen-Pottier Human Resource Consultants.
  • 2008 – Legislative leadership positions were evaluated by the firm of Owen-Pottier Human Resource Consultants to determine whether their duties and responsibilities warranted receipt of a stipend for their leadership duties.
  • 2013 – The Executive Branch positions were evaluated by the State Human Resources Division in the Office of Financial Management.

As a result of these evaluations and other data, benchmarks were established for the positions in all three branches of state government:

  • Executive Branch – the heads of the appointed state agencies and commissions.
  • Legislative Branch – Band 2 of the state’s Exempt Management System (EMS).
  • Judicial Branch – Judges on the federal bench. The report states in part that, “A reasonable course of action for the Commission to follow is to move toward a degree of parity…”

At the request of the Judiciary, there is a 5% differential between the levels of the four state judges.