Home » Compensation and Benefits » RISD Compensation Program » Aon Compensation Project Updates

Aon Compensation Project Updates

RISD engaged Aon, an independent third-party expert, to help us further modernize our staff compensation program to ensure that it is fair and equitable and enables us to recruit and retain employees. Aon’s work will also make certain that we are compliant with compensation-related laws, including the Rhode Island Pay Equity Act, which was updated in January 2023.

This project involves three phases, which collectively support RISD’s commitment to being an equitable workplace: 

  1. Conducting a comprehensive pay equity review (Completed 2023)
  2. Establishing a new salary grade system (Completed November 2023)
  3. Developing career pathways that will inform career advancement (expected in 2024)

Phase 1: Conducting a comprehensive pay equity review (completed)

During Phase 1, Aon completed a pay equity review, which consisted of a rigorous analysis of all of our non-temporary staff positions. After completing their review, Aon recommended pay adjustments for 24 staff totaling approximately $46,000. RISD has already implemented those adjustments and communicated with the impacted employees accordingly.


In practice, pay equity means paying employees with similar job functions comparably similar wages, regardless of their identity. Pay equity looks at the wages of comparable internal positions that require substantially similar skill, effort and responsibility and ensures that differences in wages, if any, are based on permissible factors.

The state of Rhode Island recently passed legislation defining what those permissible factors may be. They include, among other factors, education, training and experience to the extent that such factors are job related and consistent with a business need, a merit system where pay increases are based on performance and a seniority system that looks at years of service with the employer.

If you have not been contacted, Aon confirmed that your pay is equitable in accordance with pay equity standards. 

College-wide studies, like the one Aon just completed in Phase 1 above, will occur every three to four years. In addition, when a new job description is created, a pay range will be determined for the role based on the external market and pay equity for comparable positions.

View the April 28th memo for more information about RISD’s comprehensive pay equity review.

Phase 2:  Establishing a new salary grade system and structure (Completed November 2023)

The key deliverable of Phase 2 was to update RISD’s salary structures and grades for non-temporary staff. Effective November 1, 2023, RISD implemented two new salary structures: one for the hourly paid staff and one for the salaried staff.

The new salary structures introduce four primary changes:

  1. Number of Salary Structures. RISD’s old hourly salary structures (Clerical/Technical and Physical Plant / Service) had pay ranges which were largely redundant. These have been consolidated into one new salary structure.
  • Number of Grades. The old salary structures used eight active hourly grades and ten active salaried grades. The new hourly structure has nine grades and the new salaried structure has fifteen grades. Adding grades to our salary structures improves our ability to group together jobs with comparable work and similar market value.
  • Segments. Grades in the old structures displayed five distinct data points: Minimum, 25th percentile, Midpoint, 75th percentile, and Maximum. The new structure introduces the use of Segments, which are the visual representation of the pay range broken into thirds. Segments recognize “market” as a fluid and dynamic concept which is best referred to as a range as opposed to a static data point.   
  • Comparable Work. While RISD has always conducted internal equity assessments when assigning grades and pay rates in compliance with pay equity legislation, the concept of comparable work (as defined in the Rhode Island Pay Equity Act) provides a common and more transparent language for us to better understand and openly discuss how we evaluate jobs. Through these conversations, we increase pay transparency which promotes social equity and inclusion.

RISD’s salary structures and pay ranges may be found here.


A compensation program consists of a set of processes, policies and structures that enable an organization to administer pay in a fair and equitable manner. RISD’s salary structures have changed to better represent our current jobs and workforce, promote social equity and inclusion, simplify administration and enhance our compliance with the RI Pay Equity Act.

Salary structures group jobs with similar external market value and internal comparable work into grades with pay ranges.

A grade is a pre-determined pay range within a salary structure. Each staff job is assigned to a specific grade in a salary structure based on external market value and an internal assessment of comparable work.

There are four primary changes impacting the salary structures for salaried and hourly, non-temporary staff:

  • We are moving from three salary structures to two. The Physical Plant/Services and Clerical/Technical structures are being consolidated.
  • Each structure will contain more grades.
  • Grades will display three segment ranges rather than five data points.
  • RISD will use the concept of comparable work as defined by the RI Pay Equity Act to refine our internal equity assessments.

As a result of these changes, staff positions will be assigned a new grade. Overall, the changes related to the implementation of the new salary structures serve to enhance RISD’s overall compensation program rather than to fundamentally change it.

While our salary structures are changing, how we use them will not change. Our salary structures will continue to be displayed publicly on the HR website for all employees, applicants for employment and the general public to reference. Additionally, RISD will leverage the language in the RI Pay Equity Act to discuss how we evaluate internal equity / comparable work in a clearer, more consistent and transparent way.

No base pay changes for staff were made as a result of the new structures, and there is no impact to benefits.

With regards to union positions, the new salary structures do not change any pay rates or progression that are identified in the current agreements in place.

All salaried and hourly, non-temporary staff will be impacted and each position will be assigned a new grade. Union employees should continue to refer to their collective bargaining agreements with respect to compensation administration.

Temporary positions are not assigned a grade.

Changes are effective on November 1, 2023. On this date, employees will be able to see their position’s new grade in Workday and the new grade ranges will be available on RISD’s HR website.

Comparable work is defined as work which is substantially similar in skill, effort and responsibility and is performed under similar working conditions.

  • Substantially Similar: Skill, effort and responsibility are alike to a great extent but do not have to be the same.
  • Skill: Experience, training, education, and ability; not an indication or measure of individual performance.
  • Effort: Amount of physical or mental exertion needed to perform a job.
  • Responsibility: The degree of discretion or accountability involved in completing essential job functions and regular duties.
  • Similar Working Conditions: The physical environment in which the work is performed; considers other similar factors such as the potential hazards involved in the workplace, the potential for injury, and shift time/time of day for performing the work.

The factors which drive comparable work are typically defined in a job description. The Compensation team evaluates job descriptions and performs the comparable work assessment. Titles alone do not indicate comparable work.

HR Talent Partners will communicate wage ranges to potential applicants upon request and to applicants actively in the recruitment process. The full grade range is included in the job postings and a segment range may be shared, but a more realistic range based on the pay rates of staff in comparable jobs or the budgeted amount for the position may also be shared. Ranges should be communicated consistently among applicants applying for the same job.

No. During the mapping process it was determined that no pay increases would be needed to implement the new structures. Likewise, no pay rates were decreased.

Segments are a visual representation of the full grade range, displayed in thirds, and were developed using competitive market data.

Grades assignments are based on a combination of market value (as determined by a competitive market analysis conducted by Compensation) and an assessment of jobs with comparable work.

Historically, RISD has allowed employees to continue to receive pay increases when their base rate is above the maximum of the grade. Currently, there are no plans to discontinue this practice.

Earlier in 2023, the college identified and addressed the areas most acutely impacted by pay compression that resulted from increasing base pay rates for individuals earning less than $20/hr. HR conducted further compression analysis resulting from the base pay increase and will address a small number of recommendations with the impacted individuals.

Managers are responsible for creating job descriptions for new roles and regularly updating job descriptions for existing role. If an employee feels their job description doesn’t reflect their current responsibilities, they should speak with their manager.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employees in exempt jobs are paid a set salary amount regardless of the number of hours worked; employees in non-exempt jobs are paid for the specific number of hours they work. Because of those differences, rates of pay for exempt employees are described in terms of annualized base wages while non-exempt employees are quoted in terms of hourly rate of pay.

Phase 3:  Developing career pathways that will inform career advancement (in process, completion expected in 2024)

In the third phase of the project, Aon was tasked with developing a career progression framework which will create clarity regarding the type and complexity of work at various points along the path. 

More information about this phase will be added as the project progresses.