What to Watch Out for When Designing Career Development Frameworks

Keep employees engaged by showing them how they can grow within your organization

With performance review season just around the corner, many of our clients are considering how to best demonstrate their commitment to their team in an era of limited budgets. Establishing a career progression framework, with stages and areas of growth, is one of the best ways to keep employees engaged and demonstrate that you want them to stick around. Not only does it help employees understand where they are in their careers, it also gives them ownership over how they want to grow. And, of course, it establishes a consistent approach to promotions and raises, leading to greater equity and a sense of fairness.

In researching and designing these career development frameworks, we’ve noticed a few common stumbling blocks. So as you think through your team’s, watch out for the following:

Address Organizational Needs

  • Timing. First, don’t create a career development plan too soon—as Spotify discovered, you’ll just create a lot of complexity. Wait until it’s already in demand.
  • Copying. While it’s fine to review how other teams have approached career development, don’t re-purpose their approach wholesale. Growth frameworks must be specific to your culture, your team’s unique talents, and potential career paths.
  • Longevity. Think about how your framework will impact the long term. If the organization is already-top heavy, what will happen when everyone expects a promotion in two years?
  • Values. Make sure you’re promoting and rewarding the behavior that aligns with your stated values.

Roles and Competencies

  • Completion. You’ll never make a “complete” skill list—there are simply too many hard skills to track. Instead, focus on core competencies.
  • Scope. It’s often hard to determine boundaries between levels of hierarchy. While there’s no one metric to use, Buffer’s general rule is the higher you go, the wider your influence within the company as whole—not just the people reporting in directly to you. Similarly, it’s important to clarify decision-making rights between roles, especially if they tend to overlap—which is why MeetUp developed a tool for distinguishing the roles of a project manager, engineering manager, and engineering lead.
  • “Glue” Work. Organizational citizenship is the “glue” that keeps high-performing teams together—think of tasks like leading an Employee Resource Group (ERG), or organizing cake for employees’ birthdays. Yet all too often, this type of work isn’t included as a competency, and the individuals who take it on aren’t recognized for their contributions.

Future Opportunities

  • Paths. While historically, career progression was a “ladder” to the top, now, more and more companies are informally thinking of it as a “jungle gym” or a “snowflake,” giving employees more opportunities to move around within the organization. Make it clear that a lateral move is just as valid for professional growth.
  • Compensation. Ultimately, people will always want to know what a promotion means in terms of salary, so be transparent and consistent.

Need help designing your team’s growth framework? Get in touch.

Published October 16, 2020