As the Chief People Officer at Button, I'm on a mission to remove ambiguity around anything that falls under 'people operations': hiring, compensation, performance, promotions, and so on. This became a mission of mine early in my professional life after many of the companies I had worked for failed to provide me with a clear understanding of what I needed to demonstrate in order to advance my career.
When I joined Button in 2015, I envisioned a growth ecosystem that could be inclusive of a diversity of career experiences, paths, interests, interaction and communication styles, and skillsets. Over the past five years, the team at Button has built a number of tools to support each employee in their unique professional and personal development—this includes career ladders, coaching frameworks and guides, manager and leadership training, growth worksheets, and surveys. We wanted to share some of the highlights for you to learn alongside us.
We developed simple and accessible tools that empowered both employees and managers to have open and honest conversations. Here are a few of the resources our team has access to today:
Feel free to use these for your own growth or adapt them to your organization!
We also developed a career framework called The Growth Ladder to recognize, support, and empower our employees in their career growth and advancement. It provides clear expectations for 'fully successful' performance at each level and specifically around expertise, communication, impact, and leadership. Employees also have access to "what's next" for each role and what is expected at the next level. While we acknowledge that every individual may take a different path, The Growth Ladder is a common language that everyone in the organization can speak when discussing growth.
At a high-level, The Growth Ladder is comprised of:
As we grew our teams and functional areas we also created role- and team-specific growth ladders to complement The Growth Ladder, adding details and examples for specific roles and teams. This work is continuous as new teams form and grow in size!
The Growth Ladder also helps us evaluate readiness for promotion. Employees ready for promotion will consistently demonstrate all attributes within the next level that is clearly outlined. They will have clarity and transparency around how to unlock the next level, where they are in that journey, and ultimately every employee will know when they are ready because they have the tools to manage and navigate expectations (see The Growth Ladder worksheet above) and use those tools to discuss their performance and growth with their managers.
Along the way, we also discovered quite a few benefits for our team. First, it empowers the employee to proactively manage their growth. Second, it provides documentation and a reference point for addressing gaps in performance or competencies, a reference point for specific and effective feedback, and shows where one has an opportunity to grow or stretch beyond their comfort zone. Lastly, it reduces biases and favoritism as managers evaluate everyone across the same set of expectations, competencies, and attributes.
In the early days of Button, anyone could get promoted or receive a compensation adjustment at any time. In theory, this sounds great! However, in practice, this rolling system created more confusion rather than clarity. Our managers needed more structure to dedicate time and focus on employee growth and promotion readiness, and ultimately the process was not upholding our commitment to a performance-driven culture. We identified a few areas of improvement:
And how does this benefit our employees?
Employees know when reviews take place and will have a clear timeline around promotions and compensations when goals, OKRs, milestones, and The Growth Ladder are evaluated.
Employees will have dedicated and guaranteed career and growth conversations at least twice a year, if not more, which makes the conversations around promotions and compensation adjustments more approachable and comfortable.
Divisions (Engineering, Product, People, Finance, Revenue) will be responsible for reviewing and approving all promotions and compensation adjustments with the exception of senior leadership in which our CEO must approve.
Managers review the whole rather than parts of the team which creates consistency in evaluation, reduces bias and pay equity issues, and encourages decision making rooted in data.
These improvements helped us better reward employees for value and impact, provided a simple structure for managers to better evaluate their teams, increased visibility into equal-pay-for-equal-performance best practices, and reinforced a culture of high performance.
We've made a lot of progress and a number of improvements around how we support growth and advancement at Button and I couldn't be more excited to share what we've done to date. While we haven't figured it all out and it's not perfect, it's my mission to remove ambiguity and commitment to continuous growth and improvement that will continue to guide us, help us iterate, and evolve our systems and processes to better serve the team.
One of the best pieces of advice I received from a boss was to focus on growth, not the promotion. When you focus less on 'checking the boxes' and more on continuous improvement, leveraging your strengths, and developing and advancing skills and expertise, you are more intrinsically motivated. And studies have proven this is the key to sustained, long-term performance. In my experience, it's also the fastest way to a promotion!
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