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Implementing a Clear Promotion Process in a Growing Company

Veronika Fleisher

Director of Engineering at BitSight Technologies

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Problem

I’ve seen my company grow from 10 to 450 people. Getting through different phases, growing pains, and team sizes, you notice new challenges coming up at different phases. One of the challenges that we encountered was how to promote employees in a systematic way across all leadership. When you’re small, it’s easy to see when people are excelling and get a feel for when they are ready to go to the next level - they take ownership of projects and problems and run with it. When you are bigger and have a lot of high performers, it becomes a lot harder to really understand if one person is at the level for promotion or close to it, and do so consistently across the entire engineering department.

As a company, we were really focused on delivering products, while some people were itching to go to the next level. It wasn’t always clear to individuals what the expectations were at the next level and how they could align their career goals to it. We needed to get ahead of this by providing clarity to individuals and having open conversations about an individual’s goals and the organization’s expectations.

Actions Taken

To make that process more systematic, we had to make some changes. We already had an engineering ladder that fit our needs when we were small. When we got larger, we needed to expand the list of behaviors we wanted to instill and provide clarity on expectations for everyone. We looked at the technical abilities acquired, their abilities to deliver, and how well individuals collaborated with others at different levels over time. When we saw that someone was performing at a senior level, we could evaluate their performance to those attributes to figure out if they were ready to take that next level.

Later, we made a promotion readiness document. We made an alignment between where we expected an individual to perform at versus where the person thought they were at. The folks that thought they were ready filled out their own assessment versus that engineering letter and gave themselves an assessment, and their manager did the same thing. They had a conversation about where the gaps were and it made a great conversation for folks. It made it easier for the manager to help people focus their careers and figure out what parts they needed to grow or get better at. The promotion readiness is a self-assessment against the engineering letter and then the manager’s assessment. If someone says they’re ready for a promotion, you need to show it on a continuous basis.

This system also opened up a very honest conversation between the individual and their manager about where they thought they wanted to go. That was something that took a two-step approach where we revisited what we expected at each level and broke it down to themes underneath. Individuals needed to show their collaboration, leadership, and ability to get things done. This gave them a bit more clarity and direction into how they could grow within the company while also creating a career path.

Lessons Learned

We started this system in the engineering department, but it grew organically to encompass what we wanted from each role and responsibility as well. It helped us understand our lateral move fits and performances as well. Other departments started to look into our ladder and adopted similar approaches.

Especially the people that felt they were ready for promotion and then found gaps appreciated this clarity and understanding on how to showcase their abilities. It actually excited some of the people because it gave them opportunities to pinpoint how to show their skills. I had some people coming out of these meetings feeling more inspired to go after certain things and challenge themselves in areas they weren’t in before.


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Veronika Fleisher

Director of Engineering at BitSight Technologies


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