Promoting With a Career Ladder

Heiko Reintsch

Head of Product at GetYourGuide



My people are mostly product managers. One of the things about being their leader is that you’re not observing them in their day-to-day as much as you would like to be; they’re out there running their own teams. Of course, you will be able to see the results of some of that work, but you won’t be present for many of those meetings with their teams and stakeholders.

Sometimes, the only real point of attachment that I have with a person is our one-on-one. It is such a challenge to be supportive and to help people advance with so many moving pieces involved. I think that the topic of growth for PMs is not always an easy one, because the job comes with many responsibilities. Making the transition is not fast or easy.

Showing people their progress as they gather experience is something that I feel is pretty important. What is the best way to give these people tangible feedback on their performance under their new title?

Actions taken

We invested a lot of time into writing out a career ladder, in which we define different steps within our promotional framework. It shows different titles and salaries within the company. In it, we try to be quite explicit with the type of behaviors that we expect during these different steps along the career ladder. We look at contribution through four different dimensions. One is impact; the second is vision, followed by leadership and then execution.

We basically outline what we wish to see our employees accomplishing in each of the positions within the organization. We frame our review process around these criteria, as well as our feedback sessions and our growth sessions that we do between manager and employee. Everything is structured around these four dimensions. It has really helped us to showcase what is expected in order to progress to that next level.

We ask them to assess themselves, as well as giving them that three-sixty from the perspectives of the managers. Whe tell them where we see them doing well along our career ladder. If there is a disagreement, where is the disagreement? In what area is there a different perspective on what level somebody happens to be at? We try to align and to come to that common conclusion together in this way. We try to be very transparent and open about this.

This can, of course, lead to some pretty tough discussions. People are working hard and advancing very important things for the company, but they may not be promoted because their behavior is not quite on that next level. Sometimes, a person will have a very different perception about how much progress they’ve made since their last review. Sometimes, it’s not a lack of effort.

Lessons learned

  • We want to shift the mindset away from promotion as an incentive for work being done. It’s the trust that you have in somebody and their ability to be doing the work at that higher level. It is having some sense of trust in the future of this person, not a reward.
  • This process culminates into a personal development plan. Okay, now what are some steps that you can take to get to the next phase of your career? Is stakeholder communication something that you still struggle with? That’s an area that we can focus on. What are some actions that you can take in order to improve this?
  • It all comes down to changing the person’s behavior. If you can see that the improvement is consistent and constantly gaining momentum, you’ll know that your leadership has made a difference.

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Heiko Reintsch

Head of Product at GetYourGuide

Leadership DevelopmentPerformance ReviewsFeedback TechniquesCareer ProgressionCareer LadderSkill DevelopmentIndividual Contributor RolesLeadership RolesTraining & MentorshipLeadership & Strategy

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