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Promotion Alignment Amongst Managers

Handling Promotion
Career Path

9 March, 2021

Seiji Naganuma
Seiji Naganuma

Director of Product Engineering at Curology

Seiji Naganuma, Director of Product Engineering at Curology, details how he ensured promotion alignment by helping develop the Level Change Alignment.

Problem

We've set up a foundation for how we think about career progression at Curology by rolling out level definitions for each job function (e.g., Software Engineer Level 1, 2, 3...). The core of the progression rests on the levels framework and the individual level items, but a problem of inconsistency occurs when we have several different managers that are interpreting the level items and matching up people's performance against them. The natural tendency is for managers to ask their own manager to make sure they are being fair and consistent. This causes another problem in that a single person is responsible for the career progressions of people that are not even their direct reports.

Actions taken

In order to solve this problem, we spun up a lightweight process to achieve alignment across the managers on how they are evaluating the performance of their direct reports against the levels. We call it "Level Change Alignment.” The main goal of the process is to encourage conversation amongst the managers around their standards for levels to be more consistent. The other managers do not have any deciding power on whether an employee progresses to the next level. That decision will remain upon the direct manager, who we believe is in the best position to make that decision.

This is what the process looks like:

  • The manager working through the level change needs to write up a short document to support the level change. The document has multiple purposes. The first is to leave a paper trail so it can help all managers, including themselves, calibrate future level changes. The second is to allow for others to review the level change asynchronously prior to discussing it as a group.
  • The next step is to send the document out to the other managers to see if level change evaluations are being done consistently. The main question we want to answer as a team of managers is, "Does this level change seem consistent with the ones we've done in the past? If not, then what is different?". Ultimately, the team of managers is not approving/rejecting the level change. They are there to provide perspective and to develop a shared understanding of the level items across the team.

Lessons learned

  • If you're trying to achieve consistent results on different teams, you need to involve a member of each team to achieve that result.
  • The decision for career progression should remain up to the direct manager of the employee, not the manager's manager.
  • When rolling out a new process, it's usually better to start with one that is lightweight and easy to adopt. Then you can iterate from there.
  • Removing single point of failures, bottlenecks, or gatekeepers is important in growing organizations.

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