Job Families, Levels, Titles and Career Paths
Building the game board for your team to thrive.
Here’s a common scenario at growing company:
Employee: “So what’s my job title?”
Manager: “We don’t do job titles here, it’s just a name on a card, put on it whatever you want”
<Employee hands in resignation>
Employee: “I love it here, the people are great but I want to go in a different direction”.
Later on Glassdoor: “Great team, but there’s no career progression”
Does the above sound familiar?
It was a recurring pattern for us. And we tried and tried to define career pathways and levels with mixed success. Some of our teams did it quite well, some didn’t get very far.
Don’t expect everyone in your team to be a trailblazer. If you don’t define the pathways, expect your team to find another path. Outside of your company.
You need a framework
So what did we do? We built a framework. Just like we were building software. Without a framework, you have no foundation of fairness. And without that, you cannot tell your team that you are serious avout their career growth.
In the end, it wasn’t until we top down defined all of the Job Families in the company, across the whole company that we began to make meaningful progress towards solving our “lack of career path” problem.
Building the rows - Job Families
We ended up with 17 Job Families, yup 17. Why so many? We’ve got services, product, engineering, finance, eCommerce, IT, etc etc.
We deliberately took the time to define all of the Job Families across the company, and not just for now but also for the foreseeable future. As an example, we have a couple of Job Families that at the stage that we defined them, we had no Rocketeers inside of.
That’s perfect! - why, because our Rocketeers can see the vision of where the company is headed and they have the opportunity to see themselves on those careers.
Here’s the mindset as you’re thinking through your job families: Define each Job Family as a Craft, not as a Department. A department is for the company but a craft is a skill and a pathway for a recognized career.
Building the Columns - Levels
Once you have layered down your Job Families, you can law them out as rows, then you need to work on your columns - Job Levels. We went with a 10 level model, and we have 2 tracks. Our 2 tracks are pretty standard:
Individual Contributor (IC)
And we have have level 1 as an intern and level 10 as our, experienced top C-levels.
In our culture, we want to promote Contribution as how we’re making the Tree bigger and stronger. We don’t incentivize the Management track over the Individual Contributor track - especially in technical Job Families, if you do that you run the risk of forcing your best IC’s into a level of incompetence as managers and when you do that, nobody wins.
Longer term we also want to prevent organizational bloat, or a bozo explosion, whereby you end up with too many managers that just manage and don’t contribute enough to the underlying strength of the business. That is, the overhead of their management is greater than the effect of their management. So, we want to encourage lots of IC’s and you do that by not penalizing someone by wanting to be on the IC track vs the management track.
We don’t incentivize the Management track over the Individual Contributor track - especially in technical Job Families, if you do that you run the risk of forcing your best IC’s into a level of incompetence as managers and when you do that, nobody wins.
The Intersections - The Job Profiles (or Job Titles)
Once you have the game board in place, which are your rows (Job Families), and columns (Job Levels) you can begin to create your Job Profiles, which are your job descriptions which contain Qualifications, Skills, Responsibilities for each role. There are a few different way to do this, and it will be a little different for each business in how you do this. In our case, we leveraged and purchased some industry salary range data, as well as and spent the time to create and map our jobs to these frameworks so that we could also start to calibrate our salary bands.
Not sure where to start with levels and want to see what other companies do? check out https://levels.fyi Levels.fyi is a great site to help you get started.
As a CEO of a growing services company, you can’t outsource this to someone else, YOU have to be hands on and deeply involved in this process. It’s you, as an entrepreneur that is moulding the clay that is the core of the business. There are many experts that can help and advise, but just like your personal health - if you don’t take a vested interest in this, it will likely fail. Not only that, you won’t really know in the short term.