How to develop an engineer career ladder for your company that won’t devolve into a ‘title game’

By February 2, 2019 ScaleUp Heroes

The first ladder was built at least 10,000 years ago and, since that point, has come to symbolize so much more than just a way to physically reach high places. Within companies, the significance and interpretation of the ladder have been extended into a symbol for scaling businesses: the career ladder.

Scaling up a company brings a lot of big changes including the impending necessity to give your employees something to work towards, both personally and professionally. But how can a growing business build a career ladder that insights motivation rather than friction, especially in the engineering world?

In the most recent ScaleUp Heroes podcast, Ryan Foland of Build Your Influence sat with Pedro Gustavo Torres of Talkdesk and Paulo André of TourRadar to strategize the best tactics for building an appropriate ladder for engineers to move up in the ranks.

Setting expectations

Paulo André is the VP of Engineering for TourRadar, an online marketing place for tours, that is currently in the process of building a career ladder for their team of 30 engineers. His best advice for building a successful career ladder is to first understand your company’s expectations, values and ethics. The better defined and honest you can be on these objectives, the stronger the structure of your ladder will become.

What are the sets of traits that are going to make someone successful in your company? Once you have an idea, define your company values that will inform those traits. Finally, determine the scope or impact that each level is expected to achieve.

When expectations are really clearly defined at the start, the way that both André and Torres prefer to design their career ladder, there’s less space for people to wonder where they belong within it.

Mismatched expectations can put you and your employees at odds, which will affect growth — both for them and your company.

Involve your community

On that note, how can we set expectations that align with employees? André finds the answer is communication. As with company culture, career ladders are specifically about you and the people who make up your organization. The process should be an open dialogue, so you can manage how your employees see this new transition, so that it actually serves your company.

The last thing you want is for your employees to mistake a personal growth opportunity for a ‘title game’.

Frequent one-on-ones give employees the opportunity to be a part of the design process, while letting you structure the career ladder around how you already operate.

Career ladders are meant to make your employees feel like they’re going somewhere, so make sure everyone sees themselves within your ladder — and then stick to it.

If you’d like to hear more about how (and when!) to develop a successful career ladder in your company, listen to this episode of the ScaleUp Heroes podcast. It’s not only full of useful and actionable strategies, but it’s also a great source of ladder puns and metaphors that should not be missed. If you are craving for more, join the next episodes. They always go live on Mondays.

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