One of the hardest challenges as a start-up grows is creating more formalized opportunities for learning and career growth. Building a career ecosystem within your company is a journey, not a destination. And like everything else, there are no one-size-fits-all strategies when it comes to people.
Here are four programs we have introduced to help teams start to develop career paths at HomeStars:
1. Building a merit-based departmental structure
Our VP Sales launched a graduated program to recognize high performers in his growing team and created a clear career path for everyone — whether they want to be star individual contributors or follow a management track. There are four levels in our sales team, each attained by achieving specific results.
It looks like this: a trainee joins HomeStars and enters a supportive six week sales training program. They graduate to Sales Associate when they close two sales. An Associate can be promoted to Senior Consultant and then to Sales Executive when they reach a dollar and unit customer goal, along with specific activity-based metrics. For the top performers, this is attainable within a year and the average is up to two years. Along with a title change, there is a healthy bump in base salary. Since introducing this over a year ago, roughly 20 per cent of our team have earned a promotion and three Sales Associates have been promoted to Manager roles.
Our VP Marketing has a smaller team, however she’s added levels and clear expectations to various roles. One person joined us as an entry level marketing coordinator and has been promoted twice in the past four years, and is now our highly-valued Senior Content Marketing Specialist. Our VP Engineering has established teams and leadership roles for four core missions his software team will be working on. Two high performing developers were just promoted to Engineering Manager roles for these teams.
2. Internal search first
All roles are posted internally and externally by our HR team. We prioritize developing our existing employees and selecting them over outside candidates whenever possible. Recently, a customer success coach was hired for a marketing role and interviewed alongside a couple of external candidates. She had always wanted to move into marketing, and her experience managing customers is now proving invaluable in her new content marketing position.
3. Cross-functional moves
We are now thinking about roles in every department that will allow for entry level training and options to pursue an interesting career path. For example, Software Engineer or Product Manager roles can be the next path for someone working in a QA (quality assurance) or Product Support function.
Often, a Sales Associate will apply for a role in Customer Success, managing a large number of accounts.They succeed quickly as they know the product so well and understand customer’s needs and concerns.
Our Office Coordinator came to HomeStars right out of university and was not sure initially where her career interests would lead. When our integrity team needed help moderating reviews, she jumped in and supported them for a few months. Eventually, she moved to full time Review Integrity Specialist in the Marketing department (she started in Finance) and was recently promoted to Senior Integrity Specialist.
4. Education investment
We set up a $1,000 education allowance per employee / per year to take courses related to supporting them in their current or next role. Several people have taken courses online, at evening community colleges or boot camps.
Wall of Fame
Finally, in order to recognize our talented team, we have a wall to congratulate people when they are promoted or have moved departments.
While we are a small company, we have grown from 50 to over 120 people in the past two years. With more growth ahead of us, our leadership team takes the time during our annual planning to look at how they need structure their departments — matching business objectives with career growth. Once final, the HR team then knows the plan to support each individual department and designs recruiting and interviewing processes to meet their needs.