Gary eagerly awaited the response from his manager. He had requested a consultation on the next steps available to him, now in the position of Database Administrator. He wanted to understand what the salary ranges were, what promotions he could get, and where he would go from where he was. After all, one of the things that he made sure to check before joining the company, was that they had a good career plan.

The career plan is usually drawn up by the Human Resources department. All paths available for progression are mapped and described in this document. Each level defines is a new step, a salary increase and more responsibilities. However, we at Target Teal see less and less startups, technology and service industry companies creating such a plan. Or, when the plan exists, it doesn’t solve the problems that it intends to deal with. Why is that?

In “The end of bosses: why some companies are getting rid of them”, we mentioned that some organizations are leaving the hierarchical structure behind and going towards self-management to increase their adaptation capacity. Now, in such a scenario without bosses and management positions, how do you build a career plan? It certainly needs some reengineering for this new reality.

In addition, constant changes in the environment (market, technology, sociopolitical) make it difficult to draw up a “step by step” guide in advance. Anyone in the world of technology knows that they often need to recycle their knowledge. Until a few years ago, there was no “Data Scientist” position. How could anyone have predicted this and put it on a career path? It’s just unfeasible.

To make matters worse, if the plan exists, it was probably created by an area that knows nothing about people’s actual work. In an attempt to standardize and fit people into predetermined boxes, HR doesn’t realize the harm it creates with its carved-in-stone career plan.

Given those arguments, I can imagine three possible situations in your company regarding its career plan:

1) Your organization doesn’t have a defined career plan. Probably it’s a small company, a startup or an organization of a more dynamic industry.

2) Your organization has a defined career path and it doesn’t make any sense to you. You’re not the only one. ☺️

3) Your organization has a defined career plan and it makes perfect sense to you. In that case you probably work in some more stable industry. Which is unlikely, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading our posts. ????

Ok, maybe you are embracing new social technologies, like self-management, and want to tackle compensation, promotion and progression. How do you do that?

The rethought career plan

There is no magic formula or a unique solution for all organizations. Nevertheless, we have noticed some tendencies regarding compensation and career plans (that name doesn’t make sense anymore):

More dynamic and less predictive. What comes to replace the traditional career plan is not a set of predefined steps. On the contrary: it’s built dynamically and by lots of people. Zappos uses a badge-based system, where relevant skills for the organization are proposed as badges and obtained all the time by the employees themselves. In other cases, there is little support structure, as in the case of Semco where people direcly decide their own salary. The bottom line is that compensation and positions are no longer fully planned in advance, but they evolve dynamically.

Peer recognition. At Morning Star, there are no bosses or hierarchy, but a network of agreements that is formed among the workers. To change what you do (let’s call it a “promotion”), you simply rehire your work with the people you signed a pact previously. Wages are decided by a committee elected by the employees (their peers), rather than by a boss. In short: many people define salaries, not just managers.

Salary formula and transparency. Some organizations have chosen to make pay clear to everyone. This is usually done through a formula, which although it may contain subjective criteria, the same rules apply to all employees. This is the case of Buffer, which in addition to having a formula, makes their salaries open and available on the Internet. It requires courage, but it increases coherence. In this post we talk a bit more about why salaries are usually private.

Does your company lack a career plan?

Awesome! I think it’s not a good thing to leave “your career” in the hands of the company you work for. In this more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world, you should take the reins of your life and begin to say what you need. What is the next step? Only you know. Don’t expect that a “career plan” made by HR will give you that answer.