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A job level matrix (also called a career ladder or career progression chart) is a way of defining the levels within a department and the skills within and across levels. It is used to helped team members objectively understand how to get a promotion, as opposed to promotions being fully reliant upon the subjectivity and biases of an individual manager.
Learn Job Leveling with the Practica AI CoachThe Practica AI Coach helps you improve in Job Leveling by using your current work challenges as opportunities to improve. The AI Coach will ask you questions, instruct you on concepts and tactics, and give you feedback as you make progress.
What is the Purpose of Job Leveling?Career ladders help companies make sure that they're taking a consistent approach to the way they evaluate and pay their team members. They also help team members understand how to progress between titles in a specific department.
- Titles and PromotionsBen describes why job leveling is almost always necessary, the inherent risks with it (including the law of crappy people), and how to manage those risks with a strong promotion process. • Job Titles become important for two reasons: employees need them for future jobs, and as companies grow, titles provide a shorthand for roles. • However, without proper management, titles can lead to issues like the Peter Principle and the Law of Crappy People, where incompetent people get promoted. The best way to mitigate these issues is through a disciplined promotion process, similar to how martial arts dojos promote students. • The promotion process should have clear definitions of skills needed at each level and compare candidates to existing employees at that level. • Ben reviews Meta's approach, where Zuckerberg gives lower titles to ensure fairness. Zuckerberg's approach forces managers to understand the leveling system, which boosts morale. Meta misses out on some candidates due to lower titles, but they may not be the right fit anyway. • Ultimately, a disciplined promotion process is more important than the actual titles given. It avoids internal inequities that can obsess employees.
Common Job Leveling Challenges
These are common challenges people face when gaining expertise in job leveling. Tackling these challenges head-on can help you learn this skill quicker.I'm designer at a mid-sized tech company and we recently went through job leveling for the first time. I feel that the criteria used to determine my level were unclear and not applied consistently. It's left me feeling frustrated and uncertain about my career progression. What should I do to get clarity on my level and how to move up?I'm a team lead at a tech company and I'm responsible for job leveling within my team. I recently faced a challenge when one of my team members disagreed with their assigned job level. They felt that their skills and contributions were undervalued and that they deserved a higher level. How can I effectively communicate the rationale behind job leveling decisions and address the concerns of team members who feel their level does not accurately reflect their abilities?Work on your own challenge with the Practica AI Coach
Guides On How to Set Up Job LevelsAcross a variety of companies, the process to set up job levels usually follows these steps: 1. Assembling a committee for who will be consulted on the project and who will be directly responsible for executing it 2. Define the audience(s) - which might include employees, managers, department leaders, and HR - and identify their needs via research interviews 3. Execute a “competitive landscape audit” - see how other relevant companies have produced for their teams 4. Decide on the levels to be created 5. Decide on the structure for what goes into a level - usually in the form of skills / competencies, and usually they’re grouped. Successful job levels usually include both hard and soft skills, in order to accurately reflect what a person does in their job. 6. Give examples of what a behavior on the job that reflects a competency looks like at your company, so that managers and employees have examples to guide them (but not necessarily to restrict them) 7. Determine if a company’s values will be integrated with the skills / competencies 8. Beta-test it as a “draft” with a group of managers and employees. Ask the managers to put an employee in a level, and ask the employee to put themselves in a level, based on the contents of the draft job levels, competencies, and competency example behaviors. Ideally, you know the job level documentation is working if a high percentage of managers and employees put the employee in the same level. This will also generate buy-in. 9. Set up a process for evaluating and updating the job level documentation over time, to capture feedback and edge cases. Communicate to the team that job levels are living documents that can be refined.
- Designing a Career Ladder for Product DesignHelena walks through her process for building a career ladder at for the design team at DoorDash. She identified the audiences, performed a competitive landscape audit, established design principles, designed a solution, and then tested and iterated with the audiences. She wraps up with 4 key learnings.
- Job Title Leveling That Worked For UsJason walks through the story of launching leveling to FloSports' engineering team. Interestingly, during the launch they asked engineers to rank themselves according to the new framework, and the self-rankings aligned 100% with where managers placed them. This produced a high degree of team buy-in.
How to Use Job LevelsSetting up job leveling is just the first step - the next step is use it continuously!
- How to Use Your Career LadderCaitlin explains how to roll out a newly-developed career ladder by anticipating the questions that your team members might have (with examples). She also covers how to have growth-focused conversations, how to align team responsibilities, how to manage up before promotion time, how to announce promotions, and how to use career ladders in hiring.
Job Levels for Individual ContributorsJob levels for individual contributors are typically based on factors such as education, experience, and technical skills, and can provide a clear path for advancement within a company.
- How Individuals Advance at Buffer, Without Becoming ManagersBuffer developed an internal job leveling framework that lets you grow over time into a manager and/or lets you grow your skills horizontally as a maker.
Job Levels for ManagersFor someone who is looking to get into management or is new to management, it can be hard to decipher the meaning behind titles like “manager”, “director”, and “VP”. Are they really different from one another? What do these people do differently in their roles? It turns out there are meaningful differences. Managers are new to people management and typically manage individual contributors. They usually have the experience of the individual contributors they manage, and can take responsibility for team outcomes, but are still learning people management skills and will have questions and will need support. They usually do not yet develop departmental strategy, but instead decide and manage the tactics to execute on for strategies that have already been created. Directors usually manage managers, and possibly some individual contributors. They are paid to drive results with little or no supervision and can easily judge whether right tactics are being used for a project. They usually are very good at working cross-functionally with other departments across the organization, and are either driving strategy or a strong contributor to it. VPs are paid to set the strategy of their department, and they are accountable to the outcomes of that strategy. They understand the business they work in regardless of what department they are in, they set strategy, build consensus around it, and drive their department to have the right team, processes, and technologies in place to succeed with that strategy. For more on managers, directors, and VPs, check out:
- Career Development: What It Really Means to be a Manager, Director, or VPWhile Dave is not a fan of many leveling approaches, he is a fan of defining the use of Manager, Director, and VP in Job Titles: • Managers are paid to drive results with some support • Directors are paid to drive results with little or no supervision • VPs are paid to make the plan