Creating Agile HR, Part 5: Performance Management, the Career Ladder

One of the big roles of HR is to shepherd the assessment of people and their fit for their jobs. That's called “managing performance.”

Managing performance is about:

  • Creating and curating a career ladder for all jobs. That's exempt (salaried), non-exempt (hourly), and all management.
  • Manage salary parity.
  • HR might help a manager learn how to provide feedback and coaching. (I have yet to see an HR person who understands this, but it's possible that some HR people do understand.)
  • If a manager wants to fire someone, HR will have to agree to a performance improvement plan or help with the firing.
  • HR manages the yearly performance review process, which includes raises and promotions.

(Note that the salary parity, performance improvement, and firing is all about keeping the company out of court.)

In addition, if an organization believes in rank-and-yank, HR is involved in that activity. (See We Can and Must Have an Objective Ranking System and Forced Ranking is Stupid.)

Here are some of the ways agile approaches challenge HR:

  • We each manage our own performance. Dan Pink (and other people) have known for years that intrinsic motivation is what keeps people at work. Yes, we want to be paid fairly for our work, but that's not what keeps us at a job.
  • What does parity mean when we have teamwork, not individual work?
  • In an agile team, the team members provide each other feedback and coaching. What does that mean for the manager?

I wrote about the career ladder in Possibilities for Managing Individual and Team Compensation. Here is an example of a ladder:

Rank & GradeFunctional SkillsInitiativeCollaborationLeadership QualitiesProblem solving scopeTypical Education or experience
Engineer 1 (Associate)0-2 years
Engineer 22-5 years
Engineer 3 (Senior)5 + years
Engineer 4 (Principal)10+ years
Engineer 5 (Consulting)10+ years

You would replace the qualities, preferences, and personal skills along the top with your essential qualities, preferences and personal skills from your job analysis. (See Are You Overspecifying Your Open Jobs? for some tips.) Those qualities and preferences tend to be similar for a given culture.

You would replace the levels down the side with your levels, along with the typical experience for that level.

I have found that having broad experience ranges helps me to place people in a job that makes sense.

When you have a career ladder, you can manage salary parity and have good feedback and coaching conversations.

I'll address ongoing feedback and coaching in the next post. See Creating Agile HR, Part 1: What HR Does for all the posts in this series.

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