Democratize career progression for a more equitable workplace

April 29, 2022

I am excited to introduce Pando to the world following our recent funding announcement. Pando is here to democratize career progression. We believe that companies should create a level playing field for all employees, enabling fair and continuous progression.

Pando is introducing a new, agile approach to managing employee growth, promotions, and feedback — helping organizations drive equity, innovate, and adapt to the rapidly changing rules of work.

We are excited for more companies to join the shift to build a more inclusive and empowered workplace. I am proud to be leading our customers toward a future of realized potential for all their employees.

Making career advancement achievable for everyone will increase your bottom line 

Women and minorities are still drastically underrepresented when moving up the professional ranks, despite the business case for diversity being stronger than ever. While good intentioned, many diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs fail because companies prioritize diversity without creating the organizational structures needed for a diverse workplace to thrive. This leaves many employees overlooked or disenfranchised and lots of untapped human and business potential on the table.   

Distributed teamwork calls for more autonomous ways for employees to move up in the organization

Proximity has always been a great way to get the best projects and advance your career. But the days of politicking your way up to the top are over. As modern organizations, we should be earnest in our efforts to enable employees. The more they grow, the better our businesses do. We need to create clarity and structure to make career advancement accessible, understandable, and contextually aligned for each employee. Defined levels, competency-based rubrics, and clear expectations for individual roles should be readily available, for all employees, along with clear guidance on how to advance to the next level.

Climbing the ladder isn’t about becoming a manager; many employees want to be masters of their domains

It used to be that upward mobility means you need to become a manager. But many companies are moving to a model where manager and individual contributor (IC) paths are not better or worse for your career, they are just different. We’ve worked with many companies to define levels that align both the IC and the manager path so that every employee has a choice: go into people management or continue to master your domain. This only works if companies put their money where their mouth is. Creating pay parity between IC and Manager levels can reduce the emphasis on title and authority and empower employees to find career alignment that is more meaningful and impactful. 

This is how the new paradigm of democratizing career progression is challenging the status quo:

Pay equity does not inherently level the playing field 

While companies rightfully work hard to ensure pay parity for men, women, and minorities, fixing pay inequities only treats a symptom of a greater systemic problem in the organization. Why do these inequities exist in the first place? While all employees at the same level should expect fair pay, do all employees have the same opportunities to progress to higher levels, earn greater pay, and develop the business-critical skills that will open professional doors for them in the future?

‘Managing’ performance is an outdated paradigm

Managing performance is something we do on outlying issues – and rarely, whereas coaching is what we do most of the time,” says Mark Frein, CPO at OysterHR. “After many years of seeing performance management done in all sorts of ways, it’s obvious we need a better way to help managers and employees collaborate on progression against competencies, skills, and outcomes rather than ‘manage’ performance.” Not only are performance reviews something that happens to an employee, but they also lack context and structure tied to an individual’s level and role. This leads to biased decision-making and unfair or unclear rationale for promotions which perpetuate systemic issues of inequalities in the workplace.

Managers are not equipped to develop top performers 

The pandemic brought on many changes to the workplace. Managers now face staggering pressure to manage competing priorities, ensure their teams have the emotional and professional support they need to excel, and achieve business results. We can’t expect managers to grow their people without consistent, transparent, and actionable frameworks aligned with company impact. Despite all the modern HR tools, managers don’t have an objective way to evaluate, develop, and reward their people fairly. Managers are set up for failure if companies expect so much of them without creating the needed structure for them to be most effective.

The path forward: Democratizing career progression

The way career progression happens today is broken and needs to be fixed. And Pando was created to level the playing field for all employees, usher in the era of agile HR, and create a continuous progression paradigm that enables companies to unlock employees’ full potential. It’s a mindset shift, and these four factors can help you adapt to this change: 

  • Transparency as a change agent: Often, companies don’t share job levels with employees and usually haven’t done the work to map out the competencies or skills required to get promoted at each level (usually not because they don’t want to but rather because it’s really hard to do). By clearly communicating the levels of a given role, employees are no longer chasing an unknown target. Instead, they know exactly what is next and what’s expected of them to be able to get there. This kind of transparency is not a business risk – it’s an agent of change.
  • More levels, narrower bands, greater equity: Job levels are usually the result of pay band benchmarking vs. a strategic approach to how employees will progress in your organization. Because we use comp benchmarks to build levels, we end up with a small subset of levels but very wide compensation bands, which means employees at the same level can be paid wildly different salaries. Creating more levels democratizes progression in two ways: First, it allows for more narrow comp-bands so everyone at the same level is paid fairly. Second, it creates smaller, more iterative opportunities for employees to progress in your organization. Getting a salary increase every year is not the same as progressing in your career. Employees want to get salary increases and they want to know they are progressing
  • Real-time vs. cyclical means it’s ‘just-in-time’: Progression should be collaborative, transparent, and structured. Employees should progress at their own pace, and for those with a high growth velocity – we should get out of their way (not keep them waiting for a ‘year-end’ review). The concept of ‘just-in-time’ comes from agile and in this context, means that just the people ready to be promoted are promoted at the exact right time. Cyclical reviews are based on a timetable rather than growth, achievement, or impact – so they artificially hold the company and its employees back. Real-time progression is anchored in an individual’s level, mastery of core competencies, and impact on the business through achievements on a regular, ongoing basis, rather than a once-a-year meeting.
  • Context is the missing link to fair, always-on progression: Today, employees receive feedback from their manager and peers, but usually without helpful context related to the role, level, competency mastery, or impact. Feedback is a gift, but feedback from a peer or manager about a certain competency, and in the context of what that means for your particular role, at your particular level – that’s a bigger gift! Leveraging levels and competencies to create a context for employees enables us to make what used to be a completely qualitative process more quantitative and ensures a structure that allows for employees to get better feedback and iteratively move towards the next level. 

Performance management in its current state doesn’t nurture growth. It nurtures the status quo including bias and emotional stress. It doesn’t have to be that way. When individuals grow in their roles, the organization grows with them. It’s a win-win. With Pando, companies are now equipped with the tools they need to create individualized, fulfilling career paths contextualized through levels and competencies that empower employees to build rewarding careers while meaningfully impacting the business. 

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