Support the core needs of your team with a career framework

by Charlie Harris

Lara Hogan delivered an incredibly interesting talk, titled Navigating team friction at The Lead Developer Austin conference. In her talk, she referred to a model developed by Paloma Medina called BICEPS, which can be used to understand humans’ core needs. Helping to fill the core needs of your team will create a more inclusive environment and implementing an effective engineering career framework can help you get there.

If you’re not familiar with the term career framework, it’s a guide that your team can use to understand their capabilities and how to progress within your organisation. These often take the form of a matrix, that communicates the expectations of individuals operating at each of the levels in your organisation. I’m intentionally avoiding the term career ladder, as it suggests a single, inflexible track for progression.

Belonging

An engineering career framework is a tool that can help managers, mentors, and coaches to connect with the people they’re supporting and develop a community of learning and encouragement. By presenting people with paths for progression, giving them the opportunity to talk about their aspirations, and involving others in the process, you’ll create an environment where people feel cared for and understood.

Improvement/ Progress

Recognising the achievements of your team by tracking their progress on a career framework is hugely important in filling the need for improvement. Showing someone how they are growing in different areas helps them to see progress towards their goals and increases their motivation to continue learning. For the people supporting members of their team to grow, being able to see progression over time is hugely rewarding as it shows they are enhancing the lives of others.

Choice

Choice is something that is often missing from traditional single-track career ladders. Thankfully, this issue has been recognised by leaders, and companies like Medium are now creating career frameworks that are flexible and encourage autonomy so that people can pursue the things they're interested in.

Equality/ Fairness

Establishing a level of fairness when it comes to compensation and promotions is one of the key reasons companies create career frameworks. In a great post called The Null Process Kate Heddleston describes how discrimination and unclear expectations can arise when companies reject process. Career frameworks can sit at the heart of a clear process for compensation and promotion decisions, which will help establish a consistency across employees.

Predictability

Your best employees will leave if they can’t see an opportunity to progress, and they aren’t supported to achieve their aspirations. With a career framework, you can clearly communicate the opportunities available to your team, and develop plans to help them get there.

Significance

People want to be recognised for their efforts and achievements. In the workplace, recognition often comes in the form of a promotion, which helps establish a level of status and therefore significance. Career frameworks help ensure that the people who deserve promotions are the ones that get them.

Conclusion

Becoming aware of the BICEPS model has helped me to better understand and articulate the value that career frameworks can provide. These frameworks are all about people, and both they, and the processes around them need to be driven by core needs. Failing to consider them will inevitably cause significant tensions to arise.

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