By 2019 Stratio was facing a reality check that was hard to swallow. We were having a high voluntary turnover rate, including high-potential team players. To have some turnover is healthy, but ours was not. And it’s long known that disengagement usually runs deeper than dissatisfaction with pay. Common reasons include lack of career development/progression opportunities, bad relationships with a manager or the team, feeling undervalued, not a good working culture fit, among others.
To face this problem we decided not to be reactive.
We understood that we needed to invest in preventing future disengagement before it got to this stage. We decided that for 2020 our people priorities would be to:
- Increase our retention levels and keep our team motivated
- Ensure Stratio’s culture is incorporated in each individual
- Give the entire team an idea on their current position within Stratio and what is expected of them
- Give a clear line of sight on future progression and compensation
- Ensure we take a consistent approach to performance, progression, and pay
- Improve clarity on recruitment, onboarding, and people management
To do this, one of our strategies was to create a framework where we could look into progression and culture.
We analysed Stratio’s specific context and needs, and, of course, we stood on the shoulders of giants.
Ok, but how to create a framework that works for us?
We had to refrain from not complicating or overdoing this, neither add a lot of new processes to the team. We tried to use most of what was already in place, formally or informally, and also gather inputs from the team. We put together founders and managers to create this framework. This was our first version: This was not about perfection but about getting the job done, we wanted to have an immediate impact.
To begin with… Where do we start? Culture.
First things first. The framework should stand on a solid ground base, so we needed to review and refresh what we understood as Stratio Culture. So, we started there. We looked into what we had internally as daily behaviours that we wanted to promote, and maybe more importantly, what we wanted to prevent. We wrote on a piece of paper everything that came up to our minds and realized that most things revolved around the same type of situations — which was a good sign, that we were all already aligned.
After this, we ran this work through all our managers to receive some extra input and feedback. They gave us a lot of (amazing) input, et voilá… Stratio Culture Manifesto was created, detailing what we aim to be as a company and as an employer, and also what we expect from our teams.
But how could we progress at Stratio?
Afterwards, we needed to understand what would be the common ground for progression at Stratio. A few requirements needed to be set, otherwise it would be heroically (and probably utopic) insane to describe all possible evolution paths:
- As a start-up, we know things change often, so this exercise needed to be time-framed — “think about evolution in Stratio in a 2-year frame”. That’s it.
- Also, and for a 1st version, in order to keep it simple (and also our sanity…), no inter-teams progression possibilities were to be considered.
All set up, we took a moment to think about what we were already informally doing in our daily HR practices. When looking at teams, salaries, recruitment, onboarding, etc., how were we looking at teams and their expertise? We quickly understood that a levelling logic was in place — just not thoroughly formalized or described: entry-level, junior, mid, senior, managers. So we made these our levels. Well, that was easy. Maybe… too easy?
Something was missing. Were our team members only evolving into management roles? And if yes, what would that be? Then we understood that we were already having people inside and external candidates that didn’t want to manage teams — they wanted to contribute to multiple fields or be specialists in their own field (and on their own terms…). So, you could, after a senior role, either evolve to a manager or a specialist path (maintaining yourself as an individual contributor). As a final work, we understood our management team members were themselves also specialists — so we added a manager & specialist path.
For clarity purposes, we defined two possible profiles on the progression framework:
- An Individual Contributor is a non-management member of a business team that actually contributes to the goals and mission of the company. This path can lead to a Specialist position, which also has a big business and strategic role to Stratio.
- A person who pursues a Leadership track will have additional responsibilities as a people manager, or be a Specialist who also wants to manage people/a team.
How progression happens within each team in Stratio?
Ground base created for progression at Stratio, it was time to assess how this would reflect in each team. Managers met to understand how functional evolution would happen in a “until the end of 2021” timeframe, considering the different paths for each job role in each team and this general framework. To understand what would be our functional ground we relied on our job descriptions as they reflect which tasks, responsibilities, and skills were expected for each position and level. We reviewed them all to a sanity check (we had been reviewing them all for a few months by then) and then asked the teams to detail what was expected at each level for the same job function.
On top of that, we defined common base ground for leveling up:
- Everyone is accountable for their own development through the levels.
- To reach the next level, the team member needs to be achieving everything in the level above at least the previous 6 months.
- Each team and job role will have specific criteria to determine how they level up.
Also, to be a manager at Stratio, we defined additional criteria (besides what is defined at each manager Job Description):
- Business-mindset and acumen: understands the extent and importance of business issues, and has a client-focus mindset (how to solve problems customers are facing; how to provide customers with additional solutions for their problems). Uses his/her business intelligence to help build our strategy.
- Strategic thinking: thinks strategically and in the long-run, acting towards continuously expanding and defending our competitive advantage and towards building a great product and great service for our customers.
- Management, coaching and leadership skills: builds rapport with his/her team, is a role model to all Stratio team members, his/her team can look up to him/her, and represents the Stratio Culture in every way. Worries about teams’ motivation and development, and coaches them to be independent and autonomous. Challenges him/herself towards continuous improvement, and promotes this across the company;
- Stratio thinking — no “my team” or individual thinking: looks at the forest and not at the trees. Understands we are working towards a common goal, and that we are not different teams, but one Stratio team. The only defensive approach he/she has is to defend our zero downtime mission, fighting for what’s best for our customers, both internally and externally.
Other important skills apply, these are just the ones we think are critical for a manager on Stratio.
The next step was to communicate this new framework to the teams. We created a confluence shared page (our internal wiki tool) to share the new framework, and promoted training to managers so they could be able to fully explain the framework.
Some things needed to be clear to the whole team:
- We needed teams’ feedback to understand what does and doesn’t work so that we could keep shaping the framework. This will be a continuous work in progress.
- The framework is a guide and not a checklist so a common-sense approach should be promoted on teams when using it.
In 2020 our turnover levels are back on track, and now that we’ve rolled out our V1 we’ve been receiving a lot of good inputs from the teams, which is adding a lot of value to our framework. Some doubts that were raised were already updated on both frequently asked questions sections, and the suggestions we’ve been receiving will be considered for the next semester. They’re definitely very helpful to what will be the 1st review of our framework and create a v2 in 2021.
Our V1 had a limited scope. We focused on establishing a common ground for progression at Stratio and improving our performance management tools. We will start working on a V2 that will contemplate more updated information, which we expect to roll out during 2021.
This framework is just one of our strategies to reach our 2020 people goals. Others are being implemented, such as happiness surveys, creating better and open communication channels, being clearer about strategic decisions, and involving the teams in difficult discussions. Of course, we will keep having the challenges tech companies have, but now we have much more clarity about what we are looking for in our teams — and won’t demand any less than that — and what we can offer as a company as well as an employer.
We hope this article can help other companies who are facing similar challenges, after all, we all depend on people to get the job done at the end of the day.
Moving forward we are expecting that this massive team effort will bring many positive outcomes and that this strategy may support our growth in the upcoming challenging times.