Gallup recently released a poll explaining that 45% of Millennials and 31% of Gen-Xers prioritise roles that will accelerate their career development when evaluating opportunities and measuring their happiness in their current role. One way to ensure that your employees are feeling challenged, fulfilled, and motivated is to create career ladders.
So what does this actually mean?
First, Understand What Career Ladders Are
A career ladder is a clear progression or development path for an individual to travel through within company. It’s typically a formal process that allows employees to take their careers to increasingly higher levels of salary and responsibility. When an employee meets a certain set of criteria, they’re eligible to move to a rung higher up on the ladder.
Career ladders help retain staff by providing an incentive to keep moving forward — if they see a clear reward (i.e., better money, responsibility, or authority in the near future), they’re less likely to leave for another job.
A career ladder also shows that staff are valued — with a formal mechanism by which to gain knowledge, skills, and abilities that make an employee more useful to the company. Staff can feel cared for because the company is investing in them.
And since they’re being better equipped by well-defined career ladders, your workforce winds up being better trained, which helps your company remain competitive. Motivation is increased as well, since in order to be promoted, employees must meet satisfactory standards of work. Finally, career ladders attract talented, ambitious candidates.
Your sales team members want to know that there’s a clear, achievable path ahead. And you, as a manager, need to create career ladders to recruit, develop, retain, and reward your people.
How Do You Know You’re Climbing a Good Career Ladder?
A good career ladder goes beyond a list of pay rates and titles. It brings clarity and structure — but in multiple ways. A career ladder should include:
• A dedicated path (for both team members and managers)
• A development path for those not interested in management
• A set of established norms
• A process for evaluation that contains both qualitative and quantitative milestones
Focus on establishing these things, and you’ll be a long way toward a solid career ladder for your sales team. As an example, that ladder could look something like this:
• Sales Development Rep 1 – Minimum of five months: Learning to prospect, training on sales material, refining phone skills and writing ability, learning to manage accounts, cold calling etc …
• Sales Development Rep 2 – Minimum of five months: Continue SDR training, increase in remuneration, eligible for more specific training for the next role they want to get into; if they meet goals, certifications, and knowledge checkpoints, promoted to SDR 3.
• Sales Development Rep 3 – Eligible for significantly more compensation, can move into a team lead position if one opens, all SDR 3s mentor less experienced SDRs, advanced training; once they pass all knowledge checkpoints, SDR 3s are eligible to interview for:
• Account Executive, Sales Rep, SDR Manager
How to Coach Your Team Up the Ladder
As you develop and implement career ladders into your sales team, there are some things you can do as their manager to further coach team members on their way. Try this exercise with anyone interested in advancement (whether management or not):
1. Open the conversation
Invite a team member who’s interested in advancement for an in-depth, authentic conversation about what opportunities are available in both management and non-management roles. Ask them about their thoughts on what a role they’re interested in will require of them, the benefits they’d like to gain, and so forth. Find out their thoughts and assumptions about the role.
2. Break the assumptions and fill in the gaps
Once you know where the employee is coming from and what assumptions they have, it’s time to break the reality to them: what the role really is — not what they think it is. There may be some friction between the two versions.
3. Set expectations
Now that the team member understands what a role really is and requires of them, share the full job description and ladder. Then, set a realistic timeline and show them the qualitative and quantitative milestones they’ll have to achieve and at what points to progress.
Using an exercise like this to build a sales ladder for individual team members can be hugely beneficial.
Your reps gain more ownership over their role and career, which helps them get into greater alignment with what it takes to rise up the ladder. They also receive the guidance and structure to pursue the right direction for them.
Most companies don’t build career ladders, or at least don’t make their employees aware of them. This is a huge missed opportunity.
Ultimately, you must apply what you’ve learned here and build a career ladder that fits the roles of your specific sales team. It should have qualities listed here, but also have its own characteristics that work best for your team.
Do you need to define your company’s sales career ladders. Maybe we can help.