How We Created a Career Framework For Growth on a Small Team
At the time of writing this, we’re a 5-person team.
As a profitable but bootstrapped company, our growth is intentional and focused on the needs of our team and clients. We’re excited to grow in the next few years but not rapidly.
With that in mind, not everyone can (or wants to) be a people manager. We’ve been asking ourselves, “What does a career path look like for someone at Tuff?”.
We have awesome clients and certainly, we’re learning every day when it comes to our areas of expertise. One of the things we love most about growth marketing is the constant experimentation and diversity of client needs and growth channels. This has brought us to our second question, “How can we reward role expertise in the same way management is rewarded?”.
To try and answer these questions explicitly or, at the least, facilitate conversations about them as a team we’ve created a Career Framework for each role at Tuff.
Our Career Framework serves the team in two ways:
- A system of Levels and Steps for each role means teammates have the opportunity to grow in flexible ways
- Each Level and Step has a role salary assigned that serves as a variable in our compensation model
Creating a Career Framework
Let’s dive into the Career Framework! Here are the steps we took to build ours:
- List out your Company Roles
- Create your Career Framework matrix
- Define the Levels for each role and the Steps for your company
- Calibrate with your team and make sure everyone knows what Level + Step they are in
Okay, now for the nitty-gritty. Here’s how to apply each step and what it looks like at Tuff:
1. List out your Company Roles
At Tuff there are two core roles on the team. At the highest level, they are:
- Growth Marketer: Looks holistically at a client’s existing condition, finds the bottlenecks preventing them from achieving their goals, and corrects them with innovative improvements
- Channel Specialist: Focuses exclusively on one platform or channel (i.e. PPC Specialist, SEO Strategist). They have a strong marketing foundation and specialize in one or two areas
2. Create your Career Framework matrix
Once you have your company roles listed out, the next step is to create a company-wide career progression chart. In the following steps, you’ll customize for each of these roles you’ve now listed out but you want to start from the same set of Levels and Steps for each role.
Here’s the template we use for each role at Tuff:
At Tuff, there are 5 Levels for every role: Entry, Intermediate, Advanced, Expert, and Principal. Levels are distinct jumps in terms of area knowledge, role complexity, and scope of work.
At Tuff, there are 5 Steps housed within each Level that are meant to mark smaller milestones of growth. They are defined by Ownership and Initiative, two behaviors that we believe are important to encourage on our team. Steps are defined company-wide, not dependent on role.
3. Define the Levels for each role and the Steps for your company
This is where you put your Company Roles and Career Framework matrix together, it’s where the magic happens!
Using our structure of 5 Levels of growth, we’ve defined benchmark responsibilities and what performance looks like based on Knowledge, Role Complexity, and Scope of Work at each Level for both the Growth Marketer and Channel Specialist roles at Tuff.
We’ll share our Growth Marketer Levels so you can see it in action:
- Look holistically at a client’s existing condition, find the bottlenecks preventing them from achieving their goals, and correct them with innovative improvements
- Manage a team of channel experts to enable them to achieve client growth goals
- Develop and implement a testing process to collect data and fast learnings to make improvements
- Have 5+ years experience in marketing, working across SEO, growth marketing, paid acquisition, conversion rate optimization, content strategy, link building
- 2+ years experience in client management
At Tuff, there are 5 Steps housed within each Level meant to mark smaller milestones of growth. We’ve chosen to define them by Ownership and Initiative because, for us, these are behaviors we want to encourage and build on. They might be different for your company.
Steps are defined company-wide, meaning they are the same for every role:
How this connects to our compensation model
We wanted to create a compensation model that was flexible enough to adjust for factors like experience and location but broad enough that it didn’t require in depth calculations and research every time we bring on a new team member.
It was also important to us to use a data source and apply structure to our salaries to reduce bias and hold us accountable to paying people fairly. We wanted simplicity and objectivity. Enter: Compensation Formula.
By creating our Career Framework, our compensation model then becomes a formula with two inputs:
- Role Salary [Level, Step]
- Cost of Living Multiplier
The Role Salary [Level, Step] comes directly from our Career Framework. Using this Career Framework, we’ve entered early-stage company salary data at each level of experience for every role at Tuff.
Here it is in action for our Growth Marketer role:
This is based on market rates for San Francisco. Then, depending on our team member’s location we adjust the salary based on cost of living. For more on how we calculate the Cost of Living Multiplier, check out this blog post.
We’ve worked closely as a team to develop our Career Frameworks. It’s always a work in progress so please reach out if you have any feedback or questions.
While building our own version that works for Tuff, we’ve also leaned on some great existing resources. If you’re interested in learning more about Career Frameworks, here are some of our favorite reads:
- A career progression framework which works for everyone: how we fixed career progression at CharlieHR
- Continuing to Improve on Pay: Our Latest Changes to the Salary Formula and How Much it Costs
- How We Approach Employee Compensation
Ellen is the founder at Tuff and one of the team’s core growth marketers. She is a versatile marketer with expertise in multiple channels – from ppc to seo to email to others – responsible for the experiments and testing. She is happiest when she’s on the ski hill or outside pointing her mountain bike downhill.