Traditionally to advance our career we have only had one ladder to climb, that of management, and it usually went something like this:
non-management roles > Team Leader of role team (Snr) > Manager of role team (Snr) > Director of role teams (Snr) > C suite.
Of course, there were a myriad of different titles and variations mixed in, but essentially it is all the same, so you get the gist.
The problem with this traditional path/method is:
It is inherently hierarchical which is not good for productivity.
It is restrictive in career growth for those that do not get the coveted ‘management’ path roles (of which there are few).
It is not suited for anyone that is either just not interested in, or any good at, ‘management’.
It is not reflective of the current ‘needs’ of either the workforce or companies it provides a framework for (think rising Gig economy).
It doesn’t play to the current growth value system which is now in the ‘Personal’ brand (the Influencers – think Guy Kawasaki and Canva).
So, what did you do if you weren’t into management and were more subject oriented? Well, you went through a lot of pain by either trying to ‘make’ yourself a manager, or moving from senior role to senior role trying to carve something out for yourself.
Well it's time this changed, and businesses gave people who were really into their subject a decent structured progression framework outside of management – we call it the Influencer Path.
It simply makes sense for lots of reasons that are in direct relation to the problems listed above:
It’s good for retention which is good for culture and productivity.
It provides career growth which provides personal growth. Growth is the fuel of business, the economy and happiness.
It’s motivating to be good at something, you enjoy it more, you put more energy in and you produce better work / outputs = lead a happier, healthier life (good for business and society).
You hire ‘expertise’ from outside so why not grow it inside and retain and develop that IP. You will drive business value and can also get to be able to plug and play into the gig economy more efficiently (you have experts that know 'good').
It is the era of the Influencers. From social selling to influencer marketing, growth comes from Thought Leadership, Content, Reputation and WoM – they are all the current lead generators – and guess what, the talent in your business are the ideal producers of this, both for themselves and your business. It’s a win win.
How can our company implement this?
Like all change this will not be an overnight transformation and it will only work to the desired effect if it is thought through and implemented properly. The Influencer Path built into your company’s organisational structure needs to be as robust, frameworked and attractive as the traditional management path.
Here is a list of some (tip of the proverbial iceberg) of the things you need to make sure you think of/implement:
A defined progression path. An example in Design might be: Junior Designer > Designer > Snr Designer > Client Innovations Lead > Head of Design Innovation. It really depends on what the business and its client need and value.
A defined remuneration scale. This needs to equal the Management track at the point of the split. It needs to be thought through so that Value and ROI is detailed and fed back into the pay scale.
A seat on the ‘Management’ team. You might not have direct Line Management but that shouldn’t diminish the importance of your voice which is tied back to your ROI and therefore has an equivalency on the Exec team.
Training & development. Clear training and development opportunities and tie ins into progression that equals the traditional Management path opportunities.
Promoted value – publicity. This is important because its new. Everyone knows the ‘value’ of a traditional manager role has tied to it so you need to Promote the value of the Influence path. Why they’re important; why they’re valued; how it all ties together.
There are many more factors for consideration and if you need help, whether it be to get going on the strategy, or to fully implement your solution then please contact me here. We have proven processes and best practice solutions to get this done in your company now.
How can I become one?
For those interested in becoming an ‘Influencer’ and driving this change in your company yourself these are the three things you need to set in motion now:
Start NOW. Take it on yourself early – the earlier you show a deep interest in your subject the better.
Start blogging (this is one of the most valuable things to your current company) on your subject.
Sign up to forums and social channels and ‘chat’.
Network – not in a sales way but in a genuine problem solving way. Go to MeetUps, attend webinars, ask questions, offer an opinion, help people out, discuss, philosophise. Opportunities will come your way in suitable companies or entrepreneurship.
Tell your Manager, HR and anyone of any current influence in your subject in your current company.
3. Learn or get trained:
Go on courses – free or paid
Get your company to commit to training you up in your subject. Express your interest in deep knowledge.
Follow industry influencers – choose those you respect and read their articles and thoughts
Find a mentor (more on how here) to open up on the how, what and why progress in your chosen field. It will open doors, both in your mind and physical world.
If you do these three things then you will boost your Influence career path.
There are many companies leading the charge in this regard. Most large or high growth Tech companies provide career paths for their engineers outside of management. But it rarely lasts all the way up to the Exec team and even then, on an individualistic basis. Hootsuite is the most advanced I’ve seen on this. Ryan Holmes is a rock-solid, innovative CEO / Founder by all accounts. They have a thought through and rolled out ‘Guru’ track for their engineering staff which thoroughly embraces this whole movement. They seem to be wanting to roll it out to other functions. You can see the blog about their innovation, ideas and experience here.
Finally, here are some summary tips. When applying the Influencer Path mindset to your organisation make sure:
You attack it in small bite size chunks i.e. start with Sales or Design etc and when embedded and working then move onto the next function.
Provide true advancement for Influencers all the way to the Top as well as an interchangeable switching path i.e. to go back and forth between focussing on your Subject and your Manager skills.
Provide training that enables your Talent to enjoy this journey and become all they can be in either Path at any time.
Live and breathe it. Weave it into the Values already set. If these aren’t set then contact me here and we can help get this bit done first.
The results we have seen can be phenomenal and always provide a productivity improvement.
You attract, retain, develop the best Talent regardless of Manager skills, and people can genuinely grow in their profession and as people.
It is an amazingly enjoyable journey to watch or be a part of.
If you don't you are missing what business is currently about, let alone the future. Producing Influencers internally is a must do on your corporate strategy. Build it into your retention strategy now and see both your business and Talent flourish!
Good luck whatever Path you take - and make it yours for the taking.