A couple of years ago I did a webinar called "The Ten Myths That Are Hurting Your Business." It was probably one of the most poignant webinars I ever did and I still receive comments from clients about a "myth" they are living.
I want to expand on one myth in particular because with today's low unemployment and strong economy, employee retention and advancement are more important than ever.
The myth is this: To be successful, only hire people that will advance in the company.
A well-intentioned application of this myth is to create career paths for entry-level workers to become technicians then project managers then account managers (and I guess one day become the owner?). "We will grow our own employees so they are completely immersed in our values and processes," is how it is often conveyed to me.
There are many reasons this myth persists. Most owners were the product of on-the-job training or what I call 'career advancement by fire'. The truth is competent workers are often provided increasingly difficult tasks. The willingness of workers to take on more responsibility is highly prized by managers. In other words, the worker's motivation to advance is what makes them valuable.
This, of course, leads to The Peter Principle, which is the observation that many employees are promoted based on their success in their current role instead of their suitability to the new role. We also know this as "promoting someone until they reach their level of incompetence."
I have interviewed hundreds if not thousands of employees and with few exceptions, their desire for career advancement can be summed up as - how can I make more money? In my own career as a manager, I often coached employees about their goals and career objectives. What I learned was that I would lose good operations staff to the perceived glamour and overtime opportunities that being a show technician offered. If that wasn't bad enough, I was left with only the least experienced employees in key operations roles.
I had to do something to make operations a career.
The solution is to establish job tiers. For instance in Operations we might see Warehouse Tech I, II, III; Quality Control Tech I, II, III ; and Show Tech I, II, III. Each level has criteria and corresponding increases in pay. A worker can find themselves capped on pay if they don't continue to add skills. For some workers, this is OK. For others it is motivation to do more.
This system also solves the problem of how to address the annual pay review. The company may or may not offer a cost of living raise, but any merit raise is addressed by the employee's mastery of skills. It is possible in this system to have a Warehouse Tech III that makes more money than a Show Tech Level I.
Another byproduct of this approach is how it can motivate certification advancement. If your desire is for techs to have a commercial driver's license, but the employees want to be paid more for it - simply make it a requirement for advancement.
The upside to all of this is that you get to keep your best operations team members happy and engaged in doing what they do best. No one has to leave their ideal career path to earn more money.
Having a CTS might be a requirement for Level III of any tract. AND if you are having trouble getting workers to earn their CDL, this is a great way to show them how it affects their career path.