Trying to Grow ID Department

Hi all,

Some background information.
-I’ve been with my current company for a couple years and we are trying to give our ID department some structure (mainly career progression plan)
-It is a global company with 10k+ people, but relatively new and small ID team
-There are only two levels of ID, junior and senior, in the department, the ceiling is not very high
-HR wants to see other company’s ID progression plan before considering any changes

If any of you don’t mind sending me yours/or other company’s ID career progression plan or have any general comments on what I should do… that would help tremendously. :slight_smile:

I’ve done this a few times in my career. What I have learned is that any departmental growth plan should include and adapt to service the vision of the company. The following are just a few necessary steps in the process.

  1. Getting input from senior management is critical to the success and implementation of your plan. Interview and discuss the future of the business that you are in with them. Even though senior management changes personnel regularly in a large firm, it is important to get them involved early to implant their DNA in to your deisgn program.

  2. Accounting will usually want a 5 year budget plan. Put together a financial model that will explain your needs as they grow.

  3. Write a white paper on how design will become more influential as it grows. As design interacts with other departments you will need to explain what you are doing and how you are doing it to others in the firm.

  4. Be prepared to alter and change your plan as it grows and is implemented.

In my experience, tell HR what they want to hear, as they have very little understanding of what it is you are doing for the company. Keep it simple and limited to head count, salary and future training needs.

This is a large undertaking…good luck.

Ours is very simple. Also a small department, only 2.5 years old, 10 people.

Directors of Design (1 ID, and 1 Brand) and a VP of UX/partnerships
Sr Designer (ID or Graphic)
Designer (ID or Graphic)
Jr Designer (ID or Graphic)

Jr-Sr report to the directors. I don’t like a lot of layers, but I also want room to grow so people stay and we memorialize their growth and progression. It is a balance. Don’t make it too complicated, bureaucratic, or fake feeling. Let be an honest structure based on what functions best and have the flexibility to change it as needed. I think an org should retook ever 2-3 years at least to recognize new challenges.

is there any way you can send me an electronic copy of your company’s ID career progression plan? I feel like if I don’t show some type of ‘proof’ what the common industry practice is, they won’t take my word for it.

Like an org chart?

Something little more elaborate than an org chart. I am looking for documentation that outlines an Industrial Designer’s career progression plan in your company. For example, some says 0-2yrs of exp you are a junior designer, 2-5yrs of exp you are a mid-level designer, and here are the responsibilities and expectation for each job (kind of like a job ad).

How timely. I have been charged to do this here just on Wednesday. There has always been a subjective level for advancement locked in managements brain, but we thought it would be best to actually have hard objectives for each level written on paper. There will always be a subjective gut feel for it, but it shouldn’t purely be that.

I would like to caution you are years of experience. That is somewhat meaningless to me in terms of advancement. I am looking for a particular skill set to advance someone. Whether it takes them 6 months or 6 years to reach that skill set is largely not a concern.

I would like to caution you are years of experience. That is somewhat meaningless to me in terms of advancement. I am looking for a particular skill set to advance someone. Whether it takes them 6 months or 6 years to reach that skill set is largely not a concern



(Am I becoming a iab fanboy this week?)

Exctly the reason why automatic advancement in union labor contracts within the german metal industry
has been reverted to merit based advancement, which frankly is a lot more complicated. In my personal eyes
years of a t(h)rustful relationship between employer and employee carry some weight in themselves, but
the ranking and pay should largely reflect the worth and expertise someone brings to his desk.


Totally agree with iab.

I just spent some time re-defining our roles/job descriptions for our HR.

My team has 3 levels, Designer 1 (Junior/Staff), Designer 2 (Staff/Senior), and Senior Designer.

Within each role description are the required skills and responsibilities. Some skills and responsibilities are shared across all role levels and are defined by basic/expert/master in each role. So, a Designer 1 can look to the Designer 2 role and skill levels to understand where they need to focus to progress. New skills and responsibilities aren’t assigned when someone steps to the next level, they have to have demonstrated a consistent competency with the next level requirements before they can progress. This is somewhat subjective as a manager yes, but it is based on what our team needs and I do my best to help the designers know where they’re at. With this method you might have a Designer 1 with Senior level mastery of rendering, but needs to focus on other areas. On each level the designers are encouraged to find their own initiatives that play to their strengths, ie. things they enjoy working on that benefit the company at the same time, and by the time they reach a high Staff or Senior level they own their own initiatives as specialists nearly entirely. So for example we have a senior designer who enjoys scripting and designing tools that make all of our jobs easier and is at a master level in doing this, and he has free reign to explore and use this skill to contribute and help us improve our jobs/services with minimal direction and management. In no way could I write a job description for a Designer 1/2 that would or could include this requirement, and so that’s why I encourage our designers to take initiatives on things they enjoy that have a clear benefit for our us and the company.

It is an HR requirement that I include years of experience in the descriptions, but that doesn’t have much influence when I look for candidates. Someone kept doing junior level work at another company for 8 years doesn’t get a pass to a Senior position, etc.

I don’t think it has been brought up, but I would caution on associating pay grades or levels too rigidly with the titles. For one, most employees know what pay is associated with the grades, and worse, if it is set up incorrectly you will have employees getting “promoted” simply because their incremental yearly merit increase may bump them to a pay grade associated with a higher job title/level that they really aren’t qualified for. On the flip side, when someone hits the max salary of their position they may get stuck where an increase would prompt a promotion, but you can’t offer the promotion because they aren’t qualified for it, though they may still merit an increase in pay based on performance. In that case you may have to offer lump sums, bonuses, etc., which is fine, but you have to have this in place and be clear about it. This is probably more related to Senior level positions who “max out” the end of an established pay range. It is not, and should not be assumed that the next step from a Senior Design position is a management/leadership position. Personally, I went from a high Staff level to Management because I took on management related initiatives as a designer.

Anyways, this advice is probably more relevant to corporate structures and in that case I recommend overlapping salary ranges between positions rather than hurdles. So, a Designer 1 could be compensated at the high-end of their range, which is within the low range of Designer 2, when they are promoted I prefer to offer a bump above a typical yearly increase because it is in fact a promotion based on performance and competence.

As designbreathing mentioned, keep it simple for HR. I did not keep it simple in my post, but when I re-wrote the role descriptions they take all of this into consideration, but were concise to meet the HR requirements, the rest is up to me to manage in my role.

I appreciate everybody’s feedback!!

As for years of experience, I have to present this to HR so it is unlikely they’ll accept it without listing years of experience as the basic requirement. The pay is tied to the title, so that’s something I cannot change. I would propose merit based awards be tied to the yearly bonus instead. Some individuals believe they can perform at a levels of a senior designer with just 2-3 years of professional experience. While this does happen rarely, majority of the time I find those individuals’ lack of experience becoming more apparent as the company gives them more responsibilities. So those individuals with desire to move up need to perform consistently. As said earlier, their hard work will be compensated with added bonus. I guess my goal is to give the ID department some type of career progression structure, so the easiest way to adapt my proposal in a timely manner requires that I conform to their pay grade levels. Keep the comments coming, this is great!

I think years of experience is important as a range and a guideline for level of maturity. Not hard and fast, I’ve seen them used to block advancement and defend advancement. I think it should be more of an indicator of attitude. Does so and so behave like he or she has 10 years experience.

I’ve worked with people who had 10+ year experience who behaved like total n00bs so not to be taken literally, which can be difficult to translate for some HR groups.