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  • 1.  Promotions in Different Places

    Posted 01-25-2022 07:49 AM

    Since we have already had a good discussion about Performance Improvement Plans on this forum, I was wondering if anyone wanted to discuss how promotions work (or previously worked) in their employment history. I know things can be different between small and large companies (and certainly if you're self employed!), and I'm hoping to learn something new about the process in other industries or institutions.

    I'll go first:

    I work for a fairly small company (about 50 people) and so I would say that the organizational structure of the company is pretty flat. There are position titles, but I have personally found them to be somewhat arbitrary and relative to what is needed at the time, rather than tied to a rigid set of criteria. As such, raises have never seemed tied to titles. I have found instead that one's compensation is more directly tied to the value that they are perceived to bring to the company (and which can be self-noted during yearly performance reviews). 

    How do promotions work for you?

    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer

  • 2.  RE: Promotions in Different Places

    Posted 02-03-2022 07:28 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 02-07-2022 03:22 PM

    I always find the Harvard Business Review to a great source of insight on topics such as this. It's often pitched to executives or executive wannabes but the insight often applies to commoners as well. For example there's a 2015 article You Don't Need a Promotion to Grow at Work that specifically speaks to flat organizations. A rift on your question that might not hit as close to home for folks might be what keeps you motivated. A promotion is one of multiple tools to recognize and reward employee performance as well as current and future potential.

    Mitch Winkler P.E., M.ASCE
    Houston, TX

  • 3.  RE: Promotions in Different Places

    Posted 02-06-2022 11:14 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 02-06-2022 11:13 AM
    It has been over 10 years since I was part of a large organization that had a promotion system. Early on, I believe promotions and raises were tied to a combination of years of service, performance and opinion of your supervisor. Performance evaluations were replaced by (S.M.A.R.T) Performance agreements as H.R. began making changes to equity-based performance award systems along with job descriptions and titles matching one's education and/or experience. It was move from a unique title system to one that aligned with the job titling convention more commonly used by the rest of the country. I am sure this was to eliminate HR's challenges of equating titles when hiring individuals with experience. 
    I may the order reversed, but I believe it was a numbering system when I started (Engr. 1,2, 3, etc.), that evolved to a combination & numbering system (Engr II, Senior Engr., Project, Sr. Project Engr.). Each level had a salary range based on discipline. For example, Engr. 1 for civil may have a range from $22k to $25k, while that for the Engr 1 in electrical may be $43k to $46k.
    One received performance merit increases based on performance evaluations. Once one's salary exceeded the maximum in that level's range, the title shifted to match the pay range of that title. There are often a standard number of years preferred by some for Engineers to be at a certain level before being promoted. Given the connection of title and pay, there is the dynamic of time vs. level of performance. Some may have used the "time standard" as a means of justifying a mediocre performance evaluation. 
    That is my experience outside of management. I do not think I can share any of that process from my time in management out of respect for the company and possibly a confidentiality agreement I signed upon leaving (I need to find and read). Of course, that could lead to a different discussion about merit increases, raises, and how percentages are determined. I used to argue in leadership training that merit increases were for performing above and beyond one's required duties. People are hired to do a good job. No one is paid to perform poorly. The reward for doing a good job is keeping your job. The reward for exceling at one's job was a merit increase or bonus. I supported cost-of-living increases, but merit increases for everyone reduced the reward for those that excel. Low percentage merit increases were moral killers (at least for those requiring financial motivation).

    James Williams P.E., M.ASCE
    POA&M Structural Engineering, PLC
    Yorktown, VA

  • 4.  RE: Promotions in Different Places

    Posted 02-07-2022 01:09 PM
    Thanks James. I can see how the conversation around what constitutes a merit increase vs a cost of living increase vs trying to balance the company rules about matching title with time with salary can get tricky!

    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer

  • 5.  RE: Promotions in Different Places

    Posted 02-10-2022 01:40 PM
    I have always viewed promotions as gaining a title once you prove you can perform the task. I've never believed you are a project engineer and then magically you become a project manager and overnight change your roll. As one's value and role increases, there are pay compensations related to the improved performance and responsibility. Once the actual title is granted, I have always seen another pay increase, but it was not always a large value as it has been stepped as the employee grew into the position over time. I do believe a title should warrant a pay increase, as the new title will often relate to higher billing rates to clients.

    Recently I have noticed younger engineers feel the need for validation; where reviews and pay increases aren't sufficient. My previous company had to create new titles similar to the tiered/numbered system mentioned by James. It allowed the younger engineers to check boxes and feel they were progressing. I am old school and really don't need a title other than employee. I recognize the desire for titles to a degree. For example, if you meet with clients regularly, sometimes the title limits another party's trust or desire to work with you; but I feel if you prove you should be at the meeting and know what you are doing that resolves itself quickly.

    Nathan Morrow P.E., M.ASCE
    Longwood FL

  • 6.  RE: Promotions in Different Places

    Posted 03-04-2022 12:48 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 03-05-2022 11:20 AM
    At our firm (just under 200 employees) we have a pretty flat structure. Besides the C-suite, we only have 2 titles (Associate and Principal) used externally. We do, though, have more of a breakdown that is used internally with levels like Cad Tech I and II, EIT, PE I and II, etc. Moving up a level is a promotion that comes with a raise and a bump up in your billable rate, but these levels are not in your email signature or on business cards. As was stated by someone else, this promotion reflects what you've already started doing more than a change in roll for the most part. 
    We are assessed twice a year for a raise whether or not you are up for promotion.
    I like the flatter structure because I think it allows us the capacity to take on as much responsibility as we can or want to handle. An EIT can manage most of a small scale project and learn those management skills when the risk is much lower. If needed, an Associate that is mostly a project manager can jump into the CAD program and help with a design when we're short-handed. There doesn't seem to be much problem with "that's not my job" kind of attitudes popping up where they don't need to be.

    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK

  • 7.  RE: Promotions in Different Places

    Posted 06-19-2022 10:25 AM
    So far, I have not experienced any real promotions or raises. All forms of experience on my resume are either from on-campus work, or involve self-employment without the qualifications for being paid.

    That said, it is clear to me that rising through the ranks can involve more than just a title, or the dollar-to-hour ratio in a work day. Every time I start a new job, I need to spend a few weeks learning the ropes of the new routine; and afterwards, it can take months before I prove myself ready to take on more advanced work, like projects with other workers. So even within alternating jobs, there was always progress with finding work that I would stick with for years down the line.

    To that end, when I get my first full-time job, I am sure that it will start out the same way. That it will start with learning the ropes, then with earning credit for more difficult projects. And later, as time passes, I will readjust within that same workspace, just with a new title and higher salary.

    Alexander Granato A.M.ASCE
    Bexley OH