Teach, Learn, Do
Recently we rolled out a new compensation and feedback framework built to address these exact issues, it's called "Teach, Learn and Do." The premise is that all of our employees will be evaluated and promoted through the following lens:
- Teach: Do they empower others on our team and in the industry more broadly by contributing to open source projects, sharing their learnings/research, or speaking at events?
- Learn: Are they continuously learning, furthering their craft, and pushing themselves to discover areas they weren't previously comfortable in?
- Do: Is the execution of their craft best-in-class, utilizing lean and agile methodologies to incrementally deliver the best product possible?
An individual's primary compensation is based on the third criteria — the work that they do day in and day out. Folks at Very typically fill one of three roles: Engineer, Product Designer or Product Manager. We categorize levels of experience according to a model previously published by Basecamp. We adapted these scales to the work that is most relevant to Very. Every role / level has a corresponding salary, and each level's pay is transparent within the company.
Outside of an individual's base compensation, they are eligible to receive a bonus according to the impact that they've had in the areas of "teaching" and "learning." To quantify these criteria, we give each individual an opportunity to reflect on their efforts over the last 6-12 months in addition to facilitating a streamlined 360 review.
The last piece of this is promotion. How does an individual rise through the ranks of their specialization of choice?
Anyone can request a promotion, and that person will be reviewed according to the criteria we outlined in the role definitions mentioned earlier. A committee of their peers, typically the same ones that participated in the 360 review, will determine if the individual is qualified for the next level or not. If yes, they will be awarded the promotion at that time. If not, the criteria for promotion will be outlined in the terms of what the individual can do better within the context of "teaching" and "learning." This system was designed to be self complimentary, in that folks will be rewarded along the way in terms of bonuses while preparing them for advancement internally.
One interesting aspect about Very is that we reserve our Fridays for pursuing internal objectives and projects, very similar to Google's famous 20% time. Historically, we have had limited return on internal projects (products), as the cognitive overhead of doing deeper engineering work one day per week is fairly expensive and makes iteration difficult. We are looking to reframe Fridays entirely in support of the teaching and learning efforts that were outlined above. This should give our team the time and space to further our disciplines and to work closer with each other outside of our standard billable projects.
My hope is that by reframing our internal objectives and incentives to focus around teaching and learning, our leadership gaps will be addressed organically by people stepping up and furthering our individual domains of practice. We have loose guardrails in place, ie: deciding which practices we pursue, but the rest is largely left to the team.
Time will tell how this effort shapes up, stay tuned!