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Career ladders

  • SIMA
- Posted: August 18, 2017
By Phil Harwood, CSP

Snow pros know how to build things. We know how to build plow maps, routes, trucks and more. What would happen if we applied the same type of focus, research, commitment and investment to building our people as we do for these other areas?

Mistakenly blinded by costs, payroll and benefits, sometimes people are one of the last assets in which owners invest. But investing in people has nothing to do with payroll or benefits. It has everything to do with career laddering, professional development plans and regular feedback sessions. If our people are our greatest asset, we need to treat them like it.

In our companies, we have an opportunity to create a compelling career option that will attract talented people and provide a roadmap for development. Without this, a person will be unable to see the potential beyond the paycheck. Nor will they be equipped with sufficient information to take back home to the influential people in their lives - their spouse, parents, grandparents, etc.

I love Mike Rowe, TV host of “Dirty Jobs.” He is on a mission, preaching the value of the trades, working with your hands and getting dirty. His podcasts at share powerful stories of how dirty jobs have transformed the world. One of my favorites is Episode 49: Dream Job. We would all do well to get on the Mike Rowe train and promote the value of the trades. Not every high school graduate should go to college for four years and rack up tens of thousands of dollars in student debt. We need to present another option.

Building a plan
Instead of lamenting the shallow talent pool, it is on us as industry leaders to show how snow and ice management can offer a valuable, rewarding career to those willing to make the effort.

Career laddering is the development of a step-by-step progression from an entry-level position to senior level positions in a company. How will a newly hired laborer know it is possible to move up through the ranks over time if there is no roadmap that marks the way?

In my previous company, we had three levels each of crewmembers, crew leaders and front-line management. Our people had a clear vision for the potential to grow their careers with the company. Many who rose to those higher level positions are still employed with the company.

Professional development plan. Once you’ve established what your company’s career ladders look like, a professional development plan is the next component. This plan is specifically created for each person, based on current position and areas of future interest. Every person should have a professional development plan, especially those at the lowest levels, where there is great turnover.

Professional development plans simply outline specific commitments the person is making to improve one or more items. Direct supervisors should be highly involved in the development of these plans to provide ideas, guidance and encouragement, and to champion the procurement of funding, if needed.

Feedback session
. The final component is the feedback session, which should be held quarterly at a minimum. They are designed to generate a candid discussion about how things are going. Key to the feedback session is the review of the person’s professional development plan.

Making investments in people requires time, talent and treasure. Such an investment is not free. But what’s the alternative? Companies that don’t build their people by making such investments are the same ones with low retention/high turnover and who are always looking for a new recruiting trick.

People who are not being proactively invested in lack personal vision for a career with the company and don’t feel supported. We need to give them hope, vision and support by investing in them. We need to build our people.

Culture solutions

  • Build career paths for every position so team members can strive to advance.
  • Create a road map for each person to follow to achieve their goals.
  • Feedback is essential to keep team members from going off the path.

Phil Harwood, CSP, is president of Pro-Motion Consulting and a member of the Snow Business Editorial Advisory Committee. Email him at with questions or to obtain a free professional development plan template.

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