Demystifying Career Development and Growth with TopSpot
TopSpot is a Houston-based integrated search marketing agency helping its clients evolve their business through online lead generation and marketing analytics.
Although Julia Karnezis started working at TopSpot in 2011 as an SEO specialist, she always had a passion for training and growing others. Eventually, this interest blossomed into an HR career in 2019 when she became the company’s Director of People Experience. She now leads an HR team of three and oversees every element of TopSpot’s employee experience including recruitment, engagement, growth, and learning.
"The Lattice team was very, very detailed and easy to work with from the very beginning. Plus, Lattice has put together guides for managers on how to think about growth plans, how to explain growth plans, and more. I don't know what I would've done without those resources.”
For Houston-based digital marketing agency TopSpot, building a great place to work has always been a top priority. In fact, two of TopSpot’s core company values are “People first” and “Be better than yesterday.” These two values are at the heart of everything the company’s HR team of three handles and their top priorities for 2021: employee engagement and career development.
“Workers want to be somewhere where you feel like you're growing, being challenged, and building a future, but career development is also important to the businesses to evolve, innovate, and sustain themselves over long periods of time,” explains Julia Karnezis, the company’s Director of People Experience since 2019.
Julia herself is the perfect example of how TopSpot invests in its team members and their career growth. After joining the company in 2011 as an SEO Specialist, Julia discovered a passion for training teams and employee experience. Now after spending 10 years with the company and holding four different roles, Julia leads TopSpot’s HR team and manages recruitment, engagement, learning and development, and growth for over 130 team members.
But while Julia had the career growth success story so many individuals crave, many TopSpot team members expressed they didn’t know what career options they had at the company. Lattice engagement survey data revealed TopSpot team members wanted a better understanding of what potential career paths exist within the organization and more transparency around job competencies. While the company had some basic competency models and growth plans already in place, they were neither widely distributed nor used outside of performance reviews.
“We had growth plans, but we didn't have the technology to back it up and connect it to our competencies, so it was hard to make them stick,” admits Julia. For Julia and her team, finding a solution that could help them properly improve and scale competencies and career paths was a must.
While TopSpot has been a longtime Lattice customer, Julia and her team were excited to hear about the launch of Lattice Grow in 2020. “When I saw that Lattice was rolling out Grow, I knew we had to try it,” admits Julia. “We had experienced the pain points of trying to do it manually, so finally having the technology to house it and then having it integrate within one-on-ones would help make career development ‘stick’ and encourage our team members to consistently talk about it.”
Investing in employee development and building career paths quickly became an organization-wide project for TopSpot. Julia partnered with new and existing team members as well as department managers to craft detailed competency models and map out potential career paths within the company. While it was a lot of work Julia said it was one of the most fun and impactful projects she’s ever worked on. “This is some of the most special work that I've done in my career because I am able to create a foundation for others to build their careers at TopSpot,” she shares. “How many people get to say they've been a part of that in their roles?”
Luckily, Julia not only had the support of her internal team but also the entire Lattice team and resource library to guide her. “There's really no way I could've wrapped my head around the competency and growth plan work without the resources from Lattice,” Julia humbly admits. “As a marketing agency with over 800 clients, customer service and experience are very important to us. The Lattice team was very, very detailed and easy to work with from the very beginning. Plus, Lattice has put together guides for managers on how to think about growth plans, how to explain growth plans, and more. I don't know what I would've done without those resources.”
Since implementing Lattice Grow, Julia has launched seven career tracks and plans to add even more in the new year. “Those seven cover a very large percentage of our company, but our goal is to add more job-specific competencies within our smaller departments and create more individual contributor and people manager options, as well,” she adds.
Julia has already received positive feedback on the built-out competencies from team members at all levels of the organization. For managers, the detailed competencies help them share more relevant feedback with their teams during performance reviews, while team members benefit from understanding what skills and experience they need to make a lateral or vertical career move.
But, Julia says the biggest benefit of using Lattice Grow has been its role in influencing TopSpot’s culture to change. Previously, career development conversations were had between a manager and their employee only a handful of times throughout the year. Now, growth and development are part of an ongoing conversation and always top of mind since managers can easily import growth plans into weekly one-on-ones using Lattice’s 1:1s tool. “Our team members are talking about growth and development much more consistently with their managers and even in department meetings. It's spread and it's shifted our culture,” shares Julia. “These are things that we talk about a whole lot more thanks to Lattice.”
Career development, in particular, has become a powerful differentiator for the company and allowed the company to continue hiring top talent even amid such an aggressive labor market. “It's so competitive to find good talent right now. You have to find a way to stand out and a lot of companies just aren’t investing enough in career development right now. It’s been a key differentiator for [TopSpot] in our industry,” explains Julia.
But aside from winning the company a competitive edge, it allows Julia and her team to get one step closer to creating a “people first” organization. “When people grow, their careers grow, and their lives grow. That's the most fulfilling part of it for me,” states Julia. “I say this often: people operations is challenging work, but it's special work that we get to do and be a part of.”