Walter Gilbert leads HR support for Reddit's technical teams, including engineering, product, design, and safety. Partnering closely with the company’s technology leaders, he builds and implements programs that support the fast-growing organization. Before joining Reddit, he led teams at SpaceX and DAQRI. His passion is working on strategic initiatives that help organizations scale.
Prior to Grow, there was no real North Star for managers and leaders to point to with respect to career development.
People-first cultures already know that career development matters. But translating that truism into action is where companies often struggle. Without guidance from HR, development conversations can lack focus or fall on the back burner. That was a problem that Walter Gilbert, Sr. Manager, HR Business Partner at Reddit, faced throughout his career, especially at fast-growing companies.
“Prior to Grow, there was no real North Star for managers and leaders to point to, with respect to career pathways,” Gilbert said. Without clearly defined job levels, competencies, and competency matrices, neither managers nor their reports can talk confidently about growth. Not only does that ambiguity force HR teams to take a more involved role in employee development, it also opens the door for unintentional bias.
“Not having ladders allows for more subjectivity when it comes to evaluation. Without them, it prevents a really objective structure. One manager might have a really high bar when it comes to performance evaluation where another’s might be lower,” Gilbert said. When employees used to ask what they needed to do to earn their next promotion, Reddit’s managers didn’t always have the answers. Though the company was already using Lattice to streamline performance reviews, it needed a way to make “next steps” feel more tangible.
Reddit, a longtime Lattice client, was one of Grow’s early adopters. During implementation, the company took a fresh look at how its career paths were structured. How many job levels should a company of Reddit’s size have? What should the milestones be for each level? For Gilbert, implementing Grow was the perfect opportunity for his team to reflect on the “big picture” questions in talent management.
“When it comes to designing ladders, frameworks, matrices, it's always a really interesting question — how do you structure it in a way that is most meaningful and applicable for employees and leaders? The best advice I would give is that it's really imperative to get the leveling structure right,” Gilbert said.
For example, having too many job levels, like 10 or 12, dilutes the value of being promoted. On the flip side, having too few might mean employees have to wait years for their next promotion. “My best advice is to zero in on what the right balance is. We use a six, seven-level system. Businesses should be really mindful about the employee experience with respect to progression,” he said.
Gilbert has already found answers to some other big questions. Using Grow’s customizable competency matrices, he’s been able to help the engineering, product, and design (EPD) teams bring greater clarity to career pathing. Don’t give him all the credit, though — he’ll humbly pass it on to EPD leadership, who were able to easily hop into Grow and iterate on the competency matrices themselves.
“Lattice gave us the canvas for leaders to use. But they’re really the brush and the paint for designing a ladder that makes sense for their org,” Gilbert said. Partnering with leaders, he helped identify specific milestones or specialties that represented what the “next step” in someone’s career would look like. In engineering, for example, machine learning, iOS, and Android quality assurance skills were identified as employee growth areas. “If the leaders are more involved in those discussions, then they're going to be more in tune and able to articulate what the expectations are since they were the ones who helped draft them.”
Just a few months in, Gilbert’s team is already thrilled with the results they’ve seen. Managers feel empowered to coach and reports have a clear sense of what the “next step” actually entails. Having witnessed the evolution of Lattice’s performance and engagement tools firsthand, Reddit knows the best is yet to come. “It's been going really, really well. And we're excited to continue to partner with Lattice for new features as it continues to expand,” Gilbert said.
Reflecting on the state of the world, Gilbert thinks Grow’s value will become even more apparent with time. Keeping employee development top of mind was a challenge even before COVID-19 forced companies to go remote or adopt a hybrid work model. Absent regular face-time or watercooler chitchat, it can fall off the radar completely.
“The world of work is changing and adapting so significantly,” Gilbert said. “That's where I think Grow will be extremely valuable, in aiding career development conversations when you’re not able to just roll your chair over to your manager’s desk and have those in-person touchpoints.” By using Grow in conjunction with Lattice’s one-on-one tool, employees and managers can regularly check-in on development no matter where they are.
“Using Grow, our employees can visualize what their growth plan looks like without having to wait for those-real time conversations,” Gilbert said. “Managers can track progress directly via Lattice, so those career development conversations don’t slip through the cracks or get brushed to the side...This could shift how we approach career development in general.”