How Webflow Uses Lattice to Turn Managers Into Career Coaches
A conversation with:
We never had a tool that made it easy to facilitate development... Grow is the missing piece to holistic talent management.
Director of People Operations
What does it actually take to earn your next promotion? Further, how can your manager help you get there? For Nicole Hopkins, Director of People Operations at Webflow, answering questions like those had always been one of the hardest parts about being in HR.
“‘How do I know when someone’s ready?’ That was the number one question I used to get from managers,” Hopkins said. Unfortunately, it was difficult to offer up advice from firsthand experience. “At all the companies that I've worked for, and the promotions I've received, I never knew they were coming — nor did anyone work with me on how to get there.”
Hopkins isn’t alone. Data shows that nearly half of employees say they’ve left a job due to a lack of clarity around development. But without a structured approach to job levels, competencies, and growth planning, managers can’t be expected to lead effective career conversations. With that in mind, Hopkins and the rest of Webflow’s People team wanted to cultivate a workplace where employees never felt professionally frustrated or stuck.
“In my experience, the top reason people leave is for career growth opportunities. But what’s the sentiment behind that? Is it because they didn't know what was ahead of them — or because they got offered the opportunity of a lifetime?” Hopkins said. If you’re going to lose top talent, it better be for the latter reason.
Though Webflow was already starting to think more holistically about development, it needed a tool to translate that into practice. Lattice Grow provides a system to house competencies and career ladders. To be fully effective, she needs both defined career ladders and updated job descriptions.
“If a job description tells you what you need to deliver...Competencies are telling you how to get there, how you behave, and what level of expertise you need,” Hopkins said. Working with leadership, she sets out to identify what competencies are needed at each level within each job family.
“When you're thinking about building your competencies, my advice is to start at the top and get alignment around what your leadership team’s philosophy is. Not only which competencies they believe in, but which ones they actually model and reinforce. Otherwise, you might just find yourself in the trap of having value statements,” Hopkins said. Though her team arrived at competencies that were uniquely Webflow’s, Lattice Grow also includes built-in templates that companies can start with.
Since Webflow formalized its competencies and job levels, employees have more clarity on how to advance their careers. They’re equipped to set growth plans in partnership with their managers and regularly update their progress. And because this happens in the same tool the Webflow uses for its one-on-ones, employees don’t have to wait for a dedicated development “check-in” to bring up the topic.
Perhaps most importantly, it’s made everyone feel more confident about the who, what, and why of promotions. For startups wary of over-complicating employee development, Hopkins suggests diving in and never looking back.
“In smaller organizations and startups, it’s easy to lean on being scrappy and not having a process. But if you want to be objective, you need some process and standardize what success looks like,” Hopkins said. “Having a clear understanding of who gets increases for performance, who gets promoted, and why, is so invaluable.
Even for experienced managers, leading development conversations can be awkward and uncomfortable — leading some to avoid them or ask HR for help. But now, Hopkins is creating the foundation to make these conversations not just easy but welcomed as a result.
“Even when I've worked in progressive organizations that value career development, we never had a tool that made it easy to facilitate development plans in line with career track. Lattice Grow is the missing piece to holistic talent management,” Hopkins said.
People teams accomplish more when they empower managers to problem-solve, lead development conversations, and engage their teams. For Hopkins, one of the revelatory benefits of Grow is how it gives even less experienced managers the confidence to act as career coaches. Implementing competencies, growth plans, and job leveling matrices and bringing them into weekly one-on-ones took the mystique out of career growth. While HR will always be there to facilitate or answer their questions, it doesn’t necessarily have to “own” development.
“When I think about talent management, it's about equipping managers and individuals to understand what is expected of them...And we’re there to help them color in the lines,” Hopkins said.