The Challenge

Balbina Knight was employee number 13 at Thrive Digital, which means she’s had the chance to personally witness just about every step of the company’s growth. “When I started at Thrive, there wasn’t even a People department,” she says. “I was hired to work on the marketing team as at that time I was in the marketing professional chapter of my career.” That really meant there was nothing in the way of people ops: No performance reviews, no feedback system, no career guidance, and no real management of the workforce at all outside of a Google Sheets page used to keep track of basic HR information and additionally facilitate light-weight career growth conversations.

In time, the company took the unusual step of developing its People software from scratch, building a proprietary solution for managing employee feedback — which it promptly outgrew. “We had a very sobering moment where we really reached our limitations and realizations around product development,” says Balbina. And the company recognized those limitations were impacting its People operations. Thrive realized it was time to raise the stakes and pursue an alternative that was purpose-built for managing the success of its talented people.


“We did a lot of flirting with Lattice before we finally decided to go on our first date and really see where this could go,” says Balbina. Around 2018, Thrive Digital began exploring Lattice in earnest, and the company quickly saw that the Lattice platform was a great fit for the company. “When we started looking into Lattice we said, ‘How did you get in our brain and take everything from our proprietary software and build it out in Lattice?’” she adds.  “It was beautiful.”

Lattice Grow was what ultimately convinced Thrive Digital that it had found the right match. “The day that Grow was activated, I said, ‘When can I sign?’” says Balbina. “I couldn’t sign fast enough.” She notes that the tool was so intuitive and clearly valuable that she knew Thrive managers would need no special onboarding to understand it. “Grow is such an essential tool in helping give that extra depth and texture to skills and experience development for our employees. I can’t live without it. We can’t live without it.”

Using Lattice at Thrive Digital

Clearly, Grow has had a massive impact at Thrive. Even before using Lattice, the company placed a strong emphasis on skills development, alignment between managers and direct reports, and building transparent career journeys. “We have always wanted to be able to showcase to employees what they need to work on to continue to unlock further career growth – and what that kind of growth looks like,” says Balbina. “People have really loved Grow’s ability to do this. It’s really helped show them that they’re making progression in their role. Being able to highlight that within Grow has been truly meaningful.”

Today, every department and every division within each department at Thrive Digital has a career track published via Lattice Grow – 17 of them in total. “We have really comprehensive tracks for our more mature departments and then additionally we have tracks that we are building for newer roles,” says Balbina, “We’ve really been able to fill in the details of what success looks like through these different levels within Grow.”

Balbina notes especially that Lattice’s included templates helped get the process started with people who are new to the system — and she notes that open-source content is available for professionals who want to get their hands a bit dirtier. “People can take what they need and mold it into what works best for their organization,” she says.

Conversely, Balbina notes that having access to this much content can feel daunting, where professionals may feel initially lost. But, she adds, “I don’t think that’s a problem because there’s just such a terrific support system from the Lattice team if help is needed. Everyone truly feels like they want to support everyone.”

The Impact of Lattice

The response to Lattice has been extremely positive at Thrive Digital. “When we launched Grow,” says Balbina, “our people said, ‘This is awesome. We love it.’ It’s so comprehensive and so well organized. The way that it’s structured within Lattice makes it very easy to access.”

Next up: “figure out how to leverage the opportunity that we have with Grow and connect it to the rest of Lattice’s career growth tools,” says Balbina. “For example, I discovered I can create a growth area off of one track and then use that area as a follow-up during conversations with my manager. Understanding all these really impactful features and functionalities and how they work together is a huge opportunity for us, front and center.”

In addition to Grow, Thrive management relies on the 1:1 feature heavily – in fact, Balbina says it’s one of its most vital tools in its People program. “We’ve really focused on the narrative that 1:1s are intended to be a magic space between a manager and direct report, not just a place for status updates. We use them to encourage managers to talk about a person’s career growth, removing roadblocks and making progression. Is there anything they can do to get them more motivated and engaged? We’re able to capture each person’s sentiment for the week while seeing how they’re progressing in their growth areas as well as seeing any recent feedback.”

To Balbina, one of the most best parts of the relationship she’s built with Lattice is how Thrive’s feedback has been incorporated directly into Lattice product development. “It’s really cool that Lattice actively listens to their customers to better their product for them, not just for the marketplace or for themselves,” she says. “It’s such a simple concept, but I think a lot of vendors miss it completely.”


  • Thrive Digital has published 17 Grow career tracks for every department in the organization, improving transparency and employee satisfaction.
  • Outstanding support and access to community resources keep the Lattice learning curve easy to climb.
  • 88% of Thrive Digital is utilizing the 1:1 tool leading to more impactful employee and manager relationships
  • Lattice works closely with its customers to incorporate Thrive Digital’s feedback on features they need into its products.

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.

Using Lattice at TopSpot

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.”

Impact of Lattice

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.”


  • TopSpot has launched seven career tracks in Lattice Grow and plans to add even more in the coming months
  • After implementing Lattice Grow and the 1:1 tool, TopSpot has seen a significant increase in ongoing career development conversations and employee coaching
  • Performance review feedback and ratings have drastically improved thanks to the company’s new competency model
  • team members have a newfound understanding of available what career opportunities they have within the organization