Building our career framework

Alex, Cuvva’s Senior People Operations Partner, lifts the lid on creating our career framework.
By Team member, 23/01/2023
6 minutes read

Throughout the last year we’ve been working on designing, building and implementing our career framework.

Why? Well, in short, we believe that progression is a key part of retention and we wanted to empower our teams to own theirs - and in order for them to be able to do that, we felt it was vital to give them as much clarity as possible around both the opportunities and the expectations at Cuvva.

It’s been a mammoth job - and we’re really quite proud of what we’ve achieved.

Career framework, progression framework, levelling system - whatever you might call it - it’s a lot of work, and there is a lot to be considered. It can feel pretty daunting at the start, however, what we’ve come to realise through this process is that it's actually not as scary as it might seem - and that’s why we want to share how we got here :)

First things first - a transparent salary model

A career framework without an open salary model feels pretty pointless in my opinion. If people don’t know what they’re working towards, then where’s the motivation?

Luckily, my team agree, and we launched our open salary model at Cuvva back in 2021. If we hadn't, this is something that we likely would have built alongside our career framework.

Where we started - planning

We held a kick-off session as a People team, scoping out high level plans for what we thought the project would entail and roughly what our career framework should look like. This was based on our organisational design, team structures and company goals.

I took this away and fleshed out the plan, breaking it down into different phases, actionable steps and timelines - this all went into a very functional looking Google Sheet that we could use as a team.

Visibility outside of the People team was going to be really important, as this project was one that every person at Cuvva had a stake in. A secondary project tracker was created in Notion - it was more high-level and much more aesthetically pleasing. This was public for the whole company to view and was reshared via Slack along with updates as we met different project milestones.

When communicating information we always try to cater for three ‘types' of readers: someone who likes to skim read the top line info, someone who likes a little bit more context, and then someone who likes the full story. That is why I love Notion - that toggle function 🤩

The Notion board catered to our first reader, but we needed something more for other folks, so we created an additional explainer doc that provided a lot more context and FAQs (we always like to include FAQs in any of our People docs or policies 😉).

A Notion page outlining the career framework plan

What’s the plan, Stan?

After lots of scoping, brainstorming, chatting, reflecting, Notion pages and sheets, our plan looked a little something like this:

Phase one

  • Job evaluation (aka job description) - what does ‘good’ look like?
  • Cuvva’s ‘ways of working’
  • Levelling

Phase two

  • Department principles

Phase three

  • Job evaluation audit and org design

Phase four

  • Learning & Development

Phase one: getting into it

Each role at Cuvva already had a job evaluation (JE). However, these had been built on-the-go whilst we were scaling, as and when roles came up, so the consistency wasn’t great. Some were very in-depth, others not so much.

It was important to us to standardise JEs across all departments.

DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging) is weaved into all areas of our People strategy. A key part of this is fairness - if there isn’t consistency across departments in terms of how we’re measuring and rewarding performance then people aren’t getting the same opportunities and that isn’t fair.

In addition to fairness, defining clear expectations for everyone was a crucial part of empowering and enabling our managers to drive performance in their teams.

Given just how important the JE was going to be, we didn’t hold back on what we were going to put in them and landed on a template that contains the following:

  • Cuvva ways of working and universal duties - these are behaviours that we expect all Cuvvarati to demonstrate. The People team led the charge on defining this based on our knowledge of business goals and what it takes to be successful at Cuvva. Once complete, they were signed off by Leadership.
  • Department principles - these are any specific ways of working and behaviours that are important to a specific department but not covered in the company wide Cuvva ways of working.
  • Technical skills and knowledge - these are skills and knowledge needed for a specific role. For example, strong understanding of UK payroll for a People role.
  • Responsibilities - this is the output required for a specific role. Using the same example above, this could be ‘runs payroll accurately and on time each month’.

We felt it was important to define both the skill and the responsibility so that managers could dive deeper into performance and development. For example, an individual might have the technical knowledge needed, but it’s also important that they’re applying it and following through with a quality output.

On the flip side, an individual might be able to complete a routine task efficiently, but struggle to resolve a problem that arises outside of the ordinary day to day. This could be a sign that they need to develop their underlying knowledge or skill in this area.

For our levelling, we used terminology that aligns with our salary benchmarking provider. We do have a similar model to many other progression frameworks you’ll have seen, an IC track and a People management track.

Phase two: diving deeper

We then moved on to defining department principles.

I created a workshop plan and tested it out using the People team as guinea pigs. Once happy with our test run, I created a facilitator's guide for my fellow People Partners, Laila and Warren. We divided up the departments and off we went.

Creating a career framework required a detailed game plan

Workshop agenda: Three to five people, including the department's Head Of, and a selection of senior managers/ICs, took part in a 90-minute virtual whiteboard session. They were asked:

  • What problems are you and your team working to solve? What do you and your team want to achieve?
  • What skills are integral in order for your team to achieve this?
  • What do people think of when they hear your team’s name? What do you want people to think of when they hear your team’s name?
  • If a friend asked you to describe how decisions are made in your team, how priorities are set, and what the “mindset” of your team is, what would you say?
  • Think about some moments where you were most proud of the work your team did. Why do you feel that way?
  • Looking back to when your team overcame a difficult situation, what got you through it?
  • What are the most important qualities for someone in your team? What are the behaviours you want to reward and encourage?
  • Are there any behaviours that we need to stop? What behaviours are unacceptable that will block our growth?

After the workshop, the respective team took their board away and used it to define a draft of their principles. The People partners supported this and, after some final finessing, these were signed off by the Leader (Director/C-level) for that department.

Phrase three: Org Design

We decided early on that we wanted to create pathways that showed the team their opportunities at Cuvva, but also beyond Cuvva. This meant that our Career Framework would consist of roles currently available at Cuvva, and also roles that the business didn’t need just yet.

The purpose of taking this approach was to create a framework that we could grow into as Cuvva continues to evolve. But we also wanted to create a framework that would better help people understand the potential of their chosen career path - to help people see what kind of future roles exist in their specialism and what those roles entail.

Our People partners worked closely with their respective Leaders and Heads Of to map out their department pathways.

Here are some of the things we discussed and considered in our org design sessions:

  • Company goals and department goals: thinking about both short term and long term needs - what are we trying to achieve and what is crucial to our success
  • Current org design and job evaluations: looking at how our current roles are structured, how responsibilities are distributed, what skills we have within the business and how they’re being utilised
  • Future org design and role progression: exploring future possibilities and opportunities

This was by far the meatiest part of the project, we discussed, we pondered, we drafted….

An example of the Research team’s framework

… we iterated and then we discussed some more.

And eventually, our pathways were born.


Once the pathways had been signed off by Leadership, it was time to launch!

Massive amounts of work had gone into this project, so it was really important to us that we delivered the information clearly and gave everyone an opportunity to understand the Career Framework.

We know that folks absorb and receive information in different ways, so we decided to take a multi-pronged approach to our launch:

  • I presented a high level overview of the project at our weekly company all-hands
  • Followed by a Slack post and Notion guidance
  • We then held a drop-in office hours session, hosted by the People team where anyone could bring a question
  • We followed up at our monthly line manager community session
  • We asked Managers to discuss in their 1:1s
  • And People partners followed up with their respective teams

It’s not over yet!

Progression is ever-moving and ever-evolving - managers continue to embed our Career Framework through their skills benchmarking session with their team - and People Partners continue to keep the framework under constant review to ensure that it stays relevant for where Cuvva is at.

We’re also working to create and implement a management development programme to underpin our Cuvva ways of working and continued approach to progression. More on that in our next blog!

Team member