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HomeBusinessCreators Must Create: Forget the Management Progression Ladder

Creators Must Create: Forget the Management Progression Ladder

It’s been said “do what you love and the money will follow” but what’s often left unsaid is that, eventually, you’ll have to stop doing it and start managing others instead.

In most companies, people only advance by climbing the corporate ladder, often forcing them into management roles that steer them away from their true passion—their craft. Instead of honing that craft, people born to create are stuck reviewing work and playing office politics. This phenomenon creates undesirable career paths for many, with one-third of tech workers expressing they didn’t want to take on a managerial role.

Pulling people away from what they love could be a factor in Britain’s stagnant productivity figures—18% below Germany show ONS figures—and low engagement levels, with only 10% of Brits feeling engaged about their jobs, among the lowest number in Europe, according to Gallup.

The way the corporate ladder is set up, people are powerless to change their situation. So companies must take responsibility for providing different career paths for colleagues to hone their true skills. Not just workshops, but something permanent that will get the best out of people and reignite their passions.

Crafters can be compensated just like managers

In 2023, Shopify started distinguishing between management and crafter career tracks. Now, crafters more clearly understand how they grow their careers at Shopify and can continue to be compensated just as a manager would.

Our goal with this dual-track approach was to avoid pushing people up traditional career ladders that weren’t right for them. Our colleagues will have been refining what they do best before joining Shopify; we’re intent on letting them carry on. Otherwise, they risk losing their zeal.

We also recognise the power of giving people more autonomy, which McKinsey found increases worker motivation, job satisfaction and performance. We’ve fostered a digital-first workplace culture where staff can choose to live where they want, we’re removing the fear of declining meeting invites and now the option of manager and crafter tracks continues our commitment to worker autonomy.

Finding the right talent is difficult right now; and startups are feeling it the most, with 82% of SMEs reporting skills gaps, compared to 66% of large UK businesses. By allowing an employee to craft their role, you employ the best person for that job, providing they transition smoothly.

Considerations for crafting non-traditional career paths

For a non-traditional career path to prove viable, businesses need to be committed to the growth of their people. Investing in relevant training is a great method to equip colleagues with the tools to redesign their roles.

But not every small business can afford external training programs. It may be more economical to upskill internally from employees already possessing the desired skills, and sharing their knowledge within the company.

Establishing a flow of feedback from other staff members is critical to managing the transition. An employee taking a non-traditional route can impact colleagues, so it’s important to regularly hear other opinions on the changes. It may turn out that aspects of the new role negatively affect other people, and adjustments must be made.

It’s also important to set clear goals for an employee personalising their role, so everyone understands what progress looks like. Consider how this will fulfil their development, but also help the company meet its objectives with the aid of this new role. This ensures that clear expectations are set and you can easily track performance.

Earlier this year, we introduced ~Mastery, a system that prioritises, recognises and rewards staff who are on the continuous journey of honing their craft. Not only is it important to offer different career paths, but methodology to demonstrate how staff are growing their craft over time, and giving them recognition, helps keep staff on track. We hope ~Mastery will do just that.

Why creators must create

Employees are a company’s biggest asset. While some prefer traditional career progression, many say goodbye to their passions when they follow such a path. Restrict their creative juices and you risk the value of those assets depreciating.

Employees aren’t the only ones who will thrive when given mobility in their roles; businesses stand to benefit too. Especially startups, who may find one person’s passion leads to creating new departments or revenue streams, at the point where businesses will grow with their employees.

We want to see more business leaders open the door for employees to take the reins in their development. While any transition must be keenly observed, enhanced productivity, staff engagement and business performance are on the table. The mould for career progression is there to be broken.

Deann Evans, Managing Director, EMEA at Shopify

Deann Evans’ career spans over two decades in ecommerce and SaaS leadership roles. She currently oversees the European expansion of Shopify, the global commerce platform powering millions of modern, high-growth brands including Gymshark and Huel. This role enables Evans to empower merchants through Shopify’s substantial partners and developer community.


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