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PODCAST EP. 45: CAROLINE WERNER | CHIEF PEOPLE OFFICER, LOGICGATE



In this episode, Caroline Werner, Chief People Officer at LogicGate, talks about the benefits of career architecture, an organizational framework for identifying and defining job roles within a company. Career architecture focuses on skill levels and levels of responsibility within roles, rather than titles and functions, and it serves as a common language of talent for an organization. These career portfolios serve as the foundation for all things people related, including providing clarity and equity when hiring, promoting, and more.


Here are my three big takeaways from the conversation:

  1. Not everyone wants to manage people, and career portfolios provide a framework for talent to grow and get promoted without becoming a manager.

  2. Career portfolios help you remove bias and promote equity among your team.

  3. The process of mapping takes time and requires buy-in from the top levels in the organization.


Career architecture is an important concept in creating a people-first organization. I know you’ll get a lot of insights from this episode!


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TRANSCRIPT

Caroline: So there is an expectation if you wanna continue to move up, Like anything, there's going to be additional responsibility. Sometimes people are, for whatever reason, I don't wanna lead other people today, tomorrow, ever.


Great. You're gonna own X, Y, Z process right? So it, it gets into those types of conversations versus like a job description. And so it's really the easiest way to think of it as a common language of talent for an organization.


Aaron: I'm Aaron Levy. And I have this vision of a workplace where your manager doesn't suck, where instead your manager is your coach helping you to reach your full potential at work. I founded Raise The Bar, wrote Open, Honest and Direct, and started this podcast to help companies transform their workplace to a place where both the company and employee succeeds.


In this podcast, I get to interview leaders who built high-performing teams. And learn from them on what it takes to unlock a team with potential.


Today I had a good friend of mine on the show, Caroline Werner, the Chief People Officer at LogicGate, a company that provides a modern risk management platform for enterprise businesses. Caroline is responsible for the company's people strategy and culture as they continue to scale at rapid rates.


In today's episode, Carolina and I discussed the concept of career journeys or portfolios and how they make a common language for top talent in your organization.


Aaron: We dive a mile deep into the benefits, the challenge. And the way a good career journey supports the future growth of your business. It's a fascinating conversation and something that I think every organization can benefit from. Enjoy. Take a listen, take notes, and we'll see you soon.

Well, I guess we should roll, Caroline. It's a blast to have you on the podcast. Thank you for coming on. We get to have conversations. It feels like, you know, every other week about everything. And I'm glad that we have a chance to share some of the insights that you've shared in our conversations with others.


Caroline: Yeah, no, super excited to be here Aaron.


Aaron: The one thing that I, I kind of wanna start with, early in your career, you, you had mentioned how you were disappointed in how people above you maybe didn't see you for what you could contribute to the organization, and what I'm wondering is how does that, like your early experience as an early employee in organizations, how does that impact how you lead and support top talent today from, you know, your team, but also the organization that you lead and how you strategically think about that.


Caroline: Yeah, I think it's, I've talked a lot about this because I have had a career where I've moved up quickly and through opportunities and being tapped and taking chances and all that good stuff, which overall in many ways has been awesome. But at the same time, I think, you know, sometimes when you're at an organization so long, you're only seen as the person you were when you first came in.


It's harder to view people, especially if you're talking about big career jumps from, let's say individual contributor to manager or you know, manager to leader, whatever it is. And so I think where the disappointment came and some of that is I felt I could do the work, I could have the conversation, I could own the project, whatever it was, and people that had supported me up to a point kept seeing me, keeping me, you know, at those lower levels, whether real or perceived.


So I think for me, when I look at my own team, I really try to keep that in mind. I would say you learn more from the quote, bad situations than the good ones for how you're not gonna be as a leader going forward or in another opportunity. And so I really am mindful of that to say whether the person came in at X and is now doing Y or hasn't done this specific skill set or experience that I'm looking for.


You know, if I know that they're a good person, an agile worker, creative thinker, collaborative, you know, all those other things, I'm gonna give him a shot at something. So I think that's become one of my kinda core principles.


Aaron: And I, I love the phrase you learn more from the bad situations than, than the good ones.


And I think that's in so many situations. And what I'm wondering is, so that's kind of reflected how you now see your team members and how you kind of like look at them for the skill sets that they have rather than the role that they're in, which is a critical lesson to, to keep in mind. And I'm wondering how do you know what a, a team of Logic Gates now what? 250? 200 plus, something like that. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . How do you as the Chief People Officer influence other people to behave and think that way?


Caroline: I think there's a couple things, right? I mean, there are operational things that we can do and put in place. For example, things like career journeys, which is a big initiative for us now.


And through that, you know, identifying skilled capabilities. At each level that transcend and are, you know, irrespective of what function they're in or what role they're in, but what we see as needing to be successful at those levels. So I think a component of it is making sure our talent programs just talked about the example of career journeys weave into that, to, to create the foundations.


And then the other, it's sort of like the art and the science. That would be the science, the art of it is how we speak about talent, how we coach leaders to look at talent; I think a positive of the, you know, chaos of the pandemic and there's been lots of negatives, has been the way we look at talent, sort of opening our minds in a million different ways.


And one of those hopefully is around looking at our talent for what they can contribute, how they approach, are they a values and a culture fit? You know, do they have strong work ethic? And it's kind of like the rest of it, you can teach someone. For the most part. There are some roles that require, you know, specific training or certifications and so forth, but generally speaking, right, and to look at, tell it more holistically and open-minded in general.


Aaron: Man, there's like a bunch of ways I want to dig into this deeper. I love the idea of values and culture fit with work ethic. It's like, then they can, you know, then we can invest in them. And what, I guess the, the thing that popped into my mind first, can you dive a little bit deeper into what you mean by career journey?


Cuz that sounds slightly, and the way you were describing it sounds a little bit different than the traditional thing that, you know, that we'd heard of in HR for years of the career path. Mm-hmm. one in the same, Is it different? Like, and, and if it's different how?


Caroline: Yes. I, I think this is a big piece and becomes again, the foundation of your talent strategy.


I came from Korn Ferry, which does a lot of this work for clients and got tremendous experience working with experts in this area. And basically the concept is also referred to as career architecture. So you're looking at. Take away functions, take away titles. You're looking at levels in an organization, but it's also- think of like the career lattice, not just the ladder, right?


Caroline: So, and this has become even more prevalent coming out of Covid. People want experiences. People want to learn different ways. Not everyone wants to move up. Maybe you're in marketing and you wanna go to sales as a lateral. And so it's really the easiest way to think of it as a common language of talent for an organization.


And when you are able to build a structure like that, whether it's a small company or a big company, it helps to then use that as a foundation for everything else. How do you reward, How do you performance manage, you know, when you're doing attraction for recruitment? How do you talk about the expectations of a job when you're goal setting, all those different things.


And it also helps remove biases as a plus, which is important because you're talking more holistically about levels versus this person, this role, this title, this function. In the case of Korn Ferry we had over 10 acquisitions in 10 years, so it's a way to harmonize and bring in roles from other companies.


In the case of LogicGate, you know, putting something in place now when we're smaller, so that as we scale and grow and make bigger decisions around, you know, how we reward, how we retain, how we performance manage, we can reference that as a foundation.


Aaron: So let me make sure I'm understanding this correctly.

So it's like, yes, but you have your role that you're responsible for, but everybody has their kind of career, almost like a portfolio where they're at a certain level within the company and that level is determined by a set of skills. I'm getting this conceptually and thematically, but I'm trying to understand how I would put it into play on my team or how somebody listening would even go about putting this architecture together.


Caroline: Yeah, sure. And by the way, I should say I've seen extremely complicated versions of this and then extremely simplified to where I'm not sure it's super effective. So my personal view is somewhere in the middle is the way to go. Cause like anything, if you make something so complicated, no one uses it, well then who cares?


So when I say levels in an organization we’ll take the extremes. You have an intern and you have the CEO, right? They both have jobs and responsibilities but there are differing levels of complexity, contribution to the organization. Accountability, Right? So both are contributing, Both are making the company work very different.


Caroline: Concepts within each level. And so in between there, right, you have analysts and specialists and manager and VP and whatever you wanna call everything else. And that increases in theory as you move up, right? So your level of contribution to an organization, the complexity of the job, the responsibilities that you have to contribute varies.


It's still there for everyone, but it's different. So it's like a different way of speaking about talent and your role in an organization versus just, I'm an analyst, you're a senior analyst, and we're different. And, and again, that's that one common language of talent concept. Let's say you have 20 levels, like literally one to 20, and you map jobs into those surrounding those 20, let's say you have five career steps that layer in there, So let's say each, just for the sake of example, each career, each of the five career steps has four levels within it.


So the big bucket career steps become, let's say, entry level to individual contributor to technical functional expertise to a manager of people or processes to a leader of managers to an executive. And so at those big bucket levels is where you could tie promotion cycles, right? Significant differences in how you're measuring performance, the expectations of the role.


You can slot in there a gazillion titles. And it doesn't matter if it's in product or engineering or sales or marketing but. It also helps drive that commonality between those functions because whether you're an analyst in engineering or an analyst in marketing or a specialist in sales, you all still have some similarities for what you're doing.


Again, taking out the, the specialist nature out of it, but let's say when it comes to communication skills, interaction with the client fiscal responsibility, whatever it is.


Aaron: Yeah. That's starting to make a lot of sense. And so it's like, it's putting together almost, and pardon me for repeating, I'm just like, I'm absorbing this.


Cuz as our team's growing, we're thinking about, right, how do job level and how do you think about that? Mm-hmm. right title doesn't mean everything. And what's the right way to help people grow? And I think what you're saying in this is it's, it's a set of skills that they have and some of those skills are related to like the, the levels of responsibility that they might have and it's not always or necessarily tied to their, their job title but tied to those skills and then you're able to help people grow there. And just because they're at a certain level within the business doesn't mean they have to manage people, is kind of what you're saying as well.


Caroline: Absolutely. I think you hit on important piece there cuz we are literally in the middle of rolling this out at LogicGate and had a lot of good discussion around, you know, sometimes the, the classic age old career path is like I have to become a manager to move up and that's not always the case. The way I like to think about it too is you could be a manager of people and you could be a manager of processes, Right?


Or both obviously, but you don't have to be a people manager. So there is an expectation that if you wanna continue to move up, Like anything, there's going to be additional responsibility. Sometimes people are, for whatever reason, I don't wanna lead other people today, tomorrow, ever.


Great. You're gonna own X, Y, Z process right? Now. You may also have to, then the skills might be, you know, influencing resources that don't report to you or project managing cross-functional teams, right? So it, it gets into those types of conversations versus like a job description. Which to be clear, you still need a job description to talk about.


Like, what do I actually do every day and, and if I'm an accountant, you know, what are the expectations? Not that those go away, but it lifts it up a level when you're talking about opportunities and experiences.


Aaron: Yeah. I'm seeing this picture of like, on one hand you have your job description. Expectations and responsibilities for doing your job, your role. Mm-hmm. , on the other hand, you have this career journey, this career portfolio, this leveling, which is your skills and areas of development for you to grow into.


Yep. there's a lot of use cases, right? But I think from a promotion process perspective, especially when we're talking about those higher big buckets, I, I gave, as you know, entry level, the individual contributor to technical expertise can really be helpful for evaluating talent.


Caroline: And again, have to plug, it says pick out biases, helps pick out biases, I should say, and provides clarity. So it's not only like within the promotion process, but let's say someone on your team is thinking about moving up to the next level and what does that look like or we hear a lot of this today, right?


What are my future opportunities? What am I gonna gain? What can I do here? It elevates that conversation up and I think brings some clarity to it.


Aaron: And now to me it even makes sense when you said earlier, like, you can use it for hiring, you can see where that person would slot in. Not only can they do the functional job, but what skills do they have and what level would we slot them in at Even do you use, like, I would imagine you could use it for pay scales too.


Caroline: A thousand percent. all of the, what we just talked about is super fun and, and the, the great part about it, but there is a huge element on the operational side, right? Programs are only as good as they are if they have sound operations. Especially when I think about the scenario we're in LogicGate, with growth and scale, not just in size, but also in changing and grow.


What skills we're gonna need, what roles we're gonna need, international expansion. Right? And so it allows you to then create that baseline for absolutely layering comp ranges, bonus eligibility, program participation. You know, you're having a program or something, or eligibility for X level and above, or whatever it is.


And especially when you start thinking cross functionally, or if you do an acquisition, it can help you with that, which is why I love the, like one common language of talent;. Sort of slogan there, that helps really articulate the core of what it is.


Aaron: This is just really fascinating cuz I, I know you've spent a lot of time and have a lot of experience in this, but you know as someone who's been in this space a lot. This is not a conversation. That I hear and I think that people think about as much as they probably should. I hear so much more often, we need to get career path and then mm-hmm. , I, what I see is even worse, which is just a hot mess of job titles of manager of this, Yes Of VP of this, of senior director of this, because we want to keep our people happy and the great resignation's happening and , right?


Like, and so anything to keep them happy and give them the right title. When their title doesn't match up with the VP of sales title, cause they're doing very, very different things.


You're like, What the heck? And then there's all the comp, like the whole cascade of things. And so I just think this is such a crucial element and, and as you said, not just a process, but a thematic way to think about your people. I almost feel like every company should, should be having this.


The question is like, when's the right time in your organization to implement something like this?


Caroline: Yes. So I'm a live example of having gone through, again at Korn Ferry. We had many acquisitions in a short period of time, and you had the complexity of, you know, working in all regions, 38 countries, and it took us a year and a half to map everyone, just to get to the complexity of it.


Totally worth it, but a ton of work. Here we are at LogicGate.. We are approaching 250 employees. We're primarily in the US expanding in the UK and have aggressive growth plans. And to me right now is the perfect time for LogicGate. I think if you do it much earlier, there's almost not enough sort of meat and potatoes to, to kind of put something together and have a sense, cuz you do want it to be scale.


I think later, again, totally doable and worth it, but it only gets harder because you, by nature, you have many more titles like you were just saying, right? You're gonna just naturally have that, or you have had an acquisition or two throw that in, and there's probably not a lot of sync between there.


So I feel like we're at that sweet spot right now. Because again, when you go through the mapping, so once you develop the framework and then you map all the roles, there's always like anything, there's gonna be outliers, there's gonna be people that don't fit red circle, whatever it is, and that's okay.


That only gets harder when you get bigger, so it's good to establish it. I would say earlier on, again, I think we're at the sweet spot for that. And then also it helps as we talked about, but I'm thinking about it for size as well. As you start to . Further develop and make your talent programs more sophisticated, which I would imagine if you were at this size, like we are, we're going through that, right?


Formalizing our comp program introducing LinkedIn learning where we're gonna tie learning paths to the different levels so it becomes that core anchor for everything. talent. I think now is a perfect time.


Aaron: Yeah, I think what interesting kind of transition that you started to mention was how once it's in place, how do you go about building, if, if we've set a common language of talent, how do we then elevate that common language of talent, right? Like how, what are the things we do to help people grow their levels in this, you know, career, lattice, career journey.


Caroline: Yeah, and this is where I would put the plug for that art and science and balance between making it too complex where nobody, you know, can relate to it, but not so simple that it's not effective. And that is sort of a sweet spot. I've seen it done both ways. I think my other plug would be to somehow automate it if you can.


So whether that's layering the levels into your H R I S system, you know, any, any sort of systematic concept, because doing it on spreadsheets and especially as you get bigger just gets super complicated. And then like anything else, you know, it's only as good as it was last updated. It's not fluid. So I think then it gets down to.

Coming. Like anything, come up with your phased approach. I love a good pilot or a phased approach of, you know, what are, what are the three things we wanna accomplish? You can't boil the ocean cause it can get crazy. But look for marrying things that are in your strategy and priorities with how you can leverage the career journeys.


So, for example, I mentioned LinkedIn Learning. We just put that in place. We are going to leverage that for coming up with learning paths that tie to the big career levels. We're looking at, you know, continuing to enhance our promotion process. I wanna make sure we leverage the levels we're working on our compensation, so using the levels there.


So I, I think you can kill two birds, attack two things by coming up with alignment to your priors because there's a million things you can do with it, but you can't do it all at once. It's not gonna be adopted.


Aaron: And how do you approach the, So like if I'm, if I'm gonna zoom in to the, like, individual conversation of a manager and an employee mm-hmm.

And the, and the employee says, Hey, I want this promotion, or I want to take myself to the next level and Right. Like, how, how can I get there? How do you, like, what do you equip the managers with? What conversations do you want them to be having? And, and maybe more importantly, like, how do you help . people level up.


Caroline: Yeah. There, there is a lot of education around the career journey and career architecture framework, whatever, whatever you wanna call it. it comes down to like adoption, right? So for, for us, we just announced it at our HD kickoff and we will intentionally start to weave the language into everything we do going forward as we continue to launch this out.


And it really just gets down to habit in many ways, right? This is that one common language of talent. So anytime we're talking about performance, we're talking about promotion, recruiting, it becomes part of the language. So there is definitely a level of training for our people leaders to understand what are the conversations.


How do you leverage it, right? How do you weave it into your development conversations, whether formal or informal? And same with, you know, an individual contributor. How, how do they leverage it? Now we're in the infancy, yet it's not even out there. I mean, we've communicated it high level in concept, but over the next, you know, six months to a year, we will start to implement it more holistically and in detail.


And then again, weave it into the talent program. From a promotion leveling up perspective, this sounds super tactical, but going back to my art and science, I think it's a combination of both. You gotta weave it into, so let's say you have a promotion recommendation form where the individual has to put in a statement and the leader has to put in a statement.


The language is in there about the expectation. It also gets into, once you define what are the skills and capabilities and responsibilities at, at each level, then communicating those out as framework for then people to use against, to measure, to say, Okay, I see this requires this, this, and this. I still need to work on my communication skills, and then I'm gonna go to LinkedIn Learning to go find that.

Then I'm gonna talk with my manager about opportunities to observe. You know, XYZ person doing presentations for clients. So I, I think it's like anything, a combination of things. But the secret sauce is making sure it's woven into kind of all the core talent management pieces.


Aaron: And in having done this at a, you know, a much larger organization with a lot more complexity.


Having rolled this out here, like what's the one thing that if somebody else is listening to this, they should . Be aware of or avoid like that one, that one mistake that you can say like, Hey, I've done this or seen this, like, watch out.


Caroline: Biggest one for me is don't make it so complicated that nobody uses it, because the stuff is all super interesting, but at the end of the day, If individual employee X doesn't think it's relevant, doesn't understand it, doesn't know where to go, like who cares how good it is. So for me, that is a huge thing.


I'm a big fan of like effective but simple. Because we can quickly make this stuff very complicated. And then my other would be if you can automate it and systematize it, if that's a. from day one versus spreadsheets, then Yes. So look for ways to integrate it into your H R I S right into whatever learning system you use.


So, and make sure that all flows together because the complexity and the challenge comes from it's manual and you know, the person hired tomorrow that's not on the spreadsheet from yesterday. Well now it's not effective. So I would say those are two bumps that I've experienced and super mindful of not having that be the case with doing it at LogicGate.


Aaron: And I'm actually gonna flip the question around. If somebody who's starting this for the first time, what's the very first thing you'd recommend they do?


Caroline: I think you gotta start with, first of all, you have to get everyone on board, as in the executive team. So make sure there's interest in alignment, because there's a lot of work that goes into this and it's something you're committing to. It's a long term thing, right?


Again, it becomes the foundation, and so if there is not . A shared commitment. Cause these are the people that are gonna use it every day. Always say HR can do a gazillion million things that we think are great and interesting and fun. And they might be cutting edge, but if the business doesn't care, then who cares.


So getting that business alignment and making sure that people are bought into this concept, they don't have to know all about it. They don't have to sign off on everything but the concept before you invest in it. Cause it is, it is a decent amount of time. And it is a long term commitment.


This is just really fascinating and you're a clear expert in this which I think, and I, I don't think I know others are gonna really value and appreciate. And so thank you for diving like a mile deep into this, this topic of career journey and, and career portfolio.


Aaron: And I think it's, It is not only a tactical thing, but as you said, a holistic thing for how, you know, future forward organizations can and should think about their talent and think about their people and think about the language of people. So this is just, this is brilliant. Thank you Caroline.


Caroline: Yeah, no, absolutely.


It's, it's, again, it's a lot of work and it takes a village, and I'll admit you asked me about mistakes earlier. I was a skeptic, so , those that know me well, know, I'm pretty honest about this kind of stuff. And, I'm sure people who worked with me in the past and be like, Oh, how funny Caroline's, you know, chatting this.

Cause in the beginning I was like, Wow, this is a lot of work. This seems complicated. , but you know, I'm a full, full buyer into it now. And here I'm putting it in place at my current organization again, with the pivot to making it more simple. But I think the concept is right, and, and it's right for all the stuff you hear about today.


People want experiences, people wanna understand, not just moving up. People want clarity. You know, people are all over the place, right? So another thing is like access to everyone for under a baseline understanding of what the opportunities. So, you know, I'm a buyer now.