The business card conundrum was just one of many details that the Falls Church-based company had to consider as it worked to build a new human resources strategy aimed at improving career development pathways for workers and increasing transparency about staffing decisions.
“We’ve really tried to give them a sense of being in the driver’s seat of their careers,” said Amy Rivera, a Noblis staffer who played a key role in implementing the strategy.
Noblis’s organizational structure is now comprised of eight bands. Band one is made up of entry-level staffers; band eight contains the most senior leaders. Each level comes with a list of expectations and competencies across four categories: technical work, client engagement, project management and personal development. To be considered for advancement, one must demonstrate a mastery of the skills associated with his or her current band.
Within each level, a person has wide room for movement and can play a variety of different roles.
For example, “You may be at a career band level for three years, but you may be a project manager for six months. Then you may become a capture manager [or someone who goes after new business] for a while,” said Allison Mechalske, another staffer who has been at the center of the strategy.
Roles are not strictly bound by levels. Someone in band three, four or five could act as a project manager, depending on the scope and responsibility of that particular project.
The company hopes this framework will encourage staffers to widen their skill sets.
“What we don’t want to do is just focus on the upward development. We want to focus on broadening development,” Mechalske said.
Noblis said the career band approach has helped it stay on top of a problem Mechalske called “level creep,” in which people are elevated to positions for which there is no business need to support.
“Given the competitive nature of government contracting these days, we need to make sure we’re not elevating people’s level based on tenure,” Mechalske said.
With its clear delineation of skills required for each band, the new system makes it difficult for someone to be promoted just for the sake of it.
The band structure is also designed to help ensure that promotions are awarded as soon as they are deserved, instead of when they’re overdue.
“We wanted to make sure the promotions were meaningful to people, that they weren’t coming after somebody was already doing the job,” Rivera said.
Though Noblis says its employees have embraced the shift, these issues can sometimes make for a tough sell to employees when companies transform their hierarchies. Workers sometimes worry that their pay or prominence might be jeopardized during the shake-up.