How to manage ambition in a fast-growing tech company

Insights from our #teamcharlie community.

Most tech companies are trying to push themselves to innovate, which means hiring smart, talented people from a wide variety of backgrounds. This means they’re likely to have two main types of employees:

On the one hand, you have the slightly older team members — bringing experience and knowledge to the table — who will probably have spent at least a portion of their careers in a more structured and hierarchical environment.

On the other, there’s the superstars of a younger generation who have only ever known a flat and democratic working environment. In their eyes, the sky’s the limit, and they don’t necessarily consider age and experience to be factors in a high-flying career. They’ve grown up in a world where experiences are on-demand, and may have a clear 2 — rather than 10 or 20 — year plan.

Whether it’s fresh-faced graduates coming through with vaulting ambition or highly driven employees who’ve been there from the beginning, managing ambition is a key. Though ambition can be a valuable attribute in a hire, it’s important to learn how to handle team members who have a constant desire for progression.

Here are our tips and tricks for managing ambitious team members to be their very best:

  • When hiring recent graduates, be clear that their extensive work experience, even if it’s 2+ years at Facebook or Google (or both), does not necessarily match up to real experience in a full-time job.
  • If someone has asked for a promotion too early, seek to understand their reasoning. Finding out their motivation can help you to explore other ways to help them feel fulfilled in their roles, beyond a pay rise.
  • Discuss the value of learning and development, and put together packages and policies that communicate this to your team. Purpose and progression ultimately rely on more than money, and this is a great way to challenge your team to invest in themselves.
  • Use a framework to help manage expectations. Self-evaluation over time can help to create clear benchmarks for individuals to work towards, as well as maintaining transparency in the promotion process. Get every team to create a list of skills and success factors to ensure that every framework is bespoke to each role. You don’t want it to feel restrictive by using a one-size-fits-all model.
  • Be frank that most roles will not always be exciting every day. A constant influx of stimulating challenges won’t make up 100% of any employee’s time, and that’s simply part of life.
  • Accept that some of the people who loved your small business simply won’t feel the same once it’s grown. It’s common and reasonable that people who were there from the beginning (or close to it) can outgrow the business, particularly once it becomes clear that their ambitions might not be fulfilled in that context.
  • Be prepared for long-standing employees to look elsewhere when you start externally hiring for senior roles, particularly if they expected to be promoted into them. The fact is, for business needs to be met, a certain level of experience in a role is often required and an employee’s long-standing service with the company doesn’t always cut it. Accept that this can also happen the other way around: you won’t always be able to fulfil your employee’s expectations and ambitions…and that’s ok!

CharlieHR is the HR platform for teams with big ideas. Building a company is hard, running one shouldn’t be. Find out more here.

Neo Sepulveda

Neo Sepulveda

Software engineer at CharlieHR 💻. I like climbing things quite a bit 🐒.

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