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Innovation@Work: Job Families Foster Staff Development

How has Dare Mighty Things been able to fill 60% of its open positions with internal placements? By institutionalizing an organization-wide professional development program that allows employees to gain the skills they need to advance their careers.

Dare Mighty Things in a management consulting firm that supports large-scale programs that impact vulnerable populations. During a recent period of growth, the organization decided to focus on the development of its employees in order to significantly build its capacity. The organization’s leadership devised a system of “job families,” where employees are grouped by core competencies and assigned a coach. Each coach helps his/her family of employees to gain specific core competencies needed for them to excel in - and advance beyond—their roles.

According to Jim Seevers, Senior Vice President at Dare Mighty Things, this system has been very effective. “In our work, we try to create a set of routine standard replicable processes,” Jim said, “The job families concept is something we’ve been able to replicate across all staff, and this system has allowed us to consistently develop core competencies in groups of employees to help them advance within the organization.”

Job families are comprised of peers, such as a group of analysts, and coaches are typically senior staff. In groups and individually, the coach works with family members to gain knowledge, skills, and experience in various core competencies. Within each family, development opportunities include many 1-on-1 discussions with coaches, group trainings, or peer-to-peer exchanges via a web-based knowledge management system.

“Coaches work in concert with supervisors,” Jim explained, “These two individuals are responsible for certifying that employees gain the demonstrated knowledge, skills and ability on specific competencies. Where we previously relied on anecdotal evidence about employee learning, we now have a more objective way to measure professional development.”

Having grown from 30 to 50 employees in less than two years, Jim attributes the job families system with the organization’s ability to fill 60% of non-entry level positions with internal candidates. “The biggest payback has been our ability to grow from within. We ensure people have the skills they need for quality performance today while growing in their career family to be prepared for tomorrow’s challenges.”

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