How to Offer Employee Growth at Small- and Medium-Sized Companies

by Neal Glatt in September 13th, 2022
Employee Development at Small and Medium-Sized Companies

The number one thing that employees want in a job is growth and development opportunities, and the lack of these opportunities is one of the key reasons why people leave companies. In fact, Gallup reports that 93% of the time millennial workers changed their role, they also changed their employer. This means that these workers wanted a new role, responsibility, or pay raise, but didn’t see that opportunity at their current employer.

How to Grow When There’s Nowhere to Go

The problem that many managers face, however, is a lack of positions available for workers to grow towards. While large companies may have plenty of open positions and growth opportunities, small and medium sized firms rarely have vacancies at the right level and the right time for employees looking to grow in their career. Talented workers who are seeking the next challenge often will look around their company and realize that vertical growth up the org chart simply isn’t an option.

When moving higher in the hierarchy isn’t an option, sometimes it can be suggested that a horizontal, or lateral, move may be the best step in an employee's career growth. And while this is occasionally true, it often fails to inspire employees to perform at their best because it can lack the pay, responsibility, and prestige increases that a great worker desires in their career journey.

Companies that cannot promote employees up to the next level and cannot inspire workers to move across to another position have a significant retention risk. For today’s workforce in these environments, switching companies to advance their career is the next logical step and will most likely occur within the next twelve months.

The solution to a lack of vertical and horizontal moves is what GrowTheBench.com has deemed Depthical Development. Rather than focus on changing roles and responsibilities, employees can go deeper into their existing roles. These workers grow through the addition and mastery of new skills, more consistent exhibition of desired behaviors and values, and overall mastery of their position. And these promotions should carry the same weight and respect of any other promotion, including increased pay or benefits.

Applying Depthical Development in Your Organization

traditional org chart
three-dimensional org chart

Consider a front-line or mid-level position at your company that has multiple employees in the same role. Some are great and some are just okay (and one or two perhaps shouldn’t even be working in that role). They all bring different value to the organization and are often even paid different wages for their contribution and experience. Yet they share the same job title and are conceptually lumped together.

Step 1: Stratify Your Roles

This position is prime for a Depthical Development overhaul. First, create multiple positions that can reflect the different levels of proficiency. If the position is called “Technician” today, then tomorrow we will have “Provisional Technician”, “Junior Technician”, and “Senior Technician”. Or it could be as simple as expanding the role of “Laborer” to the roles of “Laborer 1”, “Laborer 2”, “Laborer 3”, and “Laborer 4”. The goal is to dramatically increase the number of possible positions available within the company.

Step 2: Define the Differences in Skill, Behavior & Compensation

Next, each position must have different knowledge, skills, and abilities assigned as requirements. Perhaps the best in a given role know how to use a specialized tool, can legally drive a company vehicle, or are able to utilize a company app for jobsite reporting. It may be that the weakest in a given role only know how to use hand tools safely and wear a clean uniform. Creating a chart of each position and the expected proficiencies documents what is required at each level.

Similarly, each increasing position should come with a different expectation of behaviors and values demonstrated. The lowest expectation may be arriving on time and treating others with respect. The highest expectation may be mentoring younger employees on the job and inspiring positivity for the whole team. The best practice here is to align the stated company values with each level in increasing expectations.

Finally, assign the required minimum experience required for each position and the pay range for each new position. Every manager and owner will gladly pay more for better employees, so this is an opportunity to standardize pay based on performance and incentivize growth with rewards. 


When assembled together, a company’s org chart is now three dimensional. The vertical and horizontal positions remain, yet depth is added for employees to be promoted deeper into their role. Companies that create Depthical Development are able to grow, promote, and reward employees faster, leading to significantly more engagement and retention.

If you want help creating Depthical Development at your company, contact Neal Glatt at Neal@GrowTheBench.com.

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