Why improving you and your team's progression is not about your framework

Why improving you and your team's progression is not about your framework

Posted byTim Johanson on

What's the single most important tool in improving progression at your company?

A progression framework right? (This is a blog written by a company specialising in progression frameworks...)

Wrong. We thought so too. But we've realised we were wrong, and have been wrong for a while.

The most important tool for progression at your company is a conversation. Conversations about skills development leads to skills development. If you or your team want to know how to develop in your role you need to talk about it.

Do progression frameworks help with this? Absolutely. We wouldn't exist if they didn't. But if they are used in isolation without the supporting conversation they don't work. Conversations can exist without frameworks, but frameworks should never exist without conversations.

This may seem sensible. Maybe even obvious? Maybe. Why does it matter?

By reframing your approach to progression with conversations rather than frameworks at the centre, it'll reshape the entire process. And the good news? It'll make it faster to set up, more collaborative to develop, and more effective. And you and your team will reap the benefits.

Back to the start

Why are you reading this?

  • You have a team asking for clarity around their progression in their role?
  • You want clarity around your role and where you're going?
  • You manage a team and are aware that you should have a progression plan?

These all amount to the same problem:

You and your team want to progress in your roles to feel fulfilled in your career.

Will building a progression framework do that? We thought so. That's why we launched Progression.

But we're realising something. It's not enough.

The most valuable tool in helping with progression is a conversation. Actually, consistent, ongoing conversations.

We know of many businesses spending months (years...) creating a framework, rolling it out to the team, and 12 months later... they do version 2 because version 1 didn't work. Their focus is wrong. Don't waste time trying to make your framework perfect, (which isn't possible anyway...), but focus on making the conversations around the framework perfect.

These conversations should be:

  • Forward looking - this your moment to look to the future, assess where you or your report wants to go and what skills development is required to get there
  • Skills based not output based

If you regularly discuss progression with your manager you will constantly be thinking about your career, exploring your strengths and development areas, and working out plans for how to get there.

No-one likes performance management. This is not that, keep it separate. Make this skills based and forward looking. It'll be a positive engaging experience, and will ultimately solve the problem that brought you here:

You and your team want to progress in your roles to feel fulfilled in your career.

Do progression frameworks help with conversations? Of course. But the conversations are where you will find the value.

Where do progression frameworks come in?

Progression frameworks provide a structure for the conversation. They provide the specific skills to set recent wins against, and a view of the future to work towards. We know they're effective, that's why they're so widely used.

The problem is that detailed frameworks are insanely painful to build. And the more detail you add, you more painful to use they become. So you're left in an impossible situation. You want to show your team you care about their progression, so you build a bespoke, detailed, thoroughly thought through framework, but it takes you months, and then it doesn't work.

This is when you remember that conversations should be at the centre. If your crazy detailed, time consuming framework isn't helping...then it's the problem. Put conversations first.

Start with a basic framework - five skills maybe. Get your team's input if required, but prioritise having the first conversations. Roll it out explaining that it's going to grow with time. Start the conversations. And let those define how, or if, you grow the framework.


This is a big realisation for us. We set out to make progression frameworks. We're going to still do that. But everything we're going to do in the future is going to start by prioritising those conversations. Because we want to help you achieve progression not progression frameworks.

Picture of Tim Johanson

Posted by Tim Johanson

Tim works in operations at Progression


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