In one of my first experiences as a manager, I was asked to stack rank my team, and their bonuses and raises would be based on that stack ranking. Not just my stack ranking but across the whole department. That means that eventually, many of the people on my team were stuck on the bottom, even though they weren’t bad performers or struggling as designers. They just weren’t perhaps equal to some of their peers. Does that mean they didn’t deserve a full raise or bonus? I don’t think so. I didn’t stay in that position much longer, but it left a sour taste in my mouth. I decided I never wanted to work again for an organization that stack-ranks its employees.
But even when you aren’t stack-ranking your team, there are opportunities to help the team members with their capabilities. To be clear, I don’t use these as an evaluation on which to base their compensation, I use them strictly to help the designers improve and move forward in their careers. Daniel Birch’s UX capability matrix shows vital areas of the discipline, and I can allow each team member to evaluate how they feel they are doing in that particular area. I then determine whether they are interested in improving their understanding or if they want to focus on one of the pie slices.
We work together to find suitable materials to train with, whether it is books (audio, digital, or paper), an online training course, an in-person training course, or all of the above. Training budgets don’t always allow for all of the above, so we get what we can and ensure that the budget request for the following year includes extra training funds.