Here’s how Shopify’s dual-track promotion plan is working out

The header image shows an illustration of a person leaping across a gap.

This article was first published by Digiday sibling WorkLife

Traditionally, climbing the corporate ladder meant that once you excelled in your role, you would be promoted to manage a team and make more money. Management has historically been the only path to leadership.

There was one problem: not everyone makes a good people manager. The expression “the best player doesn’t make the best coach” can ring true in the workplace. People management requires a set of skills that is usually vastly different than what one would lean into for their individual contributor role. Sure, training helps, but some people just aren’t meant to be managers, and frankly, simply don’t want to be. But employers still typically sleepwalk into allowing this structure, which can end up being detrimental to a workplace if people who aren’t meant to be managers keep ending up in that role. 

However, an alternative model is growing in popularity.

Enter dual tracks, where people can still see growth, success and increased compensation without the manager title. It’s something that more employers are realizing can positively impact employee retention and overall happiness in the workplace. Global commerce company Shopify is one of those companies and implemented dual tracks last March. 

Shopify’s dual tracks include ones for individual contributors, or “crafters” as they call them, and managers. The result has been that Shopify now has fewer managers and more crafters. Both are regarded as leaders and are compensated accordingly. Employees are either a manager or a crafter and can grow their careers on that track. 

Success for individual contributors 

“Management shouldn’t be a thing you have to do just to get ahead,” said Atlee Clark, vp of talent operations at Shopify. “We flipped this antiquated corporate thinking on its head to make sure that both crafters and managers can have a rich and fulfilling career at Shopify by creating two distinct career tracks for our employees.”

Clark says that this change last year has better aligned Shopify’s talent system with the company’s priorities in a way that has cleared obstacles so that employees can focus on what they do best. 

“We created these two distinct tracks because most of our employees want their primary job to be building, which is why they came to Shopify in the first place,” said Clark.

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