Role change goes both ways
A role change is always a subject that requires support and must work both ways for the person changing and the manager. At Akeneo, we have set up a support system for job changes following an observation. The observation was mainly we provided no support for people promoted to a new role, such as a person who changed position completely such as a developer who wanted to become a product manager. We were not given the expectations in the new role, no real guidance or monthly follow-up.
This observation became more evident once implemented the engineering career ladder.
How can we effectively support promoted people or people who want a career change?
It occurred to me to set up what I called an “Act As” period. The key elements were a form of “contract” shown, communicated from the beginning and shared with the whole department, and an end-of-period bonus. It seemed essential to me that a manager follow this period to be total and complete. I mean being 100% in your new role with 100% of the prerogatives. I wanted to avoid designation by a manager and the error with a system going in one direction.
The manager can make a mistake on a promotion; a teammate can make a mistake on his choice. We can go back, and this is fully ok.
Today, this “Act As” period has become the standard and is used by default when a promotion is done in the product department.
The successful outcome of the “Act As” period
The “Act As period” serves both managers and teammates in our organization. It allows the teammate to better fit into a new role before the position becomes regular or permanent and for the manager to ensure that all expectations are met.
The manager must specify the details of the new role in a detailed and structured manner through an assessment template. The manager must explain the mechanism for identifying and discussing any issues as early as possible and establishing constructive and regular feedback in both directions. On the other hand, the teammate can also use their trial period to see if they are comfortable with their responsibilities.
At the end of the “Act As” period, the teammate returns to his previous position if things are unsatisfactory. This request can come from the manager and the teammate who would not feel comfortable in their new role.
Although viewed as a management process, the aim of an “Act As” period is two-fold:
- attitude and fit with the new role
- abilities, skills, and knowledge required for the new role
- feel comfortable with the new role, new position
- the new role is what they thought it would be
If the teammate’s “Act As” period is satisfying, the manager should inform the teammate that they will confirm their position at the final meeting. The minimum length of an “Act As” period is 3 months and can be extended to 6 months.
Extending an “Act As” period allows the teammate additional time to improve their impact to demonstrate competence in the full range of duties and required behaviors. If the manager feels that further training and support may bring the teammate up to the required standard, we can consider an extension (on a 3-month basis). It could be appropriate during the holiday or due to circumstances beyond the teammate’s control.
When a teammate on “Act As” is experiencing difficulties
Many reasons why an “Act As” does not work. Here are some true examples:
- Poor interpersonal skills (for instance, communication, listening, conflict resolution),
- An unwillingness to accept feedback,
- Being too emotional,
- A lack of motivation,
- A lack of guidance and support on how to overcome the difficulties. It might include extra training/coaching or closer supervision,
- An issue to ensure the teammate understands the degree of progress required and that successful completion of the “Act As” period is dependent on it.
The good news is that we can quickly improve these areas with the right attitude and determination.