Just over a year ago, Metric Theory decided to make a fairly dramatic change in terms of how we approach our relationship with our employees. It started with my cofounder Jeff Buenrostro encouraging me to read a book called The Alliance by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, and challenging me to think about how we foster long term relationships with MT employees. We took many of Reid’s ideas on how to leverage realism and transparency to increase trust and improve career development and adapted them to create a program called Goal Cycles. Our Goal Cycles program was a focal point of the AdAge article that touted MT as the best place to work in 2015.

We see Goal Cycles as a way to help our employees grow professionally and utilize their skills to help Metric Theory. Image via Pixabay.

We see Goal Cycles as a way to help our employees grow professionally while using their desires to help grow Metric Theory. Image via Pixabay.

Too many employers describe their company as a “family,” but then make decisions (as they should) in the interests of the business. When there is an employee departure, companies often treat it like a traitorous act. This pervasive, “how could they?” attitude just isn’t a realistic approach in 2016 considering that the average millennial will change jobs 4 times before age 32.

On the flip side, too many employees approach every job as a stepping stone, and jump to the next best thing the second it appears. For Metric Theory, this is a scary proposition, given the immense amount of training we provide new hires (at our expense). And, like any client services organization, there are repercussions with clients and internally when an employee abruptly leaves an account.

So how does a Goal Cycle address this? A Goal Cycle is a social pact between employer and employee, where both commit to a specific set of deliverables over a defined period of time. For our PPC Analysts, this is a two-year track through the Senior Account Manager role. For more senior employees, it could be anything from 6 months to 3+ years. During this time, the employee is accountable for achieving different projects or goals, and Metric Theory is accountable for providing training, coaching, and support to position them to achieve those goals.

Within the last six months of the goal cycle, the employee and an MT executive meet to discuss future options. This is not a performance review, but rather a discussion about what’s important to them in their career, where they want to go professionally, what they love and don’t love about their current responsibilities, and where they would be if they couldn’t work with Metric Theory. The hope is always that we reach an agreement on a subsequent goal cycle that makes business sense for MT and professional sense for that employee.

However, in the event that the employee’s passions lie elsewhere, or if we’re not able to agree on a path forward, both sides agree to create a mutually-beneficial departure. The employee gives MT plenty of runway on a departure date to ensure that clients are transferred responsibly, without upsetting client relationships or forcing other account managers to quickly take on their accounts. MT agrees to do everything that we can to help the employee find their next role, including leveraging my LinkedIn rolodex to make connections, providing a reference, offering career advice, or even just allowing the employee time off for interviews.

The benefit for MT is much better advanced planning on promotions, hiring numbers, and consistency with client service. The benefit for employees has been to avoid anxiety around discussing career prospects or the possibility of departing, as well as getting more clarity around what their options are at Metric Theory 1-3 years in the future.

We started the Goal Cycle program about a year ago, so it’s too early to know what kind of impact it will have on overall employee retention, an obvious goal of the program. That said, we have already seen several positive outcomes:

  • Our team loves it. Employees give the program rave reviews in anonymous surveys. (While that’s not unusual, it’s also not true of every new program we launch.)
  • Goal Cycles have caused me to think about office structure and scale in two year chunks rather than in quarterly sprints. This is a good thing, as it allows us to plan for personnel numbers and promotions much further out.
  • Compared to previous jobs I’ve had, where employees typically gave a couple of weeks’ notice, employees transitioning out of MT through a Goal Cycle process have done so more smoothly, and with more support from me and the rest of the team.
  • We are starting to feel like we have the early makings of an alumni network for Metric Theory. I hope that, 10 years from now, the marketing departments of SF tech companies and Denver retail companies are littered with MT alums.

While the report card is incomplete, we are largely thrilled at the decision to implement such a big change to our organization.