Staff Career Ladder Introduction
A Career Ladder is a process designed to formally progress a staff
employee to a higher level of job responsibility within his/her current
position. Since the employee and the manager work together to
progressively advance to the higher level of responsibility, there is no
need for a competitive posting process. The Career Ladder is basically a
department-driven process, with 3 basic preconditions: 1) the department
must have a genuine need for the higher level work; 2) the target
position classification must be available for Career Ladders; 3) the
employee must be both interested in the higher level work and able to
demonstrate the potential to perform it successfully.
Career Ladder Benefits
- Can develop new skills and competencies at your own pace and in
your current job.
- Can advance to a higher level of responsibility without competition
and without moving to a different work unit.
- Can demonstrate initiative and willingness to work to further
department and University goals.
Managers and Supervisors:
- Can retain valued employees who are motivated to advance their
- Can attract high quality employees with the opportunity to advance
within their positions.
- Can develop well-trained employees who have high morale.
- Can provide a higher level of quality and service to your clients.
An employee meets eligibility requirements for a Career Ladder if
- Is a regular (full or part-time) member of staff who is past the
probationary employment period
- Is in a position that is classified at a level below that of true
- Was rated "Meets Expectations" or better on his/her most recent
- Is not currently under performance management or disciplinary
- Has not already completed two successive Career Ladders without an
intervening competitive position change (see Compensation Guidelines
section 15.1 and section 16.1.)
Managers Please Note: Not all UNM position classifications are
available for Vertical Career Ladders. For example, high level
administrative and operational management classifications (identifiable
by a second digit of 7 or higher in the Pclass Code - e.g. A7999) are
not Career Ladder eligible (For Pclass Codes see Position
Classification Description Listing). Departments must therefore
contact HR to ensure position availability before developing a Career
Ladder program for an employee.
Types of Career Ladders
There are three different kinds of Career Ladders available to
eligible staff employees, depending on circumstances:
- Pre-Defined Vertical Career Ladders
Pre-Defined Career Ladders (previously referred to as "pre-approved"
Career Ladders) are designed for staff employed within identified
position classification series. Employees may advance along a
classification hierarchy consisting of 2 or 3 levels, such as, say,
"Analyst" to "Senior Analyst", or "Assistant 1" to "Assistant 2" to
"Assistant 3". Click
here for examples of pre-defined career ladders.
- Individualized Vertical Career Ladders
Individualized Career Ladders are designed to allow an employee to
bridge into a higher position in a different family of classifications
or into a position in the same family but not within a pre-defined
hierarchy. Individualized Career Ladders are evaluated on a
case-by-case basis, in discussion with HR, to determine whether the
progression is appropriate to specific organizational needs, as well as
compliant with overall Career Ladder guidelines.
Vertical Career Ladder programs, either Pre-Defined or
Individualized, are predicated on the identification of the
"Distinguishing Characteristics" between the responsibilities of the
position classification currently held by the employee and those of the
higher level classification to which the employee aspires.
Distinguishing characteristics are those key functional
responsibilities of a position classification that make it
significantly different from and greater than another classification at
a lower pay grade. Distinguishing characteristics may in some cases be
specifically noted as such on the description for the position
classification. If they are not listed, then departments should use the
3 to 5 duty statements in the description that clearly define the
difference in responsibility levels between the 2 positions.
Departments should always consult with HR during the process of
identifying distinguishing characteristics for the purpose of
initiating a Vertical Career Ladder
- In-Range Career Ladders (for more details see In-Range
Career Ladders Supplemental Notes and Guidelines)
In cases where a vertical Career Ladder is not available or
appropriate to the circumstances of an employee, it may be possible,
under defined circumstances, to undertake an "In-Range" Career Ladder
program to advance in responsibility without changing position
classification. "In-Range" Career Ladders are evaluated on a
case-by-case basis, in discussion with HR, to determine whether the
progression is appropriate to specific organizational needs and in
compliance with overall Career Ladder guidelines.
Initiating a Career Ladder
There are eligibility requirements for all Career Ladders, which must
be met before the initiation of a program can be approved. These
requirements are listed on the "Employee Eligibility Checklist"
that managers must complete before proceeding any further with the
initiation process. There are two versions of the Checklist, one for Vertical
(Pre-defined and Individualized) Career Ladders, and another for In-Range
After the manager has completed the checklist and the employee and
the manager have mutually agreed that a Career Ladder plan is
appropriate, they will work together to complete either a "Vertical", or
an "In-Range" Career Ladder Initiation Form, whichever is appropriate to
the circumstances. This process includes an action plan for attaining
all education and experience requirements and acquiring the specific
competencies that the employee will need to be successful at the higher
Once this part of the process is completed the manager will enter an
estimated date for completion of the Career Ladder onto the form. The
manager may also include an estimated salary increase for the employee
upon completion, within specified guidelines. The signed Career Ladder
Initiation form, along with the appropriate Employee Eligibility
Checklist, should be sent to HR for approval. Once the manager has been
notified by HR that the Career Ladder is approved, the employee is ready
Supporting Documents Needed to Start a Vertical Career Ladder are:
Note to Managers: The proposed career ladder is not valid
without HR approval, and therefore should not be initiated until a
formal letter of approval has been received from HR.
Completing the Career Ladder
The minimum time period for a Career Ladder is six months, from
initiation to completion.
However, Career Ladders may last longer depending on:
- The time it takes to attain the qualifications, knowledge, skills
and abilities required to perform the higher level of responsibilities.
- The time it takes to complete all the elements of the action plan
outlined on the original Career Ladder Initiation Form completed at the
commencement of the Career Ladder
- The time it takes to demonstrate a satisfactory degree of
competence in the performance of the higher level responsibilities.
Estimating pay rate upon
A salary increase may be awarded when the Career Ladder is completed,
depending on individual circumstances.
- Consider that the employee's base pay must be at least the minimum
of the range of the higher level classification.
- The guidelines for salary increases found in University
policy #3500 apply to employees promoted through a Career Ladder.
- Consider that employee pay rate increases should be reviewed based
on qualifications that are related to duties and skills of the new
- Consider that a reasonable promotional increase is typically up
to 10% per grade to a maximum of 20%.
- Review the increase in the context of other employees in similar
positions in the department.
- Remember that a salary adjustment made as the result of a Career
Ladder will not trigger an equity adjustment salary increase for other
employees of the same grade and job title within your department.
Completed Career Ladder
Once the employee has successfully completed his/her career ladder,
the manager must first complete and submit to HR the following
documentation in order to put the Career Ladder completion into effect:
- A Completion of Career Ladder Form (Vertical
signed by the appropriate management personnel
- A copy of any certificates, licenses, transcripts, degrees, etc.
that were included in the Career Ladder action plan
HR will review and approve the documentation, coordinate the process
of seating the employee in the position, and notify the department of
the transaction details. No further action is required of the
- Take the initiative; meet with your manager to discuss your
interest in a Career Ladder.
- Discuss your career plans and goals with your manager; decide if a
Career Ladder approach is appropriate for you and if you are willing
and able to make the commitment necessary to be successful.
For further guidance on forms and procedures see:
Tips for Managers
- Discuss your employee's proposed Career Ladder plans in light of
departmental plans and goals.
- Be prepared to stand by your commitment to continually work with
the employee towards successful completion of the Career Ladder.
- As a manager, you have the right to extend or even terminate a
Career Ladder if the employee does not achieve minimum performance
and/or career development expectations within the estimated period of
the Career Ladder plan.
Links to Other Informative Web Sites