According to SHRM, many factors can influence the need for an organization to embrace career pathing, such as:
- Inability to find, recruit and place the right talent for the right position
- Employee disengagement
- Employee demands for greater workplace flexibility
- Lack of diversity at the top levels of organization (Executive, Director, Manager).
- A multigenerational workforce
- Limited opportunity for advancement in flatter (less official tiers of promotion) or smaller organizations
- Organizational culture change (merger, acquisition, layoffs, fast growth, etc.)
Proactively creating a career pathing program to retain and develop talent can help you confront these workforce issues.
“Career development at every level is important to organizational success. Employees desire to feel part of a team that is working to achieve common goals. When a clear path is set for an employee, the result is a happier, more engaged, driven employee who will go above and beyond to help the organization succeed.”
– Cathy Siska, Chief Operating Officer, Austin Benefits Group.
Career Ladders v. Career Pathing
Career pathing and career ladders are two methods by which an employee can progress within your organization. Career ladders are straight forward. They have a vertical progression where positions are ranked lowest to highest based on responsibilities and compensation. Career pathing can be much more complex. It can consist of traditional career ladders, horizontal (lateral) paths, progression outside their department/organization, radial paths (mastery of their role, added responsibility), and encore careers (usually later in life with continued income, focusing on social impact and greater meaning).
The Business Benefits of Career Pathing
A thoughtful career pathing program that is aligned with your company’s goals can help your business with the following:
Stand Out From the Crowd
If you are struggling to recruit top talent, look at the practices of your competitors. If your competitors offer career-pathing opportunities and you do not, you may be losing out on qualified candidates due to the allure of talent development programs at other companies.
This will be especially true in industries that naturally have high-competition and tend to see more job-hopping. 45% of employees plan to stay with their employer for less than two years per a survey by CareerBuilder. Compensation is a significant reason, but not the only concern for an employee considering a move. 59% of respondents of a LinkedIn survey chose their new company because they saw a stronger career path or more opportunity there. Employees aren’t sticking around for a small annual raise anymore, they want to develop their skills which may mean earning more but also providing more value.
Retain Top Performers
You should identify employees who are key to the execution of your business goals and then develop or update plans to meet their needs. These employees may include both those to be considered high-performing and those who are in short supply in the job market.
Remember that career pathing is not necessarily about vertical promotion, also consider coaching/mentoring these individuals to help them further develop mastery of their field or other business skills. For example, you make have a high-performing individual with technical skills for your industry, but they are interested in brushing up their business management or networking.
Provide Value to Younger Workers
If your company offers few or no internal advancement opportunities, employees (especially younger employees) may feel stuck or bored in their current roles. As a result, employees who began in entry-level roles may look elsewhere for employment after they have gained a few years of experience. Career pathing provides employees with an ongoing mechanism to sharpen their skills, which can lead to mastery of their current jobs, promotions, and transfers. Providing a visible career path will help employees strive to reach their goals to continue to advance their career.
Today’s workers are less committed to the companies they work for than employees were 20 years ago. In a recent study from Multiple Generations at Work, 91 percent of millennials will stay at a job for less than three years—a pace that equates to 15-20 jobs over the course of their careers. Employees at organizations with career pathing tend to be more engaged because they feel like their employer is concerned about their growth and long-term success. Engaged employees are less likely to look for a new job, which can help reduce turnover-related expenses.
Diversity is key to bringing innovative ideas to your organization. By building your talent base and promoting internally, you can gain perspectives from employees who may have begun in entry-level positions and who bring various backgrounds and experiences to the table.
Successful Career Pathing
Successful career pathing will come from support at many levels including Human Resources, executives, and managers. It may also require some change in thought, as not every employee with have the same aspirations or needs from career pathing.
What expectations should you have for career pathing participation?
HR: Develop career pathing policy and assessments. Help managers develop employees as organization resources, not department-only resources. Ensure fair and consistent promotion policy/procedures. Facilitate employee development through coaching or other training.
Executives: Provide support and visibility for the career pathing initiative
Managers: Will be responsible for providing feedback and documenting regular performance evaluations. Managers may also be able to take the primary role in career pathing by helping develop plans for their team members.
Employees: Responsible for completing a self-assessment, meet regularly with manager or HR regarding their career path, provide feedback on the career pathing program.
Where should we start?
Start with a conversation with the employee to help them think about what their goals are and how to help them meet them while staying at your organization. This can be a conversation with HR or with a front-line manager, though you’ll want to be sure all your managers are on the same page so all employees are treated equally.
To guide your conversation, have employees complete a self-assessment of their current skills and knowledge, as well as past accomplishments. From there you can work to build an individualized career path. Giving employees something to work toward that is based on their specific value and goals can help increase engagement and productivity.
Your employee assessments may vary based on your industry, though you should be sure to include overall skills (like customer service, writing skills, organized, etc.) and personality traits (friendly, creative, independent, etc.). To help you specifically with assessing if an employee is ready to move into management on their career path, we’ve prepared a Management Aptitude Assessment. Fill out the form below to download the free assessment.