With the economy back in full swing, employers are encountering more difficulty keeping quality employees on board, which is especially problematic given that it takes longer (and costs more) to replace employees today. Thankfully, there are a lot of actions that employers can take to proactively reduce turnover. One such option is to focus on creating true career paths for employees and take steps to ensure that such a path not only exists but also is realistic and achievable.
Tips for Employers Implementing Career Paths
Creating career paths for employees is truly something that is easier said than done. It’s a simple enough idea: Create a realistic career path for individuals to grow into over time, thus helping employees to be more satisfied with their jobs and more likely to remain with the organization longer. But, it’s much more complex to implement. Here are a few tips for employers considering this involved but rewarding option for employee retention.
- Understand that cultural shifts take time and effort. For many organizations, the entire idea of employee career paths will represent a cultural shift. Cultural change can be a significant undertaking and will require buy-in across all levels of the organization. Don’t short-change this process.
- Buy-in is critical. Get buy-in from all levels, starting at the executive level. There should be a mindset shift in which everyone looks internally for candidates to promote before posting a job externally. (With exceptions of course where a job must be posted externally to meet legal requirements.)
- It may require coordination across multiple departments. The HR team will need to work with those in charge of updating any HR software that will be utilized in this process. For example, human resource information systems (HRIS) may need updating, learning management systems (if used) may need updating, and more. Employee career goals should be incorporated into any employee electronic files along with information relating to that individual’s current education and experience level and the steps needed to get to the next career stage. This information can help the organization see a full picture of career progression for any individual, team, or department. This may be a big undertaking if the organization’s existing HR software (such as performance review software and/or HRIS software) does not already have this functionality available. There must be a way for the organization to assess where it stands and what skills gaps exist. For some organizations, this may even mean a complete overhaul of the existing systems.
- It will also require input from all stakeholders. Formulate a plan that incorporates input from all levels, including the employees themselves. Utilize things like engagement surveys and even in-person employee interviews to gain understanding of what employees want. This helps to build buy-in when the eventual career paths are implemented.
- Financial investment will probably be required. Recognize that this type of change may mean the organization needs to invest in employee training and development programs, even if new software (mentioned above) is not required. This can be done in many different ways, with differing price tags, but it will likely be a necessary part of the process if the organization wants employees to stay onboard while developing their skills to advance to new levels.
- A lot of work happens before the career paths are even created. All of the tips we’ve been discussing are part of the groundwork for such a program. Only after a good framework is in place should the organization actually create career paths for all levels. There should be clear criteria for progression, including number of years’ experience and training required to advance. But, the career path should be created only after there are ways to actually utilize it in practice.
- Communication about the plans can make or break the entire program. Craft a detailed communications plan. The way the career paths are communicated can directly impact how well-received they are by employees, which will in turn affect how much the program impacts turnover over time.
This type of program is simple enough to talk about but much more complex to implement in reality. It requires careful planning, updated technology (in many cases), new processes, and often a cultural shift. Even then, it takes time to realize results. But, in the long run, this is the type of cultural change that can positively impact the organization’s productivity and morale and reduce turnover along the way.