HR Management & Compliance

3 Steps to Start Experiencing the Benefits of Career Pathing in Your Company

There’s no substitute to taking the time and care to develop individuals on their path to career success. By taking a few career pathing steps, you can strengthen employee engagement and your organization’s overall outlook.

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An approach such as career pathing can be easily lost in industry jargon, when in reality, it’s a relatively straightforward and effective concept. Think of career pathing as a joint project between employer and employee to build a realistic vision board. By charting out a team member’s career into the future, career pathing includes stages, training, and tasks that are all geared toward attaining success.

For such a healthy and beneficial exercise, surprisingly few of us in the HR world attempt it in our organizations. In fact, only 7 percent of employees take positions within their current organizations to advance in their careers, Gallup research has shown. Without clear internal paths to success, employees are more likely to leave, and companies end up with less engaged, less diverse, and less creative workforces. The hesitance around career pathing stems from uneducated and far-off misconceptions. I am eager to flip the script and show how career pathing can actually deeply engage your employees and help your organization move forward.

The Myths and Misconceptions of Career Pathing

One misconception revolves around the idea that external hires will be better than internal ones. Studies show that 45 percent of positions are filled internally, but many employers misunderstand the idea of internal structure and avoid designing career plans with an internal mind-set. Consequently, this misconception discounts the value and potential of existing employees’ goals and needs.

Another myth is that career pathing is the same thing as succession planning. Employers believe that by tracking promotion opportunities across their organization, they can take care of career pathing at the same time. But the key difference between succession planning and career pathing is that the former is about the organization, and the latter is about the individual.

There’s no substitute for taking the time and care to develop individuals on their path to career success, and any worthy succession plan will include a great deal of individual career pathing.

Career Pathing’s Hidden Benefits

The proven benefits of a strategic career pathing process stand in clear opposition to the above misconceptions, but many of these benefits still remain unexplored by HR decision-makers. For one, employees with formalized career paths are better able to perform tasks that lead to career development.

Additionally, by forming clear career paths, employees equip themselves with new skills needed in today’s economy. The acquisition of new skills is highly correlated with career and company success. But while most employees recognize the importance of gaining skills, only a third are actively cultivating them at work.

If you had to boil these benefits down to the most significant one, consider this: Career pathing gives employees higher autonomy and control over their careers. Moving forward after career pathing, employees are more engaged in their own success. In fact, a study by Harvard Business Review found that employees who see their company as having an effective promotion process are twice as likely to put in more effort and engagement toward their long-term success within that company, which has an inevitable knock-on effect for businesses’ bottom lines.

3 Steps to Develop a Career Pathing Program

Forget about the misconceptions and get to the facts. Here are three steps to start implementing an effective career pathing practice in your company.

  1. Build a competency library. Help your employees seek out and develop the skills they need to succeed within your organization by supplying them with a competency library—a database of the skills and behaviors that are the most valuable to their particular role. Include a general summary of the position, as well as key responsibilities; required years of experience, education, and certifications; and a salary range. Don’t forget to delve into the possible next steps the employee might have to take after growing in the specific role. Whether it is a new title, leadership opportunities, or a clear line of potential promotions, answering “What’s next?” can encourage employees to utilize resources and set goals to help get them there.
  2. Assess employees based on their own goals. If employees are treated like one lump of talent, they’re never going to reach their potential through promotion. Research shows that when workplaces use a strengths-based approach to assign tasks and responsibilities, employees are six times more engaged. With this in mind, evaluate development opportunities based on an individual’s abilities, interests, and career aspirations so you can provide them with opportunities that they’ll excel at and engage deeply in. Do this by utilizing assessments that determine such skills, experiences, and preferences that can cater toward specific growth opportunities.
  3. Identify skills gaps and take action. An effective career pathing practice is as productive for the organization as it is for the individual. To do this, make promotions work for the good of the company by aligning skills development with your business goals. “Upskilling,” or training existing employees in new growth areas, helps team members and the company grow in tandem. Take an honest look at the overall strengths and weaknesses of your employees. Do many of them lack the basic knowledge of search engine optimization (SEO) or writing effective client e-mails? Don’t ignore this gap. Instead, curate seminars, lunch-and-learns, or even quick tutorials to get them up to speed.

The first step you can take as an employer and HR professional to banish the myths around career pathing is to acknowledge the impressive benefits it can bring to your organization. There’s no question that employees want more—to learn new skills, to increase autonomy and control, and to positively impact their places of work. By following the three career pathing steps above, you can put your best foot forward when it comes to strengthening employees’ engagement and the overall outlook for your organization’s future.

Linda Ginac is the chairman, president, and CEO of TalentGuard, the most powerful award-winning employee engagement solution on the market. As a predictive development company, TalentGuard’s team helps transform talent management with the power of cognitive and predictive cloud software, which has helped hundreds of companies better engage, retain, and develop talent.