Career Pathing

What is Career Pathing?

Emily BarrAlignment & Direction, Leaders, Performance Culture


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Career Pathing


What is Career Pathing? 


Employee engagement and retention are the cornerstones of the modern workplace, but they are also two of the biggest challenges faced by any in-house, HR professional. There are several possible solutions to improving the decreasing numbers on engagement and retention, but one of the most valuable is the strategy of career pathing.  


Career Pathing Defined 

Career pathing is the process through which an employee plots out a course for career development inside an organization. One of the key functions of Human Resources focuses on identifying vertical and lateral opportunities for advancement for each employee, and also aims to helps employees understand the skills, experiences, and professional competencies necessary for success in each new role they enter on their career path. 


The Importance of Career Pathing 

When designed and implemented effectively, career pathing enables employees to identify the internal opportunities best suited to their own skills, experiences, competencies, interests, and preferences. As a result, your company sees dramatic improvements in several key HR areas, thereby offering extensive benefits to both individual employees and the organization as a whole.  


Employee Engagement 

Perhaps the area that stands to benefit the largest from career pathing, employee engagement sits at the top of any HR professional’s priority list almost always, and with good reason. A recent study by Achievers found that only 19% of employees consider themselves to be very engaged in their workplace, compared to the 14% who are completely disengaged, and 35% who are only somewhat engaged. Employee engagement statistics continue to decline, and while there are activities you can perform and methods of evaluation you can use to assess and improve employee engagement in your company, you can still use all the help you can get to keep your workforce happy and engaged.   

Today’s workforce is looking for more than a satisfying paycheck. They are seeking out opportunities to grow, both personally and professionally, and career pathing is one of the critical tools you can use to keep those employees engaged and content. Now more than ever, learning and development have become a key benefit for employees, both current and potential. By leveraging career pathing in your employee engagement efforts, you can provide those opportunities to your employees easily. 

Employees who engage in career pathing gain valuable insights into several areas of their performance, including: 

  • Skills and competencies 
  • Potential vertical and lateral growth opportunities within their organization 
  • Existing skill and competency gaps they should address prior to the next step in their career 
  • The resources and tools they can use to fill those gaps 

As a result, employees have a clearer picture both of where they stand currently, and what’s in store for them in terms of career development, ultimately boosting their level of engagement. 


Employee Retention 

The list of reasons why people leave their jobs is endless, but among the top influences is a lack of career growth opportunities, and a feeling that their current job isn’t a good fit for them anymore. 82% of employees report that a lack of progression would influence the decision to leave their jobs. On the flip side, 73% say that they’d stay with their company if there were plenty of skill-building opportunities offered to them. 

Offering career training and development opportunities to your employees is something that can make a huge difference in the retention rate of your company. It can keep as much as 86% of millennials from leaving their current position, a huge asset if you consider how millennials are currently the largest generation in the global workforce. 

There are several key employee retention strategies you can begin to employ in your management practices, but one of the most beneficial is that of career planning. As mentioned above, career pathing provides valuable insight into your employees’ career advancement possibilities, and clearly outlines to them the various paths they can take to get there. As such, it can contribute significantly in lowering your employee turnover rate.  


Succession Planning 

In terms of frequent obstacles faced by Human Resources department, succession planning is always a front-runner. As a common talent management practice, it confronts the challenge of planning ahead to try and avoid skill gaps in both the employer and employee’s future. This has never been an easy practice and is increasingly challenging as today’s workforce ages. 

Career pathing helps streamline this process, providing the necessary tools to help companies and employees alike better prepare for the future. It provides organizations with a clear overview of the skills and competencies of their current workforce, allowing them to identify who is best suited for what, including the training and development that may be required in order for those people to advance. The information gained through career pathing, combined with other data on employees’ interests and preferences, helps companies avoid situations where every employee is striving for the same position.  

Mapping out your current workforce also enables you to detect when, and where, you may need to introduce new players to fill in the future gaps.   

Leadership Training


Productivity and Profitability 

Disengaged employees can cost U.S. companies between $450 billion to $550 billion each year, according to a Gallup poll. Career pathing not only boosts retention rates and streamlines succession planning; it also improves employee engagement results that lead to an increase in productivity. 

Organizations that see great employee engagement from their career pathing strategy increase their overall yearly profit, due to fewer turnover costs, fewer missed days from disengaged employees, more positive interactions with customers and clients, and less employee theft. When workforces are highly engaged, their productivity and sales success rate is bound to increase along with them, meaning a greater profitability rate for the organization as a whole.  


How to Support Effective Career Pathing and Development 

Any employee who seeks to create a career path for themselves first needs to see and understand what the opportunities are that exist for them within the company. This is especially important for ambitious employees, who both want and expect consistent career development opportunities in order to remain satisfied and motivated in their work. 

A thoughtful career pathing and development plan is a key factor in employee engagement and retention, as we have already discussed. An organization contributes to an employees’ ability to develop a career path by making the knowledge, skills, experience, and job requirements for each position within the company transparent and accessible. When this information is made clear to everyone, the employees planning their career path can prepare for the various jobs and opportunities they will need to take part in along the way.  

Your company can support employees in their career pathing and development paths by providing access to the following opportunities and information: 

  • Job descriptions 
  • Job specifications 
  • Required competencies 
  • A responsive internal job application process 
  • Training classes 
  • On-the-job development opportunities 
  • Job shadowing 
  • Mentoring 
  • Promotions 
  • Transfers or lateral moves 
  • Coaching from managers and supervisors 
  • A formal succession planning process 


Additional Tools for Effective Career Pathing 

Providing access to, and being transparent about, the necessary information required for employees to formulate effective career pathing plans is critical. However, there are still several specific tools you can utilize to increase the success rate of career pathing within your company. While there are countless digital technology opportunities that aim to provide career pathing software for your business, the central functionalities that permeate all of them include: 

  • A development plan: a custom plan for your employees that outlines the learning, training, experiences, and any other requirements that will be necessary for them to reach their developmental goals. 
  • Career mapping: these create awareness among your employees about the various job types that exist within the company, and the best ways to get to those jobs. 
  • Implementation: integrating a career pathing strategy with existing learning and talent management platforms can be tricky, which technological implementation processes aim to streamline. 
  • Job matching: employees are able to match their interests, preferences, and skills to existing roles within the company, helping them pinpoint which jobs are a better fit for them.  

While there are several software companies that provide programs to help address these areas, once you have a thorough understanding of the benefits of each, you can implement them into your career pathing process, increasing the chances of success for even your most ambitious employees.  


In Summary 

An effective career pathing program empowers your employees, giving them the insight, motivation, and guidance, they need to set goals and work towards successful and fulfilling careerWhen engagement rises, retention increases, and succession plans are made clear you have an empowered workforce that bolsters organizational profitability and ensures long-term financial success.  


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