Career Pathing

By Karin Tierney

Career pathing is a structured, comprehensive development planning process intended to help employees visualize their career potential within an organization.  The process requires employees to take an honest look at their career goals, skills, needed knowledge, experience and personal characteristics. They are then encouraged to make a plan for achieving what is necessary in each of these areas in order to advance in their careers.

In organizations that have formal processes for career pathing, such as performance development planning (PDP), employees receive support and assistance in their efforts to develop their development goals and progress. A more traditional form of career pathing has been the use of performance reviews and discussions. While it is thought that performance reviews tend to focus more on past accomplishments, a key aspect of reviewing an employee’s progress and performance includes understanding and creating a documented path for growth and development. Regardless of the label used, career pathing can benefit both employers and employees.

Benefits of Career Pathing

The following benefits can influence an organization to embrace formal career pathing:

  • Greater awareness of talent and their professional goals
  • Better employee engagement
  • Greater ability to meet employee demands
  • More diversity at the leadership level
  • More opportunity for advancement
  • Better understanding of employees who wish to advance and those who do not

Organizations that implement career pathing tend to have more engaged employees, because employees believe that their employers are concerned about their growth—providing avenues to reach individual career goals while fulfilling their organization’s mission. Career paths provide employees with an ongoing mechanism to enhance their skills and knowledge that can lead to mastery of their current jobs, promotions and transfers.

How to Implement a Career Pathing Initiative

There are four main steps for employers to consider when creating a formal career pathing initiative.

Step 1: Identify the Organization’s Career Progression Needs

Employees often desire career progression want to know how to make it happen. Employees are navigating career lattices, where there are multiple routes to desired positions. Organizations must consider how strategic business objectives will align with career path opportunities, what skills and expertise are required from employees and how to build the right foundational framework—something clear to employees who are looking for an internal career change.

Step 2: Build a Foundational Framework

The starting point of a sound organizational framework is the job family—a collection of competency-based job role profiles that include competencies, experiences, credentials and qualifications. A competency-based framework is designed to translate the organization’s strategic business objectives into tangible actions on the part of employees, increasing transparency on how employees engage with the company.

Step 3: Set Employees Up for Successful Career Pathing

It is important to assess employees’ talent profiles against the job profiles that have been created. This gives insight into how ready an individual is for a specific role and helps determine short- and long-term career paths. It is also important to enable employees to develop their paths in ways that are meaningful to them.

Step 4: Communication, Development and Assessment

Employees may have questions around the career pathing initiative. Communicating about expectations and implementation methods is key. Employees and managers will require training to understand how career pathing will change the way job performance and career options are managed. Training and communication will help to clarify roles and responsibilities so there are fewer misconceptions or misalignments of expectations along the way. Employers should also create assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of the programs and whether improvements are needed.

How to Use Career Pathing as a Tool for Onboarding and Retention

Employers need to ensure that their employees want to stay, even when they are ready for a change in their careers. Career pathing is vital to both onboarding and retention.

Make Sure There Are Real Career Opportunities Available

Many organizations underestimate the total career opportunities available to their employees because their mindsets are about traditional career paths, based on hierarchy and experience instead of potential.  However, that way of thinking limits the number of available career opportunities. Employers should make a practice of revisiting employees’ resumes to tap into their strengths and interests so they can maximize the potential of their talent base.

Make Sure Available Career Paths Are Visible

If employees cannot see the available career paths in an organization, they may assume other career opportunities are nonexistent. Employers may consider tapping into data aggregation technologies that harness information about roles and skills, so they can map dynamic career paths across the organization. They can then empower employees with a self-service interface to view and explore these internal career paths and learning tracks.

Create a System to Facilitate Internal Career Moves

Not many organizations invest as much in internal career management platforms and practices as they do in external recruitment. HR leaders should consider upgrading to cloud-based systems with a powerful functionality that allows them to connect what they learned from the onboarding process to the employees’ career paths. This is especially important in organizations with higher rates of turnover.

For more information about career pathing and retention strategies, contact Karin at Hickok & Boardman HR Intelligence, [email protected].