True or false: Helping employees discover their ideal career path is for do-gooders. Or here’s another one: The benefits of L&D programs are only felt when the acquired skills are actually applied. What if we take it a step further: Once somebody leaves a company, they become irrelevant to the organization.
There is a single answer to all of these statements, and it might not be the one you assume. First, you need to zoom out and look at the big picture–i.e., career pathing.
What Exactly Is Career Pathing?
Career pathing is the process of outlining the advancement of an employee towards a long-term professional goal. It is a type of roadmap of the roles an employee must hold on their route to landing a specific job. This does not always mean upward movement through a hierarchy, because many companies have a flat organizational structure. It can also mean evolving to more advanced levels of responsibility, skill, and salary.
Career pathing is individualized by nature. Different workers have varying competencies, ambitions, work/life preferences, etc., so no two career path programs are identical.
But Wait–Isn’t Career Pathing an Employee’s Concern?
As for the three statements posed at the outset, the answer is the same for each: FALSE. Implementing a career path program is advantageous to almost any organization–not to mention the value it brings to the worker. And yes, that’s true even if certain acquired skills are never used while the employee works for the company. Here are some of the reasons why:
Facilitates hiring and succession
Employees who stick to their career path are an ideal source for internal hires. A supportive HR department will track their career pathing candidates over the course of their development and so have a ready pool of candidates who have been trained to fit pre-defined roles.
One of the most common reasons for employees to seek other work is that they feel a lack of investment by their employer in their career; 70% of employees would leave their current job if they were offered better learning and development programs. The dedication that a company shows by providing free training opportunities convinces employees to stay longer at their current job. This is (at least in the short term) regardless of the eventual promotion of the worker based on their career plan.
Leads to loyal alumni
Few companies can accommodate the whole career path of every employee, simply because the number of senior positions is limited. However, by assisting workers to meet their professional goals, companies will benefit from their loyalty, even when they are employed elsewhere. This can include connections, hiring referrals, and even future sales and contracts.
The 5 Steps of Supporting Employee Career Plans
1. Background Work
Before suggesting a career path, the employer must know what job positions it needs. Getting the information can be time consuming, but is practical beyond career pathing. Identifying current and future positions is vital for strategic planning and plugging skill gaps. In short, HR departments should:
- Ensure that organizational charts are complete
- Discuss future staffing and skill requirements with strategy managers
- Build a ‘shopping list’ of potential vacancies according to strategic requirements and expected turnover, including succession
Next, HR should research the details behind each position. What skills, educational history, and work experience are needed for each? What are the preceding roles and success factors that enable an employee to reach higher levels in the organization? The completion of this process will result in a profile for each job type, which is essential for the next step.
With profiles in hand, HR should then meet with managers to match positions with employees. Managers are familiar with both the talents of their staff and what is required to move up in a company, and so they are an ideal starting point.
After determining relevant employees, HR should meet with the candidates to:
- Explain career pathing and how they can benefit
- Inquire as to the goals and commitment level of the employee
- Work together in outlining the skills, advancements, and responsibilities that the employee will require to get from their current position to their stated goal
Undoubtedly, the employee will need to contemplate the move and consult with ‘stakeholders’, which is why the matching phase typically takes several meetings.
4. Upskilling and Usage
With both the employee and the skill requirement at hand, the HR or L&D department should organize and implement learning and development programs according to the individual’s next step in the career path.
Once upskilling is completed, the challenge is to wait until an actual position in the company becomes available. If this doesn’t happen soon, then the HR department, or even a manager, should arrange for the employee to exercise their skills. This could be in an unofficial capacity or by rotating with another worker who is cross-training. In this way, the worker can minimize the loss of the learned skill that happens over time.
5. Follow-ups and Tracking
As the organization evolves, so do skill requirements. Chances are that the strategy and/or skills that affected an employee’s career track a few years ago might no longer be relevant. It is therefore necessary to update career paths once in a while.
Tracking a worker’s progress along the intended path is important. This will serve to keep the HR department apprised of an employee’s current abilities in case they match an opening in the company. Additionally, if a worker is not keeping up with their career plans, HR can investigate and perhaps provide advice.
Let GrowthSpace Lead Your Career Pathing Initiative
Career planning is as personalized as the person in question, as are the L&D programs that lie at their core. It can be a challenge for companies to find the right experts to match the unique development needs of each employee.
But with GrowthSpace, organizations of any size can connect with world-class trainers, experts, and mentors. GrowthSpace’s L&D platform supports rapid and effective career skills training through sprint-based sessions that reduce interference with busy schedules, while achieving desired results.