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Recent research by Gartner HR finds that just 25% of employees are confident about their career at their current organization. Moreover, the subjectivity of ad-hoc promotions can prevent high performers from getting promoted to their deserved roles—because there’s no concrete basis to base promotion decisions on.
One key solution to this problem is career pathing. It serves as the basis for promotion decisions. It serves as a system to reward your high performers with their deserved positions. It serves as a system to provide your low performers with the vision they need to boost their productivity and work towards turning into high performers themselves.
With over 3 million people quitting their job every month in the US in 2022, People & Culture leaders are doubling down on employee retention and engagement more than ever. While the reasons for attrition are numerous, the lack of a career vision and foreseeable growth opportunities stands out in particular. In fact, 86% of millennials would leave their current position if career development and training were not offered.
Why Career Pathing is Long Overdue in Your Organization
Career pathing can generally be defined as the process of charting career goals and the development trajectory of an employee. The growth opportunities that it offers are one of the key motivators that increase job satisfaction, according to Herzberg’s two-factor theory. What’s also interesting is that career pathing isn’t necessarily a charity or a one-way transaction. It’s rather a win-win system that benefits the employer as well as the employee.
- It increases employee engagement, and consequently, retention. 73% of employees switch companies to get ahead in their careers. That’s why taking a step towards developing your employees’ skills and offering them the coaching they need encourages them to continue working at your organization for the long term.
- It boosts productivity and profitability. A clearly thought-out career plan gives people a vision to work towards, and motivates them to work harder to achieve their personal career goals. To the employer, this translates to a team of hardworking people working towards the common goal of building a better future for the organization.
- It ensures more diversity at the top. It is common knowledge that women and minorities are severely underrepresented in senior-level management positions. The existence of a bias, whether conscious or unconscious, is indubitable. Career pathing can help level the playing field by providing consistent guidance regardless of demographics.
- It aids in succession planning. Career pathing helps organizations identify growth opportunities for people. In doing so, it helps them identify the next role a high-potential employee can work towards and can guide people managers to coach the employee for the next position in their career path. Finding the right talent to place in the right position is getting harder and harder and career pathing can do exactly that.
- It offers a huge return on hiring investment. Acquiring a new employee requires a lot of investment on your part—be it time, money, or energy. However, career pathing can make sure that your efforts are well-rewarded with engaged employees that stay for the long-term.
Internal Recruiting: A Rewarding By-Product of Career Pathing
Internal recruitment is the process of hiring someone from your existing workforce for a vacant position. Be it reorganizations, transfers, role changes, or internal promotions—career pathing facilitates them all with ease. This isn’t to mention the less time spent onboarding, the boosted morale and loyalty among internal hires, the more diversity in your workforce, the better cultural fit, and the shorter learning curve.
93% of young professionals say they left their employer the last time they changed roles. Career pathing is the key to bringing this number down. The effort you put into molding your people for a better future benefits you by opening up internal recruitment opportunities for you. What goes around, comes around.
A whopping 40-60% of external hires don’t work out. Internal hires are proven to have much higher success rates. Moreover, the cost to replace a single employee with an external recruit can range anywhere from 16% to a whopping 213% of their annual salary. On the other hand, it is significantly cheaper to recruit internally by establishing career pathing strategies in your organization early on.
There’s of course, the paradox of the vacancy left behind when someone is internally recruited to another role. However, as long as the vacancies left behind are limited to junior/entry-level positions, the external recruitment costs can be kept in check. In this regard, internal recruitment can save you big money.
The Career Pathing Starter Kit—Best Practices to Scale Employee Development
Now that we’ve established the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of career pathing, let’s move on to the ‘how’. How do you build a career path? Team leaders and managers choose to go about this in many ways. Some choose to relay their own journey of how they came upon their current position. Others build on the age-old question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”. But how can you go further and help employees build out a more concrete career plan? Let’s take a look.
- Identify core competencies. Every position requires a certain set of skills to execute to perfection. Identify the skills for each role and bridge the skill gaps for the people with the highest potential to excel in these roles by offering coaching and mentoring from internal experts.
- Ensure equal participation from people managers as well as the team members. Ensuring that people managers acknowledge their team members as resources to the whole organization as opposed to their own department is key. This guides the people manager to coach the employee on skills outside of their current role, opening up new opportunities for them.
- Align career pathing with the company’s goals. For a mutually beneficial career pathing program, the career trajectories you design for your people should align with your organization’s needs. This can be helped by reaching a common ground based on the personal requirements of your team member and the needs of your organization.
- Keep it realistic. Ensure that the career paths you design are realistic and achievable. An ideal career path is one that is aligned with the individual’s existing skills while also offering opportunities for upskilling in a reasonable timeframe.
- Communicate career pathing as a benefit. Career pathing doesn’t just benefit your people for the duration of their employment with your organization. It prepares them for future roles outside of your organization as well. It sets the stage for the transition from “lifetime employment” to “lifetime employability”.
Career Pathing is The Key To Employee Retention
In conclusion, career pathing rewards the employer and the employee in more ways than one. Ultimately, it sets the atmosphere of a forward-thinking workspace where the seed your employee sows today reaps them rewards not just for tomorrow, but for the foreseeable future.
The more a workplace cares about the professional development of its people, the more people get engaged. And the more your people are satisfied and engaged with work at your organization, the more they choose to stay.