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April 22, 2024

Improve Talent Attraction and Retention with Career Pathing


Instead of defining rungs on a career ladder, you can improve the employee experience through career pathing.

Traditionally, conversations about career advancement involve talk of climbing the corporate ladder. Entry-level positions are at the bottom of the ladder, and each rung gets you closer to a leadership position.

But according to a recent Gartner report on strategic HR initiatives, career paths aren’t as clearly defined as they used to be. Why? Because, with reduced time in the physical office for many, growth options are less obvious and visible.

There’s also less drive to climb the corporate ladder.

Instead of defining rungs on a career ladder, you can improve the employee experience by defining career paths.

What’s a Career Path?

Although career pathing may sound similar to succession planning or professional or employee development, there are important differences:

  1. Employee or professional development identifies each person’s specific role in the organization and the skills they need in order to keep contributing.
  2. Succession planning identifies the right people to step into leadership roles when the time comes and ensures they develop the skills they need beforehand to fill those roles.
  3. Career pathing gives employees a map that outlines options for moving around within your organization based on interests, skills, and personal career goals.

How You Can Use Career Pathing

Any integrator can map career paths, but it’s especially useful if you need people who have specific or hard-to-find sets of skills and experiences. This is even more heightened in a competitive job market, where the options for outside talent are especially limited.

For example, if your business needs people who are in short supply, like people with a particular set of certifications, career pathing can help you build an internal pipeline for those careers.

Career pathing can also be helpful to support internal promotion for those in entry-level and junior-level positions.

With clear career maps in place, your organization may also have a recruiting advantage. You’ll be able to show potential candidates their options for vertical and lateral moves within your company over time, as well as cross-training options, which helps them better envision their careers at your organization.

In addition to recruitment, career pathing is a very useful tool for retention and employee engagement. When employees see that their organization values their personal career goals by sharing different ways they can grow there, they’ll naturally feel more engaged so they are:

  • Empowered to take ownership of their work
  • Less likely to look for other employment options
  • Encouraged to grow their leadership qualities
  • More aligned and connected to broader company goals

5 Steps to Plan Your Employee Career Paths

If you want to get started on career pathing, there are five steps you can follow:

  1. Use your organizational chart to start thinking about general career paths available within your organization for different roles.
  2. Use your company’s compensation policyto keep pathways as consistent and fair as possible as you map paths.
  3. Include HR in your career pathing exercises to help you identify the training and support that each pathway may require.
  4. Keep in mind that not all pathways are vertical. There may be opportunities for someone to shift “sideways” in your organization.
  5. Think about how employee progress within these paths will affect your whole organization. For example, how does moving someone from IT into project management affect your company’s infrastructure?

NSCA and Insperity are here to offer guidance on attracting, retaining, and engaging today’s workforce. You can learn more about career paths here.

Bonnie Monych is a performance specialist for Insperity, an NSCA Business Accelerator.

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