“I’m leaving the company to advance my career and take on new challenges.” It’s a phrase you may never want to hear during an exit interview with a valued employee.
Most employees are driven by fresh opportunities and the chance to grow. They want to keep learning, achieving and taking on more responsibility. If nothing else, most employees want to earn bigger paychecks. If they don’t think this is possible with your organization, they’ll probably seek it elsewhere.
Developing career paths in your organization can help stem turnover and benefit your company in other ways.
Keep an Open Mind
They say it’s hard to reach your destination if you don’t know where you’re going. This couldn’t be closer to the truth when it comes to career pathing, which serves as a roadmap for you and your employees.
Career pathing is a process where employers and employees work collaboratively to define and develop an employee’s skills in ways that support the company’s current or future needs and fulfill the employee’s career goals. Ultimately, it’s a way to allow the employee to grow within the company, aligning with your organization’s goals, taking on bigger challenges and developing skills that will propel him or her to more advanced roles. It also signals to key employees that the company values their talents, contributions and potential.
To develop a career path, employees should meet with their manager, mentor or HR professional to discuss their skills, interests and career goals. At this point, it’s ideal for all parties to have an open mind about how the path should develop. Just because the current head of marketing came up through sales doesn’t mean the next one has to take the same path.
Take a Step-by-Step Approach
Once you have the end result or targeted position for a specific employee in mind, consider the steps along the way that will move that employee toward his or her career goal. One approach is to analyze the employee’s potential strengths and weaknesses in the targeted job.
For instance, if you’re grooming someone for a finance role that includes a large staff, strengths might include his or her education and CPA credentials while a weakness could be the lack of managerial experience. Hence, a career path for this employee might specify the necessary training in management or offer opportunities for the individual to lead teams in project work. Building employees’ skills incrementally over time, rather than all at once, is a better approach to help them progress.
Don’t focus your energies on just the employees’ skills. Career pathing should also address the internal knowledge employees will need to succeed in the targeted role, such as the inner workings of your company, industry expertise and competitive information.
Hit the Road
Some may argue that it’s solely an employee’s responsibility to define and develop his or her own career path and future. But by providing career pathing, companies gain as well — from retention of the expertise and training they’ve already invested in to the foundation that is set to groom executives. Keep in mind that collaboration is key to helping employees and companies alike hit the road to long-term success.
One Employee’s Ladder Can Be Another Employee’s Trap
In dealing with employees, there’s no such thing as “one size fits all.” This definitely applies to career pathing as well. Not everyone wants to climb to the top of the ladder, and moving up through management is not the only way an organization can strengthen their “bench” and retain key talent. That’s why development planning needs to be a personalized, collaborative effort between employees and their managers.
There can be any number of reasons why employees might be content to stay in their positions year after year. The stability and predictability of their current jobs may be ideal for them to pursue non-work interests, or they might just enjoy and be fulfilled by the work that they do. If that’s their choice, and organizationally you can accommodate it, honor their decision without pressuring them to “move up” or take on more responsibilities that they don’t want or might not perform up to expectations.
Employees who don’t opt for the management track aren’t necessarily less dedicated to your company or their work. In fact, workers can become a greater asset to your company if they become specialized. As long as employees continue to bring value to your organization and you can meet their needs, a long and satisfying relationship can exist for all.