career paths for 2021

Career Paths for 2021

A sign of successful leadership is the ability to invest in your team and your employees. One proven way to develop your employees is through career paths. Creating career paths can be advantageous not only because it can increase an employee’s initiative and productivity, but it also goes a long way with retention efforts. As many businesses look for ways to retain their top talent, creating a plan and investing in employee’s personal growth can often go overlooked.

So, what exactly is career pathing?

Career pathing is a structured and comprehensive development plan uniquely adapted to pave the way for employees to identify their interests and career potential within the company. It involves an honest assessment of the employee’s skills, experience, goals, needed knowledge or shortfalls, and personal competencies necessary for success in each new role. If your organization has various departments and position openings, this can be essential in grooming current talent for promotional opportunities. However, if your company is smaller and lacks some vertical or lateral opportunities, offering ways to expand their current role and responsibilities can be just as powerful and yield incredible growth as well as increased engagement. Career pathing can also be sideways as well as up. Having knowledge in one key area of a company and moving to another department can add a lot of depth and value for both.

The below highlights ways to develop clear career paths to allow employees to grow while your business or team productivity grows as well.

Why Focus on Career Paths?

Employee Retention

Employees who engage in career paths gain valuable insights into several areas of their performance, including: 

  • Skills and competencies 
  • Potential vertical and lateral growth opportunities within their organization 
  • Existing skill and competency gaps they should address prior to the next step in their career 
  • The resources and tools they can use to fill those gaps 

Incorporate Career Goals and Interests in One-on-One Meetings

One-on-one meetings have long been used to cover current results and progress as it relates to the goals and objectives of the team. While this will continue to be important in driving results, make it a point to identify individual career goals and interests to help in building a plan. As mentioned earlier, understanding your employee’s strengths and aligning those with their interest is an important step in building a successful career path. What experiences are they lacking or what areas can they expand upon? Where does this employee excel? A leader should view the employee as not just a resource or contributor to the team, but as a resource to the organization. This encourages development outside the employee’s current position and allows for contributions that benefit the entire organization.

Once the employees’ interests and skills are discussed, identify other positions that meet their interests, otherwise known as career mapping. Keep in mind, another position doesn’t always have to be the focus. Assigning special projects or areas that could use additional attention can also play an important role in expanding and developing your employee’s skills.

Support Training and Learning Opportunities

Whether it is webinars, seminars, tuition reimbursement, projects, mentoring, or job shadowing, employees can learn and grow in a variety of different ways. Create one-year, three-year, and five-year-plus plans that identify various avenues to develop different skills. The plans should incorporate ways that push employees to grow outside their comfort zone and challenge them in new ways. If employees never leave their comfort zone, they won’t grow. If they don’t grow, they are not moving forward. Companies must evaluate various costs and the unique training needs of employees to develop a variety of learning avenues. As such, it’s critical to explore and offer a wide range of training options. Leaders that prioritize learning through various training or educational opportunities, build trust with their employees. Employees begin to feel that their growth and development is a priority and that goes a long way in creating an engaged workforce.

Leverage Responsibility for High Performers

Allow your employees to take the lead and use initiative. It is a good practice to trust an employee’s judgment and give them some responsibility. Build-in projects to lead or other functions of the organization as part of the employee’s career path. This not only gives them greater ownership but also lets them know what they need to succeed. Oftentimes, high performers crave that additional responsibility and thrive on that opportunity to learn and take the lead. As discussed, aligning different responsibilities can be a great alternative when promotions or advancement opportunities are not readily available.

Make Room for Development

While finding responsibilities that align with an employee’s interests or organizing training opportunities for growth can be rewarding, it’s vital to ensure employees don’t feel like they’re being squeezed for additional work. Career pathing can feel counter-intuitive if it comes off as additional work and responsibilities without a new title or a raise. The best way to circumvent this is to offset some of the more administrative tasks or reassign smaller projects to make room for newer opportunities. Leaders should be proactive, think through new work roles and balance the opportunity to develop and learn with feeling rewarded and engaged as well.

Looking at career path plans that are not just about hierarchy and vertical movement allows your organization to leverage a lot more talent and improve productivity and retention efforts as well. Leaders should make a habit of revisiting plans and discussing progress and goals along the way. This will help in maximizing the potential of your talent base.

By Kim Matus, Human Resource Business Partner, HR Service, Inc.

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