What’s the most common reason for quitting a job?

A lack of career development and advancement, according to a 2022 McKinsey study. Resolving the issue could save American businesses US$1 trillion a year in turnover costs.

It’s why planning for the individual success of your people—also known as career pathing—is essential for your organization’s success. 

Career pathing creates a roadmap for your people to fulfill their career aspirations.

It unlocks your people’s potential. It charts a course that develops their skills and improves business performance.

By giving you a clear understanding of your people’s needs and aspirations, career pathing can also make internal recruitment and succession planning much easier.

With a whole host of benefits like these, it’s no wonder that HR professionals are putting career pathing into practice within their organizations. 

This piece will introduce you to the definition of a career pathway, the many benefits career pathing provides, and how to implement it.

Understanding the essence of career pathing

What is career pathing? And what is a career pathway?

Career pathing is the act of planning an individual’s career pathway. A career pathway outlines how a person will progress to different roles that make the most of their talents and fulfill their career aspirations.

Not everyone uses career paths to move up the career ladder. They could be more interested in a lateral move that’s a closer fit for their goals and interests. 

Career pathing is a way of investing in your people that helps them get to where they want to be professionally. It’s an important part of an organization’s employee learning and development program. 

Career pathing requires a deep understanding of a person’s interests and capabilities. By recognizing the unique strengths of individual team members, you can tailor career paths that are both personally fulfilling for your people and strategically advantageous for your company’s goals.

The crucial role of career pathing in organizational success

Companies that use career pathing tend to boast higher job satisfaction and retention rates.

After all, people are more likely to feel engaged with their work and commit for the long term when they see a clear trajectory for their career development. This not only reduces recruitment and training costs but also contributes to a stable and experienced workforce—something that’s invaluable in the aftermath of the Great Resignation. 

But companies that also provide the means for team members to reach their goals—in the form of training and development initiatives—reap the full benefits of career pathing.

Putting those initiatives in place creates a culture of continuous learning and development. This kind of culture drives organizational success because it nurtures a skilled workforce that boosts business performance.

A culture that encourages employee development and provides opportunities for progression forges a powerful employer brand that attracts and retains top talent, increasing the employee growth rate

This can help the HR team recruit internally and plan for succession with plenty of skilled talent to choose from.

In short, you have everything to gain from implementing career pathing and prioritizing career development

It’s a win-win for a company and its people.

Differentiating career pathing from career mapping

Career pathing is a detailed, personalized progression plan. It outlines how a team member can reach certain positions within an organization that fulfill their career goals.

Career mapping, on the other hand, doesn’t focus on one path, but on the bigger picture. It’s a plan for a person’s entire professional life—which can include switching to different careers.

Proactive steps companies can take to enhance career pathing

Here are some steps you can take to enhance career pathing within your organization:

  1. Talk to your people. Clear, regular, and open communication helps you understand your team members’ needs and aspirations. Create an environment where people feel comfortable expressing their goals, concerns, and expectations. Regular one-on-one meetings are a great way to answer career pathing questions.
  2. Create individual career paths. Like an employee development plan template, career pathing outlines people’s goals, strengths, areas for improvement, and steps for career advancement. Create a solid plan that describes how they can reach their goals.
  3. Provide skill development opportunities. Career pathing only works in an environment that provides the means for team members to reach their goals. Provide avenues for skill development in the form of workshops, job rotations, mentorship programs, training courses, and access to online learning platforms. By investing in the continuous development of your workforce, you’ll be preparing your people for evolving roles within your company.

Empowering managers to sculpt impactful career journeys for their teams

Employee career pathing is more than just outlining career progression—it’s about marrying an individual’s personality, skills, and goals to company needs. 

Managers are well placed to achieve this. They have unique insights into their team members’ competencies and aspirations. 

The following strategies can help managers sculpt impactful career journeys for their teams:

  • Goal-setting workshops. Goal-setting workshops teach your managers how to set effective goals with their team members. This clarifies the company’s expectations and helps create a roadmap for each team member’s career progression.
  • Recognition of individual talents. Managers play a crucial role in recognizing the unique talents of each team member. Understanding their people’s strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations allows managers to tailor career paths that align with individual capabilities and interests.
  • Encouraging career conversations. Encourage your managers to have career conversations with their team members. These conversations could involve discussions on individual goals, growth opportunities, or development plans.
  • Advocacy for team members. Managers can contribute to their team members’ career journeys by highlighting their achievements and recommending them for the right opportunities. They can also ensure all recognition and advancement is fair and transparent.

Exploring HR-driven frameworks that fuel employee development

HR can establish career pathing frameworks that align individual aspirations with organizational goals. Below you’ll find examples of strategies that can fuel your people’s development:

  • Clear career paths. Define the responsibilities and required skills for each role, along with possible routes for progression. Providing people with clear career pathing models allows them to plan their development, making the process easier. 
  • Skill development programs. By identifying skill gaps through assessments and feedback, HR can design training initiatives that help individuals gain the expertise they need to reach their desired positions.
  • Job rotation. A job rotation program gives people the opportunity to experience other roles they’re interested in, develop new skills, and redefine their goals.
  • Succession planning. HR can ensure smooth transitions to leadership roles by recognizing and preparing potential successors.
  • Measuring career development. HR professionals can measure career development by calculating the career path ratio. This metric allows you to track the progression of an individual, department, or the whole organization over time, so you can determine whether they need more support. 
  • Continuous feedback. Creating a culture of continuous, mutual feedback doesn’t just guide team members toward their career goals. It also lets you know how you can best support them.

Revolutionizing career pathing with cutting-edge HR technologies

Let’s take a look at some of the technology and career pathing tools you can use to enhance the process: 

  • Predictive analytics for talent management. Predictive analytics uses historical data to forecast future trends. This helps you identify people with high potential for advancement and allows you to plan succession and development strategies.
  • Learning experience platforms (LXPs). While a learning management system provides users with educational content, a learning experience platform offers more personalized learning paths. It gives professionals the chance to develop the skills they need to reach their goals. 
  • Career pathing software. You can use specialized career pathing software to automate the process. These programs guide your people along their career journeys with customized career pathing templates, showing them the next best steps for advancement.
  • Performance management systems. These platforms enable HR to track the professional development of team members and pick out high performers.
  • Artificial intelligence for skills assessments. AI-powered tools can assess people’s skills more thoroughly than traditional methods. By evaluating performance data, project outcomes, and learning achievements, AI can provide an in-depth understanding of a person’s strengths and areas for improvement.

Pathing the way to success

Career pathing makes it clear that planning for the professional success of each team member also contributes to the success of your organization. 

All it requires is a steadfast commitment to your people’s growth by implementing learning and development initiatives. It means your people won’t just have a roadmap to their goals, but also the means to achieve them—encouraging them to match your commitment to them, which will pay dividends in the long run.

Tali Sachs

From Tali Sachs

Tali is a content marketing manager at HiBob. She's been writing stories since before she knew what to do with a pen and paper. When she's not writing, she's reading sci-fi, snuggling with her cats, or singing at an open mic.