Career path planning, also known as career pathing, sets the stage for employee development. Yet, only 25% of employees are confident about their career paths at their current organisations, according to a Gartner study. Most employees feel like they can’t rely on their managers for help and are leaving their current employers for better professional development opportunities.
Business is about people first. Investing in the growth and development of your team leads to lower employee attrition rates, greater employee satisfaction, and increased productivity.
In this article, you’ll learn more about career path planning and how you can use it to develop a vibrant learning and development culture within your organisation. Most of the content you’ll read in this article is inspired by our conversation with Lakeisha Palmer, Head of Talent Development at the Digicel Group. You can listen to this discussion by clicking the link below.
Career path planning, or career pathing, is about setting your employees up for success from day one. When new hires enter your organisation, you should identify a path for their growth based on their skills and competencies. That path should allow new hires to build their skills and competencies over time.
Some employees will be unsure about what they want to do. Other employees will have greater clarity. That’s fine. HR and L&D professionals are tasked with taking employees through a systematic process that helps them find what makes them click.
Several tactics can be used to help employees find that “click-factor” including job shadowing, experiencing cross-functional roles, assigning employees to different projects, mentorship, ongoing training, and coaching.
Some employees may change their interests over time. That’s okay. Your aim as an HR professional is to develop their potential so that they can grow and be of great value to your organisation.
Career path planning brings several benefits to both employees and organisations. Some of these benefits include:
Increasing each employee’s awareness and self-confidence
Upgrading your team’s knowledge and skills
Providing a structured way to learn a new concept or idea
Improving employee morale; your team will see that you care about them
Promoting progression from where an employee is now to where that employee wants to be
Keeping your employees’ skills relevant
Preparing a pool of internal candidates for succession planning
So how do you create a career path plan for your employees? Let’s look at an example.
A career path plan begins with an individual development plan (IDP). Here’s an example of the step-by-step IDP process.
Let’s look more closely at each step of this process.
This IDP worksheet from Yale University provides a good starting point for your employees to assess their professional goals so that their learning paths for the upcoming year can be created. You can tweak this worksheet to match the unique needs of your organisation.
Each employee should complete an IDP at the beginning of the financial year. The document should then be given to each employee’s direct manager for further discussion.
Managers are responsible for meeting with each of their direct reports to discuss their IDPs. These 1:1 sessions provide a safe space for employees to discuss their IDP worksheets. It’s important for managers to create this safe space so that employees won’t feel uncomfortable sharing what they would like to achieve.
A member of the HR team can also be part of this discussion. The HR representative would provide additional support if clarity is needed.
This person would also take the information from the IDP worksheet, discussions about the current challenges within the organisation, and details from the 1:1 discussion to create an employee training plan for the year. This employee training plan will put employees into various groups so that individual learning paths can be created.
This is the step where the employee’s IDP comes alive. Your HR and L&D teams will work together to plan and execute different types of training including mentorship, scenario-based learning, online learning, hybrid training, and in-person workshops.
Employees will participate in these training initiatives based on their training groups. For instance, new hires will receive a core set of training that’s different from the role-specific training existing employees would participate in to advance in their careers.
Follow-up discussions are necessary. Discussions between managers and employees about IDP progress provide two key benefits. First, employees get a chance to share their progress with their managers. Second, managers can provide feedback on whether training is helping their direct reports improve.
It’s also important for members of the HR team to have ongoing discussions with managers. These conversations will help the HR team assess whether training is having a positive impact on employee performance.
The ultimate aim of a career path plan is to help employees prepare for career advancement. Some employees will choose to advance vertically. Others will prefer later movements.
Regardless, well-trained employees help HR teams create an internal pipeline for succession planning. You will be able to fill vacant positions more quickly because you already have qualified people within your organisation. Effective succession planning is a powerful example of how career pathing works for both employees and organisations.
Learning and development is the vehicle that takes you from where you are now to where you want to be as an employee. It involves self-assessment and leaders within your organisation realising your potential. L&D programs provide the fuel that transforms your potential and career goals into tangible opportunities.
Most organisations practice some form of learning and development. Structure is what’s often missing. A structured approach to L&D involves:
A structured onboarding process that allows new recruits to feel like they are part of your organisation even before they join
An orientation process that helps new hires understand the organisation and how they fit in
Investing in new hires to help them develop their core competencies
Creating IDPs for all your staff
Establishing a mentorship program
Approaching L&D in a systematic way helps employees pursue the careers that excite them. Fewer employees will leave your organisation because they will be happier and feel better equipped to realise their full potential.
A successful learning and development program covers three critical business areas — needs, interventions, and outcomes. Begin with a needs assessment that outlines the organisational challenge your L&D program is going to solve. This needs assessment should also be based on the groups you’re targeting and the skill levels of your staff.
The next step is to identify the most appropriate intervention. What training modality will work best? For instance, in-person training is often the best approach for busy C-Suite executives and practical training. It doesn’t have to be in-person or online training though; a hybrid approach can also provide numerous benefits such as knowledge reinforcement and ease of testing.
Large organisations have hundreds (even thousands) of employees who need ongoing training. HR leaders in these organisations don’t have the time and resources to create individual learning paths for each employee. That’s why employees are placed into training groups.
Group 1: New Hires — New employees should get core training that helps them understand the company’s culture, organisational structure, and processes.
Group 2: Role-Specific — Employees should get ongoing training that’s specific to their roles or roles that interest them.
Group 3: Middle Management — Employees who want to move vertically within an organisation should receive middle management training. Graduates from this training program are top candidates for leadership vacancies. There can also be separate training programs for current middle managers that’s based on your assessment of leadership gaps.
Group 4: Leadership Training — Middle managers who want to become senior executives should participate in leadership training. This training is also useful for existing senior leaders.
Lakeisha also mentioned that she and her team added another group to this list — high potentials. They have a high-potentials training program that upskills team members who show great promise.
Career path planning is crucial for keeping your staff motivated and productive. Your team members will feel more confident about their career paths and get the help they need for professional development. Your organisation will benefit from lower staff turnover, increased productivity, and higher employee engagement. It’s a win-win.
Let One on One support your staff training. Our learning management system, library of 30,000+ ready-made courses, and course development services will provide your team with an engaging learning experience that boosts knowledge retention. Book a demo to learn more about how our team can help you.