The Importance of Creating a Career Path Program (With 6 Steps to Make it Happen)

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Liz Strikwerda

Content strategist and corporate blogger (2000+ posts). Her work has been featured on G2's Learning Hub, Human Resources Today, Better Buys and over 500 business websites. She plays bluegrass mandolin and enjoys sailing her catamaran and hiking in the red rock wilderness of southern Utah. Connect with me on LinkedIn

A career path is an advancement roadmap with short- and long-term benchmarks. It maps the route an employee takes from a lower-level position through successive roles to arrive at their ultimate goal.

Discuss your Career Path Program in job interviews. It should be front and center, not an afterthought.

Make sure each new hire knows the possible roadmaps for their position. They will begin employment knowing you will invest in their career progression. Imagine how this can instill confidence from the outset!

Align career path benchmarks with performance review benchmarks. If your performance reviews have been unstructured, now's the perfect time to formalize them. Your career roadmaps will guide you.

Updated February 7, 2024

Advancement opportunity is essential to employee engagement, which is a major factor in retention. According to research conducted by SHRM, nearly 70 percent of employees would stay with an employer if they had access to learning and advancement opportunities.

Creating a career path program can improve retention dramatically while improving the company culture.

What is a Career Path?

A career path refers to the sequence of jobs an individual holds throughout their professional life. It also represents the various stages a worker moves through as they move up, improve their skills, and take on new responsibilities. Offering career paths is important for employers, as a program provides a clear indication of where an employee might expect to go while working for the organization. Career path programs can also outline requirements, including education level and skills, so employees can determine how to progress to achieve their professional goals.

Benefits of Career Paths

Career paths help companies:

  • Retain top employees
  • Give team members a sense of purpose
  • Attract top achievers
  • Increase the cumulative ability, experience, and diversity of the workforce
  • Create an employee-centric culture
  • Compete with other employers in the market

How to Create Career Paths

We’ve created a six-step guide to creating career paths and encouraging employees to advance and progress in their careers.

Step 1: Update Your Org Chart

Create an org chart or update your existing chart to show the structure of the company. Align the chart with your business plan, incorporating all positions and departments, to show employees their paths forward.

Step 2: Define Job Positions

List the key responsibilities and requirements of each position on your org chart. Include key performance indicators that outline how success is measured.

Step 3: Track a Roadmap for Each Skills Track

Create roadmaps, or professional paths, for every department, team, or business function to show how employees can advance through roles.

Step 4: Identify Training Needs

Assess whether you can bring employees along the path, documenting any in-house and outsource training programs that are currently in place. Consider whether an employee can advance with what is currently in place. Do employees have access to continuing education and mentors? Why do employees leave? What type of training do members of the workforce want?

Step 5: Create Training and Development Programs

Using the information gleaned in the previous step, determine the type of training programs your company will offer. Incorporate your vertical growth programs into your business plan. If you are successful, you will create what Gallup calls a coaching culture.* This is what sets great companies apart.

Step 6: Map Each Employee’s Career Path

Put your new program to work in the onboarding phase with new hires or during performance reviews of existing employees. During the career mapping meeting, managers can discuss the employee’s goals and expectations, explore career paths and opportunities for progression, and discuss the sequence of jobs going forward. Include the career map and opportunities in the employee’s file.

How do you make your Career Path Program part of your company culture? It’s starts with recruiting and continues throughout the employment life cycle.

The best way to create and manage career development is with a Human Resource Management System (HRMS). An all-inclusive software solution helps you manage career paths throughout the employee lifecycle.

Look into WorkforceHub, a solution built for small businesses to manage their workforces. You can try it for free or take a brief tour to view the features in action – click here to learn more.

Simplify HR management today.

Simplify HR management today.

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