What is career pathing?

Why now is the perfect time to put employees in the driver’s seat of their careers

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By Nicole Schreiber-Shearer, Future of Work Specialist at Gloat

By now, we all know that last summer’s “turnover tsunami” wasn’t just a blip on the radar. There hasn’t been just one month of record-high quit rates; instead, employee retention has taken a sustained nosedive. In fact, the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor of Statistics reveals that things are going to get worse before they get better, as evidenced by an unprecedented 4.4 million employees walking away from their posts in September alone.

So how do we find our way out of the Big Quit? At the end of the day, it’s not new perks or flashy benefits that are going to convince your employees to stay. If you want to retain your workforce for the long haul, you’re going to need to dig deeper and explore the issue at the heart of the Great Resignation: the quest for meaningful career paths.

Employees are no longer content with taking one predictable step after another on traditional career ladders. As people search for purpose and reassess work and life during the pandemic’s aftermath, yesterday’s ladders will transform into lattices of horizontal and vertical opportunities. Consequently, the only way to come out the other side of today’s retention crisis is by reimagining professional progression and putting career pathing into focus. But where should you begin?

What is career pathing and why does it matter?

Before you can revamp Career Pathing, you need to get familiar with the basics. Career Pathing is the process of aligning opportunities for employee career growth with organizational talent priorities, as defined by Gartner. The most impactful approaches to Career Pathing go beyond solely focusing on vertical progression, and also take lateral and cross-functional roles into account.

Career Pathing can enhance employee engagement and retention by encouraging people to get involved in learning and development programs that fulfill the current and future needs of their organization. Deloitte found that learning opportunities, professional development, and career progression are among the top drivers of workplace satisfaction. When employees are presented with opportunities that align with their skills, interests, and career ambitions, they will be motivated to continue to deepen their expertise, participate in L&D and upskilling, and feel inspired to take the steps needed to grow with their organization, rather than outside of it.

The benefits of career pathing for employers

When it comes to employer benefits, Career Pathing is linked with a handful of key pay-offs. First and foremost, it can lead to a greater return on hiring investments. While there’s no doubt that training and onboarding recent joiners is costly, employers can maximize their investment by ensuring that this new talent stays with the company and positively contributes to the organization.

Additionally, Career Pathing can improve employee engagement and loyalty, because workers will be able to see exactly what kinds of exciting opportunities their future at the organization will hold. As a result, these team members will be less likely to look for growth opportunities outside of their company, in turn improving retention rates.

For employees
As an employee, what can you do to make the most of Career Pathing? Start by reflecting on the direction you want your career to take. Do you want to stay in the department you’re currently in and deepen your expertise? Or are you interested in pursuing something different that builds on the skills you’ve already developed? Is leading a team high on your list of goals, or is a management track lower on your agenda? These are the kinds of questions you need to think about to shape your professional progression.

Rather than keeping these ideas to yourself, bring your manager into the conversation and discuss how your personal career goals align with your company’s business priorities. Work together to set some benchmarks that will ensure that you’re on the right track, and take time to evaluate your progress on a consistent basis.

Career pathing tools

Leaders should think of Career Pathing tools as their lifesaver during today’s turnover tsunami. As employees reimagine their careers and consider new directions, Career Pathing enables them to find relevant opportunities within your organization. The most impactful tools don’t just show people one potential path; instead, they present users with a few different options for what direction their careers can take, so employees can choose the path that fits best. Ideally, these tools might help workers discover roles that they never knew existed within your company, giving them new reasons to stay.

The best Career Pathing Tools take it one step further by presenting users with an immediate solution to start strategizing their career goals. AI-driven tools can identify the skills gaps that employees need to bridge to reach their desired role, and then present them with learning and development resources to get them up to speed. There are even some tools, like Gloat’s Career Agility offering, that include boards so that employees can monitor their progress and see what they’ll need to do next.

How to support effective career path planning and development

Meaningful Career Path planning and development have never been more crucial than they are right now. As employees weigh their options and rethink their paths forward, employers need to demonstrate that there are plenty of opportunities to grow with their organization if they want to hold onto top talent.

If you’re looking to create an effective Career Pathing strategy, having the right tools in place is only one part of the equation. While a Talent Marketplace with Career Pathing tools is certainly a huge step in the right direction, visionary organizations will pair this technology with a culture that brings out every employee’s best.

Management teams need to understand how Career Pathing tools will transform growth conversations within their organization, and both employees and leaders should receive ongoing communications to prepare them for this game-changing technology. Once you pair Career Pathing tools delivered through a Talent Marketplace with a supportive and growth-oriented culture, you’ll be well on your way to building a workforce of engaged, loyal employees who will come together to help your business achieve unprecedented results.

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