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How to create a plan for employee career progression

1st October 2021

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How to create a plan for employee career progression

October 2021

When employees hit a brick wall in their career progression, they look elsewhere. Develop internal talent with a strong career pathing programme that recognises the needs of each individual.

Start by asking the following questions:

  1. Does your organisation understand the real needs of individual employees?

  2. Are the most effective development options clearly laid out for staff?

If you can’t answer “yes” to both of these questions, it’s likely your employees don’t understand the career progression opportunities open to them. It also means that you aren’t making the most of the talent you already have at your business.

The business case for career progression

Career pathing should be about benefiting your staff. But as a result, a whole raft of advantages will emerge for your business too.

A business that takes career progression seriously is more likely to understand the value of its staff and culture. By taking this kind of holistic approach to career development, your company should benefit in a number of ways:

  • Increased employee engagement

  • Stronger internal skill set and improved performance

  • Reduced employee turnover

  • Ability to attract top talent

  • Lower recruitment costs

Create goals for your career paths

Companies should approach career path planning by setting goals for the programme. Are you struggling to retain staff or lacking too many essential skills in your existing team? Map out the problems you’re facing and establish goals to measure against later.

How to create career paths in the workplace

To create an environment where employees feel confident about progressing their careers, leaders need to be clear about future opportunities available.

1. Provide all the information staff need

Make sure the basic information about roles in the company is available for employees to easily access.

  • Job descriptions. What is the overall purpose of each role?

  • Job specifications. What are the responsibilities of this role?

  • Essential and desired competencies. What skills and knowledge do you expect this person to have?

  • Expected performance standards in this role. How do you measure the success of the individual doing this job and what do you expect of them?

2. Create a culture of skill sharing

One of the most time and cost-efficient ways for staff to develop is through skill sharing. Check your staff have access to:

  • Employees who do the job currently. Are staff friendly and helpful when approached by colleagues for help or support?

  • Job shadowing. Do employees feel confident about arranging shadowing sessions to learn more about their role?

  • Mentoring. Are employees seeking out mentors, both inside and outside of the organisation?

3. Invest in training

Sometimes you’ll need to look externally for further staff development. Allocate a budget for this and use it to plug any gaps for staff development that can’t be fulfilled internally.

  • Training and coaching. Are managers encouraging employees to seek out training opportunities to help them progress?

  • Wider development opportunities. This includes attending seminars, workshops and events or shadowing at important meetings and pitches

  • Gaining professional qualifications. What opportunities are there to gain recognised qualifications in your industry?

4. Promote internal job opportunities

Seeing internal job adverts motivates staff to think about their progression with your business, rather than looking for opportunities elsewhere.

  • Opportunities for promotions. Are new job opportunities posted internally first to allow staff time to consider their suitability?

  • Established internal job application process. All employees should know how to make an internal application and understand that it’s acceptable to apply for transfers or lateral moves

5. Develop a formal process for career progression

Whether at staff appraisals or another allotted time, creating space to discuss your employee’s career path indicates your commitment to their personal development.

Depending on the size and structure of your business this may work in different ways.

Career roadmaps

Businesses with a hierarchical structure could develop career roadmaps which plot out the opportunities to progress through each department, for example.

This involves developing a career map of each role, then outlining the journey that can be taken between different positions. Each department map should feed into a company-wide map. Supporting documents should be accessible so staff can easily find out what skills and competencies are needed.

“From/to” process

Companies with a flat structure could use the “from/to” process. This involves developing two strong statements which reflect on where the individual is at the moment and where they aspire to be. Rather than focusing on job titles, it looks at the function and purpose of the individual.

From an individual contributor who adds value through technical expertise and closely follows others’ directions, to a people leader who creates a clear strategy and delivers results through a small team.”

The employee’s role in career pathing

If an employer has developed a working environment that encourages career progression, then it’s up to the employee to make the most of it. You can provide the framework, but it’s up to staff to use it. They can do this by:

1. Seeking out development opportunities

Staff should seek out coaching or shadowing opportunities with colleagues, take on new projects to develop new skills and apply for internal promotions.

2. Recognising the value of out-of-hours work

The 70-20-10 model explains that 70 per cent of our professional growth comes directly from the workplace, 20 per cent from social interactions and 10 per cent from education.

Encouraging staff to expand their interests outside of work will help them to develop new skills and perspectives, which will contribute to their professional development.

3. Speaking up

An employee’s desire to move in a different direction can spark new ideas and opportunities for the business.

This could be through developing a new project, creating a new role, or even setting up an entirely new department. Listen to their ideas and encourage them to present the business case to you. It could be in both of your interests.

Get buy-in from your management team

For your programme to be a success, it’s crucial to get your management team on board. The leaders in your business need to recognise the value of setting out career paths and developing talent.

Encourage them to regularly talk to their team members about where they hope to go next in their career. Even if the employee doesn’t have a specific career path in mind, find out what they’re passionate about and the areas they might like to develop in future.

This gives you a chance to identify training and development opportunities, but also lets your employees know that you’re invested in their future at your business.

How to develop a career progression programme

Career paths help to develop internal talent, motivate staff, and improve staff retention.

Employer’s checklist

Do staff have all the information they need? Including job descriptions, specifications, essential and desired competencies and expected performance standards in each role

Is there a culture of skill sharing in the workplace? Employees should feel able to approach colleagues for help or support, and be encouraged to shadow colleagues and seek out more formal mentoring opportunities

Do you invest in training? Allocate a budget for training and other development opportunities. Use it to plug any gaps that can’t be filled internally

Are job opportunities promoted internally? Staff need to see new job opportunities posted internally first and know that it’s acceptable to apply for transfers or promotions

Is there a formal process to discuss career paths? You will need to consider the best approach for the size and structure of your business:

  • Career roadmaps plot out the opportunities to progress throughout each department. They work well for businesses with a hierarchical structure

  • The “from/to” process involves developing two strong statements which reflect on where the individual is at the moment and where they aspire to be

What to expect of employees

You can provide the framework, but employees need to invest in it too. Monitor how they are:

Seeking out development opportunities. Staff should arrange coaching or shadowing and take on new projects to develop skills

Spending time on personal development. According to the 70-20-10 model, 20 per cent of professional growth comes from social interaction

Speaking up. If an employee has a desire to move in a new direction, they should tell you their ideas and present the business case to you

For your programme to be a success, it’s crucial to get your management team on board too. The leaders in your business need to recognise the value of setting out career paths and developing talent.