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3 Reasons Career Pathing is Critical to Employee Development

Career pathing is critical to employee growth and development. Without it, they'll plateau in their current roles and begin looking for new opportunities elsewhere. Through mentoring, organizations can ensure their employees are continually learning and growing within the company. Do so will lead to a myriad of benefits including increased employee retention and engagement. This article will outline three reasons every company should invest in career pathing for their employees.

Matthew Reeves

July 16, 2021

Helping employees in their career pathing efforts may require some additional investment and resources, but it brings several benefits to a business, including:

  • Lower turnover
  • Employee loyalty
  • Skill development
  • Succession planning
  • Attracting top talent


Organizations that offer career pathing for their employees will see payoffs throughout their time with the company. Employees will also demonstrate a willingness to learn more about the company and gain knowledge beyond their current job scope. All of these hold substantial advantages when it comes to business growth.


What Is Career Pathing?

Career pathing is a way to outline a path of development for an employee within an organization. This is usually done between a manager and a new hire, or junior employee. Career pathing can shine a light on different opportunities within the organization and allow employees to take on different roles and learn new skills.

Managers can help employees identify a series of jobs that an employee can do over time that will help them reach their career goals.

However, unlike the traditional ladder-climbing approach to work, career pathing does not always need to be vertical. More and more, people are embracing a squiggly career that isn't defined by climbing the corporate ladder but allows employees to pursue lateral transitions within their company.

Career expectations vs reality.
Career expectations vs reality.


Career Pathing Example

An example of career pathing can be seen in how Progressive Insurance in Ohio encourages employees to try out new roles within the business. According to chief human resources officer Lori Niederst, career pathing can lead employees to new jobs to develop new skills they would not have explored independently.

“I was mid-way through a career when I was encouraged to apply for the HR department. This was never a role I saw for myself, but managers and other employees may see something in someone and push them in the direction they may not see in themselves.”

The thought process at Progressive is that the more positions you become skilled at, the stronger a team player you’ll be. One of the essential elements of career pathing at Progressive is the support the organization offers to employees.

They developed an internal database that has a list of jobs and what experience is required to fulfill them. In this way, employees that are looking for a change can easily identify what kinds of skills or qualifications they need to secure a position. Employees are also given some direction on where to get the necessary training and skills need for each position from their managers and HR departments.


Why Is Career Development Important For Employees?

Encouraging employees to have agency over their career path helps them achieve their professional goals and find more fulfillment in their careers. Investing in employees in this way is great for the organization.

The benefits of career pathing for organizations include:

  • Keeping employees aware of opportunities within the organization rather than outside.
  • Increase engagement among employees because they chose their roles.
  • Encourages knowledge sharing among employees.
  • Makes onboarding faster and more effective.

Let’s explore each of these the reasons why employers should invest in career pathing for their employees in more detail.


1. Retention

If an employee is allowed to pursue career advancement within an organization, they are less likely to quit their current role for potential roles outside the company. Training and career development offer employees a chance to grow, build their strengths and try new things.

Organizations that have a solid retention strategy know that employees - especially younger millennials and GenZ employees - value learning as a way to advance their careers. Further, LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report 2021 discovered that 76% of GenZ’s see learning as the key to their career success.

If you want to keep your best employees, create development programs that keep them learning. And that’s best done through opening up new opportunities for them within the organization.


2. Engagement

Employers face a big challenge in keeping employees engaged at their jobs. In 2015, Gallup’s employee engagement survey found that only a third of the US workforce was engaged with their work.

Employees are looking for more than a pay check.

Gallup identified that in the future of work employees want to transform how they perceive their roles:

  • Instead of a pay check, they want a purpose;
  • Instead of job satisfaction, they want career growth and development;
  • Instead of a boss, they want a coach;
  • Instead of an annual performance review, they want ongoing mentorship;


Employees are looking for fulfillment and opportunity to grow both professionally and personally. Employees want managers who care about their long-term growth and will coach and mentor them so they can reach their full potential.

This is a great opportunity for organizations to tap into their employees’ aspirations and use their ambitions for good of the company. Employers that offer learning and development opportunities will have employees who are more engaged in their jobs and the possibilities with the company over the long term.


3. Knowledge sharing and onboarding

Onboarding new employees and succession planning are two critical elements of knowledge sharing in an organization. And they both are directly related to career pathing.

For employees just starting in a company, a solid onboarding process will help them find a place and a future at your organization. Further down the road, succession planning can create career pathing opportunities for potential leaders. Tools designed for career pathing can give your HR leaders insight into the best candidates to fill senior positions.

Career pathing tools can also help employees see where they have a skills gap that impedes their career progression. Having this knowledge enables managers to create a career plan to address the gaps in competencies before it becomes a problem for the company. It’s also an opportunity to upskill the employee and encourage peer-to-peer learning that will further both their learning and development and others.

If you’re trying to find a way to kick-start knowledge sharing within your organization consider flash mentoring. Flash mentoring is an effective way for organizations to capture and share critical knowledge of senior employees with new hires or future leaders.


How Does Mentoring Help Career Pathing?

A key element of workplace mentoring programs is identifying objectives and goals for your program, such as developing your high potential employees. Mentoring can be an effective tool in career pathing by connecting mentees with a senior employee who can help guide them through the process of career mapping which will inform what an effective career looks like to them.

Getting employees involved in a workplace mentoring program can have a positive impact on career pathing in many ways. The benefits include:  

How Does Mentoring Help Career Pathing?


Help mentees see future possibilities within their company

Mentors have more of an understanding of the company and the different positions available. Having worked for a longer time at the organization, mentors will have more knowledge of the various departments in the organization and how they all fit together. Mentors can also expand the network of their mentees as may hear about future opportunities and can connect them with key decision makers.

Moreover, mentors are in a position to objectively identify the strengths and weaknesses of the mentee. And, they can help a mentee to build upon their skills while overcoming weaknesses.


Identify the skills needed for potential opportunities

It’s one thing to know about future opportunities within a company and another to prepare to fill those vacancies. As a senior employee, a mentor can identify the skills that the mentee will need to take pursue new opportunities.

It could mean further training to hone leadership, communication, or technology capabilities, or it may mean gaining a broader understanding of the industry. In addition, a mentor has a number of great character traits that make them an ideal role model for mentees.

Mentors will be adept at helping mentees find ways to build the skills needed for future opportunities at the company.


Support them in making the transition

Having someone to guide and support them will enable employees to transition between roles in their career path. Mentors can offer advice to mentees who are facing a challenge or obstacle. Being able to discuss problems with their mentors allows mentees to problem solve and find solutions to the challenges they face.

Sometimes a mentor may also become a sponsor, which is a more active role in guiding the career pathing process. It can happen when a mentor recommends a mentee for a new position or role at the company.

At Together, we aim to help you build successful mentoring programs for your organization through the use of our mentoring software. Our platform takes the hard work out of the registration, pairing, and reporting process. Find out how we can help you invest in career pathing for your employees.

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