learning and development

Unlocking employee potential: A guide to effective career mapping

Paired with mentorship, career mapping can foster employee engagement and organizational success. Here’s how.

Matthew Reeves, CEO of Together

Published on 

August 23, 2023

Updated on 

Time to Read

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Of all the reasons people quit their jobs, ‘lack of career development and advancement’ continues to be the number one reason all over the world.

If your employees feel like they are not learning new skills and there is no way for them to advance their careers, they will either leave you for a competitor or reduce the effort they put into their work. By taking an active interest in your team's careers, you can increase engagement and improve employee retention. Career mapping will help you do exactly that.

What is career mapping?

Also known as career pathing, career mapping is the process of creating a structured plan that outlines an employee’s potential path for growth and advancement within an organization. 

Think of it as a personalized GPS that HR professionals use to sketch a career roadmap for individuals, helping them understand the route they need to take to their desired destination. The route consists of skills and experience, and the destination can be a position of seniority or leadership depending on the individual’s personal goals.

Career mapping allows you to strategically develop, engage, and retain talented individuals by providing your employees with clarity, motivation, and a sense of direction.

Surprisingly, career mapping is not a new concept by any means. In the banking industry, a junior teller knows exactly which certifications and degrees they need to acquire to go from teller to personal banker. The branch manager knows exactly the amount of work they need to put in to become regional manager and so on. In IT products and services though, new job titles and structures are introduced all the time and that is why it is important to work with your team to map their individual career trajectories according to their goals as well as the goals of the organization.

Why is career mapping important?

Career mapping is a powerful tool that you can use to foster both employee engagement and organizational triumph. It has many benefits for employees and employers alike. For employees, it provides the following: 

  • Clarity and direction — Imagine the joy of stepping into work each day with a clear sense of purpose. Career mapping ensures your employees feel the same by providing them with a tangible vision of their professional journey.
  • Skill enhancement — With career mapping, tailored development plans empower individuals to acquire the competencies needed to thrive in their desired roles, fostering a culture of continuous learning.
  • Motivation and engagement — When employees see a future aligned with their aspirations, they feel motivated. The engagement that results from this fuels productivity, collaboration, and overall job satisfaction.

Think of a network support technician who wants to go from technician to network engineer. 

Without active interest from the employer, this person is likely to pursue certifications on their own and switch between different companies until they get to their desired position. 

However, train them and help them acquire relevant certifications such as CCST, followed by CCNA and eventually CCNP, and they will stay with you throughout the journey. To top it all off, pair them with a senior resource as a mentee, and help them gain all the knowledge and skills they want. This will give them the opportunity to grow within your organization, and you will retain them and benefit from their enhanced skills.

As an employer, career mapping gives you the ability to:

  • Retain talent — Your commitment to career mapping sends a resounding message – you value your employees' growth. This resonates deeply, reducing turnover rates and cultivating a loyal and dedicated workforce.
  • Allocate resource strategically — Career mapping provides insights into talent distribution and potential gaps, supporting informed resource allocation and budgeting for HR development initiatives. 
  • Build a leadership pipeline — Career mapping allows you to identify high-potential employees and tailor their development. This supports succession planning, allowing HR managers to nurture a robust leadership pipeline poised to lead the organization.

With career mapping, you align people's personal goals and their career plans with the organization's goals - ideally creating a win-win situation where the employee gets their dream job and the organization gets their dream employee.

3 Steps to create a career path for employees

If you are ready to bring career mapping to your organization, here are the three key steps you can follow to get started. 

1. Assessment and goal-setting

The first step involves open conversations and self-reflection. The line manager or HR professional should work with the employee to explore their skills, strengths, interests, and career goals. Based on the findings, set measurable goals to determine a tangible direction for career growth.

2. Individualized career map

Once goals are established, identify potential roles within the organization that meet the employee’s interests. This can be a promotion within the same function or a lateral move to a different department.

In either case, the new role should capitalize on the existing capabilities of the employee as well as offer the scope to develop new knowledge, skills, and capabilities. 

3. Periodic review and adjustments 

Career aspirations and organizational needs evolve over time. Schedule frequent check-ins between employees and managers to ensure continuous employee progress. Perform periodic reviews and conduct performance management activities to explore advanced roles and leadership opportunities for members of your team.

Nontraditional methods of career progression 

With career mapping, HR managers can offer a structured and personalized framework for employees to navigate their professional journey. However, when progression is not possible due to low employee turnover, limited growth opportunities, or financial constraints of the organization, HR professionals should seek non-traditional ways to retain and engage employees. These include:

1. Job redesign

Job redesign involves reimagining and reshaping existing roles to make them more engaging, challenging, and aligned with evolving organizational needs.

It’s like giving a fresh coat of paint to a room, enhancing its functionality and appeal.

Job redesign can be done in two ways: by broadening the scope of a job (job enlargement) and by increasing the depth of the role (job enrichment).

2. Job rotation

Job rotation means employees switch between different roles or departments.

This practice not only keeps things interesting but also helps employees develop diverse skills and perspectives, making them more adaptable and valuable assets to your team.

3. Dual career ladders

Think of dual career ladders as two parallel paths of growth. Employees can choose to progress either in the traditional management route or a specialized, non-managerial track.

This is an effective strategy to advance employees who have particular technical skills but are not interested in or suited for managerial positions.

4. Horizontal career paths

Horizontal career paths involve advancing within the same job family or skill area, rather than moving into higher-level positions.

It's like becoming a seasoned chef by mastering various cuisines instead of becoming a restaurant owner.

This approach fosters deep expertise and rewards employees for becoming true masters in their craft and is commonly used by organizations with a limited number of leadership positions.

How does mentoring help with career mapping?

Skill development is one of the key objectives of a successful career mapping initiative. This can be achieved by allowing employees to take courses, attend workshops, or work on projects that can help bridge the skill gap. 

Many organizations also use mentoring to nurture talent from within the organization. Unlike other skill development methods, mentoring not only focuses on job-related skills but also helps employees develop extra-role skills that are essential to crafting a successful career path, such as communication and networking skills. 

Here are some ways mentoring can be a powerful tool in an HR manager’s arsenal:

1. Talent development and retention

By pairing employees with experienced mentors, HR managers can facilitate skill development, enhance job satisfaction, and increase employee retention. This, in turn, supports succession planning and reduces turnover costs. 

2. Knowledge transfer and skills enhancement

Seasoned mentors can pass down specialized knowledge and skills to mentees, helping them acquire industry-specific expertise faster. This can help bridge skill gaps and help HR build a workforce that meets current and future demands. 

3. Performance management and goal attainment

A well-designed mentorship program can assist in performance management as well. HR managers can collaborate with mentors to set performance goals and track progress. Mentors can offer constructive feedback and help mentees align their efforts with organizational objectives, ultimately contributing to improved individual and collective performance.

4. Enhanced employee engagement

Mentoring fosters a sense of belonging and engagement among employees. It makes them understand that the organization is invested in their career progression and helps create a positive work environment where everyone feels supported and valued. 

5. Continuous learning culture

Mentoring contributes to a culture of continuous learning and development. HR managers can champion this culture by encouraging mentor-mentee relationships that promote knowledge sharing and skill enhancement.

Streamline employee mentoring and career mapping with Together

Mentoring can be a driving force in helping employees enhance their skills and achieve their career aspirations. Coupled with the support from the HR function, a mentor can help employees navigate the twists and turns of their professional journey and stay focused on their career path.

If you’re working on a career mapping or mentoring program for your organization, you should consider leveraging a mentoring platform too. These solutions streamline the registration, pairing, and reporting process, allowing you time to brainstorm a rewarding career path for your employees. 

Book a demo to see how Together can accelerate employee development

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