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Career pathing (is that even a word?) sounds a bit like I just made it up for a convenient verb, but it’s one of the most important activities to do with yourself and the people you’re leading every day. It’s basically mapping out the ideal progress an individual will have using their official positions at their workplaces as markers along the route.
What’s important to keep in mind is regardless of whether employees hold the same position within a company, their career paths are unique to them. While certainly there are companies that develop a framework for general advancements from typically new hire to management, and this can be extremely helpful, this is just a framework. Career paths can go “off the rails,” or branch from the cookie cutter approach, and be a perfect fit for the person they’re representing. A common assumption is that every employee wants to climb the ladder, ie their career path has vertical components. Many people appreciate a horizontal path that leads to new and diverse options, with a similar workload or responsibilities to what they currently have. Being able to have some flexibility in these plans allows for the individual requirements of the unique people that you lead.
So now, why should management be so invested in the paths of their people? One huge reason is turnover. It’s expensive to lose people, and in this time of quiet quitting leading to loud quitting, employee satisfaction is more important than ever to keep workforces in place. It has been proven countless times that employees will consider leaving (and have left) organizations if their values no longer align with those of the employee. Replacing a fully trained employee costs money and time for you and your other employees, as well as rocking a boat that you’ve all worked hard to keep steady. Introducing a new person to a working team can have very dynamic repercussions, both in the work they do and socially. However, keeping employees satisfied with the work they do creates continued employee engagement and encourages more productive performance from the people you’re leading.
Growth potential is a huge factor in overall employee satisfaction, and career pathing with your reports is a great way to show just how much potential they each have (with the added benefit of showing your employees you value their growth too). A company I worked for in the past had developed a system for career pathing within each level of their staff. Every quarter, we could expect to have these development conversations with our store managers, store managers would have a discussion about their own development with higher management, etc. It was a very solid, tried and true approach to making sure people were achieving what they want to achieve in the business. However, as I became a member of leadership in the store, I watched development conversations get pushed, or shelved entirely, and I’m not sure for what reason. Neither were the employees I was leading. As a lower level of leadership I couldn’t hold these conversations myself, but I could hear the effect it was having. Many employees started to genuinely believe the manager had prioritized her own growth over the entire stores worth of employees. I had one person say to me “I guess [manager] just gave up on me.” Not prioritizing even the discussion of growth potential caused a lot of great workers to become discouraged, confused, and start thinking about different employment opportunities.
So we can see a clear repercussion from missing out on these conversations. What can be done? Lucky for you, I’ve got a great starting point for this career path ready and yours for the taking! Laura from TCL developed this awesome resource for discussions around career development. Starting a new conversation dynamic with your employees can feel intimidating, but clear communication and open honesty solves almost everything.
(The first time I trained anyone, I told them about eighteen times it was my first day, I was so nervous. They were nervous too, and we both survived to become superstars at our respective positions!)
On this page, there’s a couple different resource options that might help you with your conversations as well. It never hurts to initiate more one-on-one conversations with your teammates, and this template is just the ticket to getting that conversation flowing and accomplishing more with your questions.
Looking for more support in developing your own skills surrounding these conversations? First off, props to you for wanting to further your development on your own career path! Reach out to our team, and take a look through the courses we offer for leadership looking to build their own soft skills. Whatever you’re looking to build in your leadership, we have the support you need.