“Show Me The Way!” Why Bother with Career Paths?

 In Blog

By: Meredith Masse

We’ve been a little surprised at how many conversations clients have asked to have with us since the beginning of the year about their need to create career paths, to pay attention to internal career management and to help managers have better career development conversations with direct reports.  And these are organizations in a variety of industries, so it’s not just a single area feeling the need to shift.

We heard them and are working with several to address these needs.  First we wanted to look at why these conversations are coming to a head now and found:

  • When employees were asked to indicate the factors that would cause them to look for employment elsewhere, lack of career progress was #1 – ahead of pay.*
  • 82% of employees said that they would be more engaged at work if career conversations were more regular. And 75% said they would be more likely to stay with their current employer.**
  • But less than half (46%) of employees say that their company provides useful career planning and development tools.***

This last point was also reiterated by several of our client organizations’ recent employee engagement surveys.  Several reported that survey results indicated employees have strong feelings around not knowing where they could go from current positions if they wanted to develop their careers with their current employers.

So, why bother indeed?

In short:  Defined career paths enable organizations to hire, develop and keep talented employees!  Career path options:

  • Provide vision and show possibilities and support for employees’ career goals
  • Enable employees to stay challenged and engaged which keeps them in place longer
  • Create a more competent and high-performing workforce ready to drive the business’ goals and objectives

And, when we hire, develop and keep talented employees, we all know that we are reducing turnover costs and increase productivity.

So then the next steps were clear in how we would support our clients in their internal career management efforts. The how-to covered in our June 16th webcast “Show Me the Way: Creating Clearly Defined Career Paths”:

  1. Define the purpose of creating career paths and pinpoint the focus.
  2. Identify stakeholders to be involved in the process.
  3. Map career paths using current HR data and/or input from Subject Matter Experts from each functional area.
  4. Define competencies and requirements for roles/positions in each functional area.
  5. Connect these efforts with learning and development resources.
    •  Assessments available to support employees and their managers in determining strengths, current skills and areas ripe for development
    •  Internal and external training opportunities to support their development to be ready to make internal career moves
    • Education and resources for managers to support career conversations with employees and how to talk about employees’ development
  6. Review and gain agreement with all internal stakeholders.
  7. Communicate and train the organization’s leaders, managers and employees on how to use all internal resources to help employees take advantage of internal career development and growth opportunities.

Lastly, make sure each level within the organization is clear on their roles in the career development and management process:


  • Establish personal vision and career goals.
  • Understand the internal landscape in your workplace that will aid in your development.
  • Use all available career path resources the organization offers.
  • Engage manager in career discussions often.
  • Ask for input and support from others – current peers, colleagues from other functional areas that are of interest, mentors.
  • Know yourself: your strengths, skills, areas ripe for development to inform your career development plan.
  • Have the courage to take a few risks.


  • Understand the company’s internal career path frameworks and know the tools/resources that exist to be ready to make recommendations to employees.
  • Initiate effective career discussions with employees (only 30% of employees feel confident to do so themselves!).
  • Create a climate of abundance and possibilities, not fear.
  • Reward efforts by employees when they demonstrate the courage to engage in career development conversations and activities.
  • Follow up on promises and advocate for direct reports.
  • Role-model active development by talking about your own development activities.


  • Provide tools and resources, including education and training.
  • Integrate career path efforts and frameworks with other Talent Management initiatives.
  • Ensure manager and employee efforts are rewarded to encourage continued “best practices.”
  • Support and ensure movement internally whether “up the ladder” or “across the lattice.”
  • Track progress and usage, and celebrate successes openly.

One of ICC’s favorite resources for employees and managers: Gateway Career Management.

What other methods and tools are you using in your organization to fuel career development and management and keep great employees from jumping ship?  Please leave your comments below.


*Talent 2020, 2012 Deloitte Study

**Global Career Conversations 2016 Study

***2014 Global Workforce Study, Willis Towers Watson

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

We'd love to hear from you! Send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Start typing and press Enter to search