How Career Pathing can Help You Win Talent and Boost Engagement

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Ask any HR professional about their biggest challenges and you’re bound to hear employee engagement and retention at some point. Of course, there’s always more than one answer to a problem but today we zoom in on career pathing as part of the solution.   

In this article, we’ll give a definition of career pathing, explain why it matters, and discuss a couple of common features of career pathing tools.

What is career pathing?

Career pathing – one of the key functions of Human Resources – is the process during which an employee maps out their professional career (development) plan within the organization he or she works in. This is usually done using a career pathing tool. Career pathing enables employees to identify internal opportunities based on their own skills, experiences, competencies, interests, and preferences.


In this Learning Bite, we are looking into career pathing, its benefits and uses within organization, and career pathing tools.

Why does it matter?

A logical next question is: why is career pathing important? Let’s take a look at a sample of reasons.

Employee engagement

Starting with a big one. We’ve all seen the surveys, so we know how bad the employee engagement situation is (if you need a reminder, go here). The fact of the matter is, we can use all the help we can get to keep our workforce happy and engaged.

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And yes, this is where career pathing comes along.

21st-century employees expect more from their employer than a satisfying paycheck. They want the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally. Now, more than ever before, learning and development have become a key benefit for employees (and job seekers).

By making their own career pathing plan employees get valuable insights about (among other things):

  • Their skills and competencies.
  • Potential vertical and lateral opportunities within their organization.
  • Existing skill- and competency gaps they may need to address before they’re able to move to the next step in their career.
  • The resources they can use to fill said gaps.

Knowing where they stand and what’s more, what’s in store for them in terms of (career) development, boosts employee engagement and retention (but more on that below).

Employee retention

Of course, there are countless reasons why people leave their job. But a lack of career growth opportunities and a feeling that their current job isn’t a good fit for them definitely are common reasons for employees to go elsewhere.

Offering your employees career training and development is something that can make a big difference: it would, for example, keep as much as 86% of Millennials – currently the largest generation in the global workforce – from leaving their current position.

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Career pathing – as we mentioned above – gives people valuable insights into their career advancement possibilities and the various paths that can lead them there. As such, it can be a big help in lowering your turnover rate.

Career pathing helps to keep your people happy

Career pathing helps to keep your people happy and engaged
– and stay with your organization.

Succession planning

In terms of HR challenges, succession planning – a common talent management practice – deserves a place on the ‘winner’ stage too. Planning ahead and trying to avoid skill gaps has never been an easy task, but today’s aging workforce isn’t making things easier.

Career pathing tools can help organizations prepare for the future. They give them a clear overview of the skills and competencies of their current employees, therefore helping them identify who is best suited for what – including the training and development those people may still need beforehand in order to get ready. This information, combined with data on their staff’s interests and preferences, also allows organizations to avoid a situation where every employee wants to become, let’s say, the company’s next CEO.

Mapping out your workforce also enables you to detect when – and where – you may need to bring in new people to fill in the gaps left behind by (retiring) employees who left the company.

Additional benefits

Engaged employees are good for many things – business included. The list of ‘additional benefits’ of career pathing for your employees and organization is not to be underestimated. From a positive effect on your employer brand and an increased employee productivity on the one hand to happier employees and a lower absenteeism rate on the other hand.

Career pathing tools

Since we’re all about technology here at Digital HR Tech, let’s take a closer look at career pathing tools. There are heaps of them and their exact features may differ depending on the tool. A few functionalities most career pathing tools have in common though are:

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  • An action plan: A custom plan for your employees that outlines the learning, training, experiences and other requirements necessary for them to reach their goals and drive their careers.
  • Career mapping: Career pathing tools create awareness among your employees about the various job types and the ways to get to those jobs.
  • Implementation: Most career pathing software easily integrates with your existing learning and talent management platforms.
  • Succession planning: Career pathing tools help you gain insights into workforce trends and gaps that enable you to plan for the future through hiring and training.
  • Job matching – Employees are able to match their interests, preferences, skills and what not to those roles within your company that are a good (better) fit for them.

Fuel50Talentguard, and PathSavvy, are examples of companies that provide career pathing software.

Before you go

Employee engagement and retention go hand in hand. Happy employees are more productive, speak highly of your organization – which may lead to a couple of valuable referrals – and won’t go looking for greener pastures. In an ideal world, this is where we’d give you the secret recipe for superb employee engagement levels.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing.

There are, however, various things organizations can do to positively influence employee engagement. Implementing a career pathing program is one of them; it offers employees a custom plan to reach their (personal) goals and drive their careers while it helps HR gain insights into workforce trends and potential skill gaps.

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