How to Launch a Career Pathing Program (Quickly + Effectively)

October 9, 2019 Jon Spratt



Career pathing programs have quickly become a really popular way to build employee engagement and improve retention over the past few years. Employees love exploring their own pathways towards advancement, and talent management teams like being able to provide those levels of visibility.

Most excitingly, a career path initiative can be launched with minimal pain, and be up and running pretty quickly.

We were recently joined on a call by the team at First Commerce Credit Union, a mid-sized organization based in Tallahassee, Florida (view the full webinar recording in our Talent Mobility Toolkit here). The team there is putting the finishing touches on the launch of their internal career pathing program and had some great tips to share with other organizations who are considering implementing a similar approach.

Why Career Pathing?

But before we get into some of those tips and lessons, let’s start at the beginning – why did they want to establish a career pathing program in the first place?

It starts with the organization’s corporate values, and its high priority on its talent as a differentiator. That's a mentality that comes from the top and filters down throughout the entire organization, according to Carson Utecht, SVP of People at First Commerce.

“If people are coming to work every single day, and they feel that the work that they’re doing is meaningful and purposeful for others, and then they’re (also) getting the opportunity to work on themselves… that creates a very highly-engaged team member,” Utrecht said.

How, then, to actually foster that engagement among its workforce?

The answer, which applies to almost every organization in the modern world of work, is by creating programs that show employees that you care, and empowering employees to drive their own career forward.

Scoping a career pathing solution:

Although First Commerce already had some great development programs, there was a desire to do more – and reach a wider swath of the workforce with development and engagement incentives.

In scoping their options, they knew that creating immediate engagement would be an immediate factor in the success of their initiative.

They found it in HRSG’s career pathing software, which allows employees to log in and build visual career paths for advancement in their organization. With the paths built, employees can see opportunities for professional growth, gaps that need to be addressed, and different potential pathways to reach their target job in the organization.

As their project nears its company-wide rollout, let's look at three lessons gleaned from the recent webinar session.

 

Lesson 1: Strive for a good start, not perfection.

At HRSG, we’ve seen all sorts of client projects come across our desks over the past 30 years. Of the ones that have had less-than-optimal outcomes, one of the common 'paralyzing; factors has been the quest for perfection right off the bat.

In truth, an initiative like this is going to evolve over time, so the best approach is often to aim for a good, solid start, instead of absolute perfection out of the gate.

First Commerce shared this approach: they’ve got a lot that they want to do, including looking at the quality of their job descriptions and their annual reviews. But as the following exchange illustrates, their team is smartly breaking their project apart over time in order to establish tangible timelines and checkpoints.

Question from Sarah Beckett, HRSG: “I’ve had conversations with other HRSG clients in the past who have really supported this idea: that you don’t have to get it 100% right from the beginning. You can get that partial solution launched, and move ahead and refine as you go. Does that ring true for you in terms of how you’ve approached this project?

Sarah Sorne, HR Generalist at First Commerce: “Absolutely, that resonates with us a lot. We’re very agile. We knew quickly when we made the decision that this was something we wanted to launch with our team, that actually came with a very short timetable. And so we are looking at rolling this out in stages. First, getting our team members in as users, getting them exposure to it so they can start making their own career pathways.”

“[In time] we do plan on expanding it even more. In stage 2 and 3 down the line, we do want to go back and look at our current job descriptions, what can we do to better align them with career pathways in the banking industry, period, and also come back and revisit the annual reviews too. So we do see this as something that’s integral to all those pieces, and not something that stands outside our credit union and our strategy as a whole.”


Lesson 2: Ease of use is important on both sides.

In putting together this initiative, finding the right career path software was a must from the start. As a mid-sized organization in their space, First Commerce’s HR Team has limited resources at their disposal: like many HR teams, they need to stay very efficient with how they’re spending their time.

That means the program had to be relatively straightforward to implement and administer from the HR side of things, but it also had to be user-friendly for the end-user employees to jump in and get started.

“Ease-of-use is a really important piece of the puzzle,” said Donna Moran, Culture Champion at First Commerce. “We wanted something that would deliver excitement in our individuals, that would get them motivated, that would be easy for them to jump on and really utilize everything that it has to offer."

The team looked at a number of options and different vendors, but settled on HRSG’s CompetencyCore as it offered the best combination of depth, functionality and ease-of-use that they sought.

 

Lesson 3: Communication is key to a successful roll-out.

Having rolled out a variety of initiatives in the past, the team at First Commerce knows the importance of a good communication plan. In an organization like theirs, with so many customer-facing roles, there are a variety of different working schedules that add a wrinkle to effective corporate communications.

Central to their plans are an official program unveiling at an all-company meeting in October, 2019. But beyond that, they have a variety of other strategies to reach their teams with details about the new career pathing initiative.

“You’ll always miss a handful of people,” Moran said.

Given this, the team has learned that a scattershot, or “shotgun” approach – i.e. using many different mediums in order to effectively reach everyone organization – is the one that works best.

To that end, they will provide information through the daily company briefing; on their intranet system; through direct emails; as well as equipping managers with talking points to discuss with their direct reports.

“The hope is to [get this information to every person] between 5 and 7 times,” Moran said. “You’ve really got to get the information to people a couple of different ways -- and several times -- in order for it to sink into them.”
 

Fostering Great Culture with Great Talent Mobility Programs

There’s one more lesson that seems to ring true through all of this: projects that fit into a company’s values are generally going to be successful.

“We think it’s so important to have the right culture, and this is the next level of building our culture,” she said.

Moran added that the desire to create a great employee culture is embedded in the very fabric of the company. And in the case of First Commerce, that gives their career pathing project maximum odds of massive success.

“We have always had this ‘employee-first’ mindset. We really feel like that’s foundational in building our culture,” Moran said. “If we can… build the culture inside or organization, which is good for our team, then that kind of flows on over to our [customers]. That overflows to the growth of the organization, which benefits everybody involved.”

 

Learn More About Career Pathing: 

 

Photo by Kobu Agency on Unsplash

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