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Employee Engagement Career Pathing

This One Factor Predicts Success for Career Pathing Programs

By HRSG Team on July, 25 2022

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HR professionals love frameworks and processes. And with good reason! By setting up the right structures within the organization, you can ensure that the talent programs you build are supported by a solid foundation.

But frameworks alone can’t guarantee success. To support the desired change, you also need to change the culture.

This is true for any change driven by HR, but it’s especially when you are changing the paths employees can take as their careers progress. In this blog post, we’ll look at how talent professionals can foster a culture that supports the success of a new career pathing program.


Support culture change

An organization’s culture doesn’t begin and end with HR, but talent professionals play a significant role in shaping that culture. The policies and processes you put in place to define, attract, retain, and develop your talent impact the way people are treated, the way they are encouraged to treat each other, and the values the organization stands for.

In the case of a career pathing program, moving from a traditional career progression framework to a more flexible one signals a cultural shift towards employee empowerment and growth, whether the journey takes them on a vertical or horizontal path.

While creating the right career pathing framework is essential, it’s equally critical to create the right culture so that employees and managers alike know how to use it and why it’s so important that they do.

These three activities can help you pave the way for success by supplying not only the framework but the culture your career pathing program needs to thrive.


1. Empower your talent

At HRSG, we urge our clients to think of their employees as the CEOs of their own careers. They need to feel as though they call the shots—because they do. A career pathing framework provides the supports your employees need to pursue new career directions, but it can’t help them if they don’t know how to use it.

It’s not enough to simply share an org chart with employees and leave them to their own devices. As a talent leader, you need to make sure they know how to navigate and explore different career paths and that they are encouraged to do so. Make it clear that they always have the power to start a conversation with anyone in the organization, not just the manager they report to. Employees should understand that they are welcome to talk to anyone, even if they’re in a completely different business area.


2. Support your managers

Managers are essential to the success of any career pathing initiative, but they need support to embrace their changing role.

To support career pathing, managers must become coaches, facilitators, and advocates who help employees stretch and improve in new directions, and that’s not a role they may be familiar or comfortable with. They need to be ready to have great conversations with their people about where they are now, where they want to go, and how they can get there. They need to make introductions between the employee and people in other departments or disciplines or keep an eye out for special assignments that offer the employee exposure to new environments, connections, and skills, or targeted experiences to help build their proficiency in specific competencies that are required for future success.


3. Change the mindset

The hardest part of any career pathing initiative is to change the organizational mindset and reverse the sense of ownership that many managers feel about the employees they manage. Over the years, most managers have learned to jealously guard their talent, because losing it to another team or department means facing the painful search for a replacement. As a result, the organization's best talent is often "rewarded" with the least amount of career progression—until these star players realize they can look outside the organization for opportunities to thrive.

To break this corrosive cycle, talent leaders need to retrain everyone in the organization to see talent as a shared resource. Managers need to think about the best interests of the entire organization, not just their small corner of it. When an employee "moves on" to another department instead of another company, it's a win, and the managers who facilitated that move should be celebrated and rewarded for creating a culture where employees can find new challenges internally.


Structure + Culture = Success

Career pathing is a highly effective way to retain talent, but while it’s important to create the right structure to support it, that’s only half the story. Talent leaders need to ensure that they are investing just as much energy into shifting the organizational culture, because if people don’t understand the “why” and the “how” behind a new HR program, they are unlikely to change their attitudes and behaviors. Communicate the value of the program to managers and employees and give them the tools, training, and support they need to participate fully.

Learn more about how to design and launch a successful career pathing program. Download "The 2022 Definitive Guide to Career Pathing," a new eBook from HRSG’s expert consultants.