Are Your People Leaving? Here’s a Career Path Strategy That Works!
We’re facing a hiring and retention crisis, unlike anything we’ve seen before. It’s predicted that about a quarter of the workforce will look for work elsewhere this year, while at the same time, the oldest working generation nears retirement age.
Millennials, who not only make up the largest percentage of the workforce but also make up the largest portion of employees looking for other jobs, are looking for new jobs in droves (about 1 in 3 millennial employees is considering a job change). Baby Boomers are retiring at a faster rate than ever before. In September 2020, 40% of Boomers had retired, which is a 1% increase since February of the same year.
At the same time, the pandemic has increased the number of remote work opportunities and acceptance of “flexible” work schedules – employees (especially high-performing ones) are no longer tied to geographic locations.
All of these scenarios have left employers with what is being deemed as “The Great Resignation.” You may not be able to provide substantial pay increases or a generous vacation day policy – your line of work may not even allow for continued work-from-home flexibility. And, you certainly can’t stop your Baby Boomer workforce from retiring.
So how can we prevent “The Great Resignation” from hitting our organizations too hard? One thing every organization, big or small, can provide is clear career paths.
- Career paths provide clarity and direction to employees (and employers) about the next steps when it comes to career growth.
- Lack of career growth is one of the number one reasons people look to leave their jobs – career paths are an effective retention strategy.
- The four types of career paths include the management ladder path, specialist ladder path, horizontal/lattice path, and expertise path.
- Common objections to career pathing strategies include:
- We’re too small/flat.
- Won’t everybody want to be a manager?
- Career development plans are too complicated and expensive.
- People are going to leave anyway.
- Now is the time to implement a career path strategy – retention is so much easier, more cost-effective, and more efficient than hiring!
What is a Career Path?
Career paths steer people in the direction they want to go at a specific point in their life. They help people see how to grow and develop in a successful career, as well as answer the question, “What might my next role be, or assignment, on this chosen path that I have?” In its simplest form, a clear career path provides clarity and direction to employees (and employers).
Additionally, career Paths help employees answer the following questions:
- Who will replace me?
- How do I advance in my career?
- How will I be compensated?
- How do I get from “here” to “there”?
So why do you need career paths? According to a 2021 Prudential report, 49% of all employees are concerned with career growth. A 2020 Deloitte Talent report cites the number one reason people leave their jobs is lack of career progression – are you seeing a common theme?
Clear career paths are a crucial aspect of a successful retention strategy. And, in the current climate, they are more important than ever. Of those employees looking to leave their jobs in the next 12 months, a staggering 80% are concerned about career growth. Additionally, 75% of those surveyed say the pandemic made them rethink their skill sets – exploring higher education options and certifications often not provided by their employer.
This generation of workers looking to leave for better opportunities may be on to something. They are searching for clarity and job satisfaction – something you can very easily provide through career paths!
Four Types of Career Paths
There are four common types of Career Paths, which can be combined with Expert Badges to create formalized career paths for your employees. A variety of paths provides flexibility to support all kinds of desires, life stages, and styles, while encouraging a common theme that everyone is growing, learning, and moving forward.
- Management Ladder Path: On this path, people stay in the same field (e.g., marketing) to become more of a generalist, eventually moving into people leadership and functional management.
- Specialist Ladder Path: This path allows people to stay in the same type of role (e.g., writer) and become more skilled, competent, expert, and efficient.
- Horizontal/Lattice Path: This path facilitates movement between functions, departments, and specialties, allowing people to learn a broad range of skills.
- Expertise Path: This path focuses on skill-building as a great option for employees who are new to the workforce or who have just changed fields.
For more detailed explanations and an implementation guide, download our HR Essentials Toolkit Career Paths for Everyone. Use this resource to learn how to create different career paths for every role, regardless of the size or structure of your workplace.
Common Objections to Career Pathing Strategies
One of the biggest challenges many of our ministry partners are currently facing is retention. Career paths are an easy-to-implement and proven strategy for increasing retention, but we often hear the following objections:
1. We’re too small/flat – only big organizations have career pathing strategies.
This simply isn’t true. Even if your organization is small, people are bound to leave – whether for personal or professional reasons. It’s crucial to develop a succession plan and anticipate possible turnover. Career paths help every organization, big or small, answer the question “Who are you preparing to replace you?” Plus, you’re not going to be ready for growth if you keep everyone’s skills flat.
2. Won’t everybody want to be a manager?
True, a traditional career path may advance an employee on a management track, but not all career paths need to or should be designed in this way. In fact, advancement in “place” is appealing to a lot of today’s workers. This looks like becoming a specialist in a specific skill or area, increasing one’s job responsibilities and productivity without adding any kind of management to the workload. The four types of career paths are explained in more detail in our HR Essentials Toolkit Career Paths for Everyone.
3. Career development plans are too complicated and expensive.
Research shows that internal candidates are usually about 30 to 50 percent more likely to succeed in their new role than outside candidates. And frankly, fewer than 10% of the activities related to career paths involve any direct financial investment. You really can’t afford to not have a career path strategy.
4. People are going to leave anyway.
Yes, people will leave. They always will. But, career paths and development plans are shown to be one of the most effective retention tools and save organizations thousands of dollars by avoiding turnover costs for departing employees. Similarly, knowing who will replace you makes hiring internally easier when that candidate is already prepared to step into the role.
Why you need a career path strategy NOW (before it’s too late)
The benefits of a clear career path strategy are evident. And just in case you needed a little more convincing, here are a few reasons why you can’t wait to implement a career path strategy:
1. High turnover is expected for the rest of 2021 and the next year
We’ve only scratched the surface of “The Great Resignation.” There are people who are still hesitating and, when they see success from those who have already left, they will leave too. Your employees will leave for career advancement opportunities at other employers – advancement opportunities that you could provide them with a clear strategy.
2. You need qualified internal candidates to backfill leadership positions.
If you choose to wait until your leadership team has retired, who will replace them? The number of Gen Xers in the workplace is significantly lower than the number of Boomers leaving – you will need to hire younger employees to fill leadership positions. Are they ready?
The earlier you involve your employees in career advancement opportunities, the less experimentation you’ll need when they actually step into the role. If you wait until the last minute, you miss out on valuable coaching and mentoring that can occur while the current leader is still in place. Being proactive is a worthwhile investment.
3. You’re not getting any younger.
As leaders, we need to be prepared for what lies ahead. You are not going to be working forever – someone someday will need to take over – as is the case for every position in your organization. It’s expensive to fill a position with an outside hire, and the failure rate is significantly higher. Career pathing isn’t just about retention, but it also anticipates succession.
This isn’t just good business practice – it’s also biblical. Elijah prepared for Elisha (1 King 19:19-21). Jesus prepared his disciples (John 13). As we prepare to “pass the mantle” to our successors, we must first be sure they are prepared. Career paths and succession planning serve as guides through this process.
Take the next step
Ready to start implementing an effective career path strategy? Purchase our HR Essentials: Career Paths for Everyone toolkit for helpful resources, including…
- The basics of career path design
- Detailed descriptions of the four core career paths
- The benefits of expert badges