Beat the Great Resignation with Career Pathing

At the end of last year, I identified top strategies for HR in 2022. In the 2020s, HR strategies are shifting to reinstating powerful, comprehensive talent management strategies to offer employees careers with purpose, excellent pay and benefits, and equity — not just a job. This article will focus on career pathing as a critical tool for the success of comprehensive talent management strategies. You can’t have talent management without developing your employees’ careers, especially your most talented, and making sure the process is inclusive and equitable.

As a quick review, here is my list of 2022 top talent strategies that enable you to attract, develop, and retain great talent and drive profitable growth:

Employees Believe Companies Have Abandoned Career Development.

Many employees have felt in the past few years that their companies no longer provided them a career path or invested in their career development. After the financial recession of 2007 and 2008, many employers cut their career development and training organizations to save costs. In the high-tech industry, it had become chic to liberate employees to chart their own careers, which often meant that the most talented employees – the one’s companies want to retain because they drive value – left the organization for new opportunities and better careers and pay. (Before Covid-19, some of Silicon Valley’s top technical talent would charge recruiters an expensive hourly rate just to interview – and got away with it.)

The Covid-19 recession and the uncertainty it caused put an end to this madness, but the Great Resignation and a severe talent shortage remains and will last the decade. Retaining employees is critical to combat the Great Resignation. Career Pathing (and career advancement) is a critical tool. IBM published a report last year that identified what employees want from employers to be better engaged at work. No. 2 on the list, with 43 percent support, was career advancement opportunities, behind work-life balance (at 51 percent), and ahead of improved pay and benefits (at 41 percent). An earlier study by Glassdoor, before Covid-19, revealed that 73% of employees change employers to get ahead in their careers, while only 27% of employees stayed at their current employer for their next role.

Extraordinary technical talent, executives, and management talent can often write their own ticket. With the 2020s labor shortage and the Great Resignation, the shoe is on the other foot. Turnover, and its costs, are often a significant unidentified cost to employers that even their HR and Finance teams do not have a handle on. According to Gallup, employee turnover costs US businesses $1 trillion a year. (Yes, the “T” word). Gallup estimates that the cost of replacing an employee can range from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary.

You Can Beat the Great Resignation with Career Pathing

Career pathing is the process of identifying opportunities for employees and giving them the development opportunities that enable growth. It is not an exact timetable. Think of it as a journey with twists, turns, road closures, and open freeways. Most career paths in the 2020s will not be straight up. Instead, they will include lateral moves to develop missing skills and gain vital experiences. They often include special projects with risks and opportunities to overcome obstacles and strategic job rotations to new departments or business sectors of the company. As with any journey, it goes more smoothly when you have a map.

Career pathing begins with discussions between an employee and a manager. For the manager, it is an opportunity to listen to the employee’s career preferences. The manager can ask questions, such as:

  1. What is the type of work you are passionate about?
  2. What do you want to be doing in one, three, and five years?
  3. How high in the organization do you want to go?
  4. How do you currently assess your knowledge and skills to achieve your career success?
  5. What development do you believe you need?

Over the next few meetings, the discussion needs to turn to identifying career paths that fit the employees’ preferences and mapping out the training, development roles, and opportunities to achieve the specific goals. The career path should not be a pipe dream. The manager needs to provide honest feedback on expectations and alternatives. The career and development plan should be documented in the organization’s talent management software and be easily assessable to the employee, manager, top executives by function, and the HR team.

Critical to this process is feedback to the employee from the manager and internal clients on the employee’s current skills and abilities and how to improve. Managers should follow up with employees on their career plans as often as they have performance management updates. (I recommend quarterly.) The process works best when the manager, with the company’s support, can identify resources for training and access to coaches.

Company executives and the HR department can also help the process by sharing the talent management plan to fuel the company’s growth and to build the required skill sets. Additionally, I have found it very helpful to share career paths of successful and respected people in the organization that showcase their career progression, critical learning, obstacles they overcame, and their coaches and mentors. It is best for a VP or Director to provide this information and, of course, they should also  allow employees to ask questions.

While the process begins with the manager, it will not succeed without the visible support and active participation of the “C”-suite and others in executive management. Career pathing is vital for the success of any succession plan.

Victor Assad is the CEO of Victor Assad Strategic Human Resources Consulting and managing partner of InnovationOne.. He works with companies to transform HR and recruiting, implement remote work, and develop extraordinary leaders, teams, and innovation cultures. He is the author of the highly acclaimed book, Hack Recruiting: the Best of Empirical Research, Method and Process, and Digitization. Subscribe to his weekly blogs at www.VictorHRConsultant.com. 

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