In previous blog entries, we identified ways to build a culture of belonging and skill building to retain valuable employees. This entry looks at the importance of creating defined career paths to further engage your employees.

Career Paths and Their Benefits

One of an organizations' most essential steps is investing in their employees' career aspirations. Most employees want a dynamic career, not a stagnant job, and the best way to achieve that is through career paths.

A career path helps employees navigate options to reach their career goals within an organization. Career paths also help organizations to be strategic with employee placement to maximize efficiency.

Career Path: A sequence of jobs an employer and employee plan establishing a path to advancement within an organization.


An early scene in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is a good example of why defined paths are helpful. In this scene, Dorothy is trying to find her way back to her home in Kansas. Since she is new to the Land of Oz, Dorothy asks Glinda how to get home. Glinda’s response was to go to Emerald City and meet the Wizard of Oz. When Dorothy asks how to get to Emerald City, Glinda’s answer was to ‘follow the yellow brick road’.

In the example above, Dorothy represents a new or existing employee trying to find the right path to a career, and Glinda represents a leader/mentor guiding their employees in the right direction. The yellow brick road represents the steps needed to get to various points along a career path. Emerald City represents reaching an important milestone, and Kansas represents the ultimate career goal of the employee(s).

There are many benefits to helping employees map out career paths:

Employee Engagement: Employees are more engaged when they know they can grow and learn new skills in the organization.

Employee Retention: Investment in employees and their careers shows an organization values them, leading to greater employee retention.

Addressing Skill Gaps: Employees understand their skill gaps and the competencies they must attain to move to the next stage of their career.

Succession Planning: By growing talent internally, you are building your organization’s next generation of leaders. Employees with requisite skills can be quickly moved to positions as they open within your organization.

Interdepartmental Knowledge: With wide-ranging experience and skills, employees have a better understanding of departmental interdependencies and can pinpoint areas for potential productivity improvement.

94% of employees would stay at an organization longer if it actively invested in their careers.

Career Ladder vs. Career Lattice Paths

The career paths employees can take come in two forms: career ladders or career lattices. 

Career Ladders focus on vertical movement through employee promotion to higher-level positions. Career ladders are considered an older model for employee career growth because of their narrower focus compared to the career lattice path.

Career Lattices focus on horizontal, backward, or diagonal movement within the organization. In this model, employees gain organizational knowledge by working in positions across multiple departments. The organizational knowledge gained through this approach provides valuable insights for employees who are promoted to a higher-level.

Building Career Paths

Building career paths is a straightforward process that starts with the creation of a chart showing all positions within your organization. Included with the position should be a general job description and a list of required skills.

Each position should also include the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) indicating how that position’s success is defined. This gives employees the full picture of performance expectations for any position they are interested in.

Once a career path is defined, a training program should be created that includes job-specific and soft skills training. An employee needs to be able to perform a job’s functions, but it’s also important they can work with and lead others.

You May Already Have What You’re Looking For

Employees want to feel challenged and motivated to grow at work. Employees choose to find other employment because they feel their career is in a rut or that they are in a role they have outgrown, with no way to grow beyond it. If employees feel their organization does not value their career growth, why do they have to stay?

88% of employees would stay at a job longer if career development opportunities exist.

Showing an interest in fostering your employees’ career success goes a long way to help retain employees. Creating the right career path for your employees will mold them into the insightful leaders your organization will need in the future. Click here to learn how you can create an adaptive workforce that will attract and retain your talent.


Post by Taylor Karl
August 8, 2022