Career pathing is obsolete. Here’s what to do instead

Career pathing

Unfortunately, most companies’ approach to promoting internal mobility and keeping talent challenged, growing and motivated has not kept up with the times, and this has resulted in enormous costs.

According to Work Institute’s 2019 State of the Workforce report, voluntary employee turnover exceeded 27% in 2019, representing a whopping 88% increase since 2010. The report predicts that if this trend continues, U.S. employee turnover will hit 35% by 2023, which for most companies would constitute an unbearable cost burden.

Why are employees leaving companies at unprecedented rates? The obvious answer is that employee expectations around what they want and expect from their work are not being satisfied by their employers. The good news is, 66% of employees report that they first look for internal opportunities before deciding to leave. So, if your company can provide these in-house, you have a good chance of retaining top talent.

Workers don’t want career paths

The first thing companies need to understand is that workers are generally not interested in linear career paths. Interestingly, this is not just a phenomenon among millennials. Research shows that while millennials do tend to change jobs more frequently than other generations, there is not much difference between baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials when it comes to what motivates them. U.S. employees are more motivated by purpose and fulfillment (lifestyle goals) than they are by a fancier title or bigger paycheck. In fact, a recent survey revealed that the vast majority (89%) of workers – with little differences between the different generations – reported that they would consider a lateral career move with no financial incentive. The most common motivators for a lateral move cited by survey respondents were personal satisfaction (57%), the opportunity to pursue a new career direction (41%), and taking on a new professional challenge (40%).

career pathing internal recruitment

Employees want career portfolios

With these motivators in mind, career portfolios are a better fit for what will entice employees to stay with their company. Unlike a career path, a career portfolio is not linear, but rather is a mosaic of all of the skills, opportunities, and professional experiences a worker would like to try or accumulate.

A perfect example of this is one of MojoHire’s product managers, Greg. Greg is a software engineer based in our engineering center of excellence in Poland. After working for us as a software engineer for a few years, he began to realize he wasn’t interested in doing that job forever. He began exploring different jobs that might interest him. He discovered that a Scrum Master would complement his engineering work, so he acquired Professional Scrum Master (PSM) certification. After being a Scrum Master for a time, he became interested in product management. He approached us about his interest and even though he didn’t have product management experience, we knew that with his experience in software engineering and Scrum agile project management, product management was a role that he could grow into. So, we placed him in this role, which represents a completely different career direction. Now that he is gaining experience as a product manager, he realized that having UI/UX skills would complement his responsibilities very well because he would be able to handle HTML and front-end development himself, rather than pass that part of the product off to other people. So, he’s already thinking about his next move.

Greg is an example of today’s workforce and the future of work. Employees want to take on new challenges, learn new skills, and grow as individuals. Their career takes them on a lot of different paths with turns that are often unanticipated. Workers appreciate the flexibility of being able to explore as they go and try new things as they become interested in them.

Advantages of career portfolios

For Employers

Because it shows workers their options for advancement inside the business, career portfolios help engage and retain talent. Employees who do not perceive obvious growth opportunities at their current company are likely to seek them elsewhere. Glassdoor research indicates that the vast majority (73%) of employees change companies to advance their careers. Only 27% choose to stay with their current employer when changing roles.

If you are not involved in your workers’ career planning discussions, your organization risks not being part of their future plans. Facilitating lateral and other non-linear moves encourages workers to envisage a long-term career at your organization, increasing employee retention and lowering hiring costs.

It is up to employers to convince people that the company can and will assist them in advancing their careers. Clearly defined policies and processes that enable workers to apply for different positions or communicate their interests will motivate them to work diligently to advance within the organization.

Another benefit of career portfolios is that they can help with succession planning. Ongoing discussions with workers about their plans and investing in their journey to gain the skills and knowledge required to occupy highly specialized senior roles facilitates backfilling exiting executives.

Related link: Intelligent Talent Discovery

For Employees

Understanding internal career prospects and having clear short-term and long-term career objectives is the most evident advantage for employees. While it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks of a present position, it’s crucial to be excited about the future.

Excitement about future prospects motivates employees to do their best work, take on new challenges, and develop new skills. A SHRM survey shows that 70% of employees say being empowered is a key determinant of their level of engagement. So, empower your employees by involving them in shaping their evolution within the company to ensure their expectations are understood and addressed.

girl in coffee shop

Barriers to career portfolios

Siloed data and unintelligent (keyword-based) technology are an impediment to helping your employees build career portfolios because technology and data enable brainstorming and discovery. As in the case with Greg, sometimes employees aren’t aware of what roles exist that leverage their existing skillset while offering an exciting new challenge.

An intelligent platform like MojoHire, which uses AI to analyze your entire pool of talent data, can scan other talent in your systems that have a similar experience to one of your employees, and present the types of roles they have occupied as a way to help your employee explore different options.

Instead, the reality is that recruiters are still searching by titles or skills (or worse – by keywords). This approach to searching talent databases is one-dimensional. But people want to grow three-dimensionally. To continue with the example of Greg, using AI you can quickly see that Greg has 75 skills, and your organization may have identified a total of 200 skills that are needed across all of your open reqs. MojoHire intelligently scans your HR systems and surfaces 45 other people who together possess all 200 skills and fulfill 100% of your skillset needs. By reviewing the career evolution of these other employees, someone like Greg can see what types of skills are both needed and compatible, and where they could lead.

Of course, another barrier to career portfolios is cultural. Managers instinctively want to hold onto their best employees. This is myopic because not only will the employee change roles regardless, but if their manager doesn’t help them move three-dimensionally within the organization, they will go to another company altogether. Your enterprise is the clear loser in this scenario.

Related link: How AI Accelerates Recruiting

Career Pathing Final Thoughts

Keeping employees engaged boils down to seeing things from their perspective. As the adage goes, if you take care of your people, your people take care of your business. By prioritizing the goals of your workers and understanding them as three-dimensional people, you will keep top talent engaged for the long term and your business will thrive as a result.

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