Career Pathways – Why are they important and a few FREE tips


Those of you that regularly read my content will know that I am a big believer that SMB’s (small-medium businesses) who have clear career paths for employees, have a much higher chance of retaining staff. However, I often see businesses focus far too much on promotions and pushing high performers to become line managers, as appose to offering them a development path that is unique to them and fit for purpose. This typically leads to the scenario where you take a high performing individual contributor, dump them into a scenario that is unfamiliar to them, which can cause not only their personal performance to drop but also that of the team too.

The purpose of todays short blog is to look at why you should focus on creating unique career paths for each of your employees, some barriers that businesses face when creating pathways  and a couple of things that you can take away and implement.

So, why should you bother creating a career pathway for each of your employees?

Firstly, a career path provides each employee with guidance and structure to their weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual activities. It gives individuals a sense of purpose and enables them to understand WHY they complete all the small activities that contribute to the success of the organisation.

From a business perspective it will allow you to nurture and develop your current high performers, along with constantly evolving the skills, capabilities and behaviours of less experienced talent, as they move through the business. Also, for employees who are not performing at the level expected, it provides them with the opportunity to improve and doesn’t allow them to get stuck going through the motions.

Finally and most importantly, career pathways are a brilliant way to communicate to your staff that you care about their professional development and want them to succeed not only in this role, but in future life. This typically leads to staff retention, enabling you to reduce costs. Equally, it can often lead to a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting new talent into the business. With unemployment at its lowest in decades, it is important to take every step possible to best attract and retain.

Typical reasons why businesses don’t design career pathways?

  • Not being able to deliver on agreed actions
    • Often leaders are put off from creating pathways due to past experience, where actions have not been delivered as agreed. It is crucial to ensure that each employees pathway aligns to the development needs of the organisation and is also SMART.
  • Don’t believe it will make an impact
    • One of the core reasons that career pathways do not make an impact is because they are too rigid. It is crucial that every single pathway is bespoke to that individual to ensure that the actions are engaging and adopted.


What can you try? Here’s a few tips…

  • Start conversations
    • To begin with I’d strongly recommend either yourself or line managers (dependant on the size of your business) having a one to one conversation with each employee. This is often better when done in an informal setting and the structure of the conversation is tailored around gathering insight on the individuals current situation, ambitions and motivations.
  • (optional) Begin analysis
    • Although this is optional, gathering insight around each employee can prove incredibly valuable. Whether it is a simple, traditional method such as a SWOT analysis around the individuals current capabilities or even using a psychometric profiling/motivational maps tool, is great too!
  • Understand your future business needs
    • This includes exercises such as succession planning, workforce planning, reviewing roles and responsibilities, creating a new organisational structure etc. In short, looking at what skills and capabilities you need to see within the organisation for it to be successful.
  • Co-create pathways with each individual employee
    • Work with each employee to try and link the needs of the business to their personal development. Whether this includes training and development opportunities, financial/benefit improvements, academic development opportunities or even discussing line management opportunities (you will need some!).
  • Measure the impact
    • How frustrating is it when a leadership team implement a new strategy and then get bored of it within a couple of months and move on to the next project? It is so important to measure on a quarterly basis or during 1-1’s how each individual is progressing. Using recognition and performance techniques to help each employee reach their goal can also work well.


In summary, I have no doubts that many of you that will have read this blog will feel as though “No, we’re fine, we have something in place”, which is fine. But, my question to you is, does EVERY single one of your employees know? Just because it is written on a piece of paper or held on a system somewhere doesn’t mean that the individual will know. All I ask is that at the very minimum, you have a chat with each of your employees and ensure that they are 100% clear of the opportunities within your business – if that goes on to retain one member of staff for you, then this blog is worth on average £8,000-£10,000 and you got it for FREE!

As always, more than happy to answer any questions – please feel free to get in touch.