We Need to Pay More Attention to Career Paths


Most of us join an organization with the intention to progress career-wise.

Finding an employer who will help us develop our skill set, discover motivating paths and avoid stagnation is vital. Yet, even in this day and age — these qualities can prove elusive. Our managers simply don’t have the time to help us sort it out and the information available internally can be spotty, unclear or inaccurate. To be truthful, the deficit to explore our future path begins early in the job search process, where the information provided with which to make career decisions is sorely lacking. This information deficit can continue, when employees struggle to find information to inform their career journey.

Ultimately, both engagement and retention suffer.

This problem is multi-faceted. But, there are two sides I’d like to consider here: 1) The information shared during the recruitment phase and 2) the quantity and quality of information available to current employees seeking internal growth paths.

Sadly, there exists a “lop-sided” emphasis on talent acquisition vs. career development. (Yes, recruitment is an integral element of the talent pipeline, which I respect.) Admittedly, this has much to do with the inherent difficulty of capturing the complexity of roles within organizations, describing them accurately and securing the right mechanisms to communicate that information. As a result, employees often (as a last option) seek a change organizations to reach their career development goals. Moreover, because recruitment channels receive the lion’s share of attention — managers seeking talent within their own organization might acquiesce and fill the role from the outside.

This sets up new problems on both sides of the exchange. Firstly, built knowledge about both the organization and the work at hand walks out the door with the established employee. Secondly, employees must again play the role of the newcomer and all that brings — wasting precious time mastering a new culture and its own contextual concerns. (I am ever hopeful that HR tech will begin solve these problem for us. Listen to a discussion concerning implementation of the Fuel50 platform at Ingersoll Rand here.)

Some of the informational issues could at least partially impacted during recruitment — where the information provided concerning roles, triggers early decisions about the job-candidate “match”. There has been progress in recent years to abstain from job descriptions that are simply a long lists of needed skills, responsibilities and requirements. However, there is one category of information that may be rarely shared — but could offer a wealth of information to potential job candidates. This is information concerning career paths of those that went before them. If shared in some way candidates could at least envision how they might develop professionally if they committed to a longer-term tenure.

As an illustration of this issues discussed here, I’ve just read another article about strategies to attract talent, with the word “lure” in the title. This article provided useful information — but somehow utilizing the word “lure” in reference to a job candidate defeats the purpose. We should set out to attract contributors in a transparent and informative manner. This involves putting the right information out there, so that effective decisions are made. For example, the “context” concerning a role does matter. How will you actually apply a specific skill set? What outcomes will you working toward? (See a great video from Ruutly about this very topic here).

In summation, we need work together and solve these information gaps. If we are to tackle the engagement crisis, we need to look beyond the initial role that an individual holds and look ahead. This inevitably involves how we describe and communicate internal opportunities that will comprise their  “future”.

Yes, all of this requires much more thought and devoted resources.

Yes, this would require organizations to adequately describe roles internally and keep track of contributors’ paths.

Yes, this involves paying greater attention to “internal recruitment” within organizations.

Yes, this would involve an even greater level of transparency.

However, collecting and communicating more information concerning where starting point “A” might lead during organizational tenure, could not only attract future employees — but keep a few more great people down the line.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.


One thought on “We Need to Pay More Attention to Career Paths

  1. Great article. I have found that progression is often favored over a pay increase in the role. Companies without mentor, or leadership progression paths may lose key talent as a result. I also understand that progression within a company can take time, but this is why mentoring and leader development is critical to retain talent. Leaders must take the time to develop their teams skills (technical and leadership).


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