Career pathing is an important practice for any forward-thinking, career-driven individual. When it’s in alignment with the current position and possible future positions they hold in a company, it also has the potential to significantly boost engagement, retention, and productivity – all huge organizational benefits. But in an increasingly democratizing employee-employer dynamic, it’s unreasonable to expect employees to take on the burden of pursuing a proactive career roadmap all by themselves. It’s up to employers to meet their employees halfway, and take the necessary steps to ensure they’re providing the the right setting and right opportunities for employees to truly thrive.
So what can employers do to help their employees along?
Traditionally, when new employees were taken on by a company, the unspoken expectation between the workplace and them was that they were there to do the job they were hired for. Nothing more, nothing less.
But while that’s a good place to start a professional relationship in, it’s an unrealistic expectation from a person over time. People change, as do their aspirations and areas of interest, and expecting them to continue filling the same function creates an inherent clash of interests from an organizational standpoint; on the one hand, we expect employees to continue to grow, learn and become more professional, while on the other, the better they become at their specific job, the more likely they are to want to leave it and pursue their professional growth in other roles.
Companies can overcome this by implementing talent marketplaces and a culture of sharable, company-wide talent, which allows employees more fluidity and flexibility as they move from one position to another. This also bolsters organizational agility, and allows decision-makers to channel talent from one area of the business to another as the need arises. But while talent marketplaces are quickly becoming an essential human resource management tool, if they don’t take career pathing into account they continue to place the responsibility of career pathing and planning squarely on the shoulders of the employee, essentially saying “if your best interests align with our goals, that’s great – but we’re not going to go out of our way to make sure that they do.”
So while talent and opportunity marketplaces are an essential piece of the puzzle, without a company culture and values and takes a proactive part in employees’ growth, chances are that at some point, sooner or later, successful employees will face a dilemma which places their personal growth on one side, and the company’s interests on the other. But there’s another way.
Instead of taking on employees to fulfill a specific function within the organization, companies can – and should – instead take them on to go on a journey through the organization.
Starting out in one position, an employee should have a clear view of his or her horizon – and what they need to do to get there – from the moment they start and years into their employment.
Smart talent marketplaces already do this by taking an employee’s career path into account when suggestion new opportunities within the company, prioritizing positions that can help them progress towards their professional goals – but this isn’t a problem that a technological solution can simply fix.
Managers and colleagues need to be mindful of and actively involved in helping employees reach their professional goals. This isn’t an easy cultural change to implement, but once it’s embraced, many conflicts of interest are resolved at once, and personal and organizational goals can easily align, pushing the entire organization forward.