How to develop a career progression plan for employees

Published on February 18, 2022 by Archita Misra
How to develop a career progression plan for employees

How can employers create career progression plans in the adaptable, modern workplace? HR consultant Archita Misra explains why clear career progression is important for staff retention and how businesses can develop suitable career progression plans for their employees.

What is career progression?

Throughout the years, employees’ hunger for learning and development and its importance has been proven in different theories. The top peak in Maslow’s pyramid of motivation is defined as Self Actualisation, in other words the desire for personal growth. Carl Rogers’s theory on self-actualisation similarly emphasised that humans have one main motive and it is the tendency to fulfil one’s own potential.

These theories gave rise to the importance of career growth and progression among employees. Career progression in its simplest terms is the steps for moving forward in one’s professional career. This is not confined to promotions or salary rises; it is about achieving next level goals in an employee’s career. This can be taking on new responsibility, new challenges, or developing skills and undertaking training courses or programs for career development.

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The importance of employee career progression

Career progression seems to be a commonly ignored area by line managers and HR. It may seem providing competitive salary, perks and excellent benefits are enough to retain employees, but that’s not entirely true.

CIPD’s employee outlook survey in 2016 revealed that 33% employees feel that their career progression never met the expectations in their jobs. Employees cited lack of career counselling and lack of line management support preventing them from thinking ahead about their career goals. Employees many times also find themselves in situations where they are happy with the work culture, like the people they work with, and like the job they are doing but a lack of career progression makes them feel stagnant and unhappy at their workplace.

With the fading concept of job for life and traditional career paths for employees in an organisation, it is now more crucial than ever to engage employees. A report by recruitment firm Robert Walters revealed that 68% of people emphasised that a clear path of progression in their career is the most important factor to keep them engaged in their job.

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The benefits of career progression plans

Building an engaged and committed workforce, developing future skills, supporting succession planning, and attracting new talents are some of the advantages for the companies who do engage in creating career progression plans for employees. With more widely available resources for L&D, budget poses little constraint for companies to invest in development opportunities for employees. In this time of uncertainty and everyday challenges, employees look for definite direction in their career and an understanding of how different career paths look, which is an important part of employee engagement.

For employees, the benefits of career progression are manifold. It gives them job satisfaction, gives them the confidence that there career is moving forward and not stagnant at any point of their career and gives them a sense of purpose in their career.

Developing career progression plans for employees

Traditional career paths have a more linear and inflexible trajectory and are driven by social/economic status and traditions. A typical career progression ladder looked like:

  • Apprenticeship/internship
  • Junior staff
  • Staff
  • Senior staff
  • Managers
  • Senior managers and so on

In current times, this model of career ladder is changing fast because of many factors, such as advancement in technology, the growing SME culture, flexible and transferable skillsets among employees, and most importantly the urge and willingness among employees to diversify and learn new skillsets.

Hence, it has led to a culture of multiple career ladders, constant evaluation of job roles, and continuous job redesigning and multiple career choices for people. For instance, we all must have come across at least one post on a social media platform where someone has shared their personal experiences about how they have moved from their successful career in one field to another and have made it a success.

Creating a career progression roadmap

Creating a career progression roadmap

Technological advancement, demographic changes, and changing working patterns have resulted in flatter organisational structures in modern day SMEs. This has limited the chances of employee progression by promotions in the organisational ladder. Under this new working environment, creating a career progression roadmap is a more complex process than it seems. Based on analysis on the subject, the below steps provide guidance about creating a roadmap:

  • Employers should start by looking at the organisation chart and defining the skillset needed for each role/job.
  • The next stage involves the redesigning of each job role by introducing new challenges and opportunities within the same role, which might help employees get more from their jobs while staying in the same role.
  • The next step is to identify the various career paths for each role. There might be more than one career path for an employee in a particular job role; alternatively, an employee with a transferable skillset who is in one role might be able to offer their services to a different role within the same company.
  • After this, there is the process of developing a training program for each possible career path an employee might be able to choose. It is also a good idea to assign a mentor for each career path, so that employees are able to receive counselling and supervision.
  • Following from the above, it’s about constant evaluation of the newly defined career paths and reincorporating any new path that may come up during the evaluation process.
  • Finally, place each chosen and defined career path into the organisation structure to ensure that the progression is visible to everyone.

A modern-day career progression map may look something like these two examples below:

Career progression paths example

Career progression example

Having a career progression policy

It is vital to have a written career progression policy, so that both line managers and employees have a clear understanding of the process. The policy must cover different aspects of the process; for instance, it should highlight the frequency at which the exercise takes place in an organisation within a certain span of time and the perks, benefits, or the intangible rewards associated with different career paths.

Read more from the myhrtoolkit blog

An employer’s guide to the employee life cycle

How to develop leadership skills in employees

Is performance management only for poor performers?

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Written by Archita Misra

Archita Misra is an MCIPD qualified Human Resources professional with more than 12 years' experience in HR operations and strategy across different industries. She has also done an MBA in Human Resources and offers project-based consultancy services for organisations.

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