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How to Create Career Paths for Your Employees

A new trend is emerging in the world of learning and development (L&D)—and it centers around your employees’ futures. 

Ask around your organization and you’ll find more and more people talking about unique career paths, from short-term skills to master and potential roles employees can achieve. 

However, many managers themselves aren’t investing in developing career paths for their teams. Data from Gallup reinforces this: Its research found that 52 percent of employees exiting an organization say it could have done more to keep them from leaving. 

Moreover, over half of respondents say their manager did not discuss their job satisfaction or future with them in the three months before they left.

The need for defined career paths is clear. Before getting started, it’s vital to understand the advantages and how organizations can implement a career path initiative.

What is a career path for employees?

Career paths are long-term plans that lead to an employee’s desired outcome. It could be a specific position within the company or a career trajectory. The career path an employee takes determines the skills they learn and the mentorship they receive to reach their goals. 

Creating employee career paths results in: 

  • Employees with stronger hard and soft skills
  • Lower turnover rates
  • Lower employee onboarding and training costs
  • Higher employee satisfaction

Furthermore, employees are eager to grow in their roles. Some 91 percent of employees say they would stay longer with a company if it invested in their career. If a manager suggests a course to take, 56 percent of employees would enroll in it. 

The importance of career mapping with your employees

The career landscape has changed drastically. Gen Z accounted for around 37 percent of job-hopping in 2021, with a tendency to jump positions without hesitation. But it’s not over. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates a similar trend in 2022. 

For organizations that want to retain talent, establishing career paths is vital. It costs them half to 2x what they pay an employee to replace them. 

Organizations benefit from career paths in the following ways: 

  • Attract and retain top talent. A common reason employees leave a company is a lack of advancement opportunities. A career path shows employees what their future holds and that you value them long-term. 
  • Establish career transparency. Transparency helps retain employees because it establishes a sense of security. It’s also a way to improve team collaboration and foster open communication between employees and leadership.
  • Align mutually beneficial goals. Matching each employee’s strengths with the organization’s goals leads to more revenue and less turnover. 
  • Increase employee engagement. Employee engagement is higher when there is a clear career path. Engaged, motivated employees are more productive. 
  • Soft skill development. Both hard and soft skills are essential. Leadership, communication, and collaboration are the three soft skills that executives and talent developers say need prioritization. 

How to create a career path in 6 steps

  1. Determine your organization’s needs
  2. Discuss goals with employees during onboarding 
  3. Identify training needs
  4. Assign employee mentors
  5. Create customized learning programs
  6. Explore other opportunities

1. Determine your organization’s needs

The first step to creating a career path is to determine what your organization needs. 

Here are some questions to think about during the process:

  • What’s your company’s plan for the next few years?
  • Are there any hard and soft skills your organization needs to develop?
  • How will you handle employee turnover and onboarding? 
  • What should your organizational chart look like to reflect these changes?

Establishing a company’s performance standards is crucial for developing career roadmaps for individual employees. A high-level timeline and milestones can aid managers in aligning career paths with company needs.

Provide employees with organizational charts showing the hierarchy of relevant company roles. The picture gives them a visual to identify possible career paths, whether it’s a new hire exploring interesting roles or lateral moves from existing employees. 

2. Discuss goals with employees during onboarding

Identifying an employee’s underlying motivations can help them discover their best career path. It all starts with your onboarding process. An employee with a clear career path during their onboarding process is 3.5x more likely to define their onboarding experience as exceptional, increasing employee satisfaction. 

As part of onboarding, ask employees to take a self-assessment. Through their results, employees can better understand their current skill set, knowledge gaps, strengths, and areas for improvement. 

Discussing long-term goals within the company becomes manageable and realistic with a self-assessment. The next step is to create a learning and development plan that matches the employee’s goals. 

3. Identify training needs 

Understanding an employee’s training needs is the foundation for their career path. In this step, you evaluate an employee’s knowledge, skills, and abilities to determine the learning path they should take to reach their goals. You also learn how employees prefer to learn. 

You can collect this information in a few different ways:

  • Holding one-on-one meetings with employees
  • Using surveys
  • Conducting assessments
  • Observing employees 

Once you understand what employees know, give them the resources they need to support their progress. Likewise, you might want to consider what content needs updating or fine-tuning. A tool like WorkRamp can help you build onboarding programs with customized learning paths based on role, and tie career paths to business objectives. 

“WorkRamp has allowed us to scale our onboarding process. We hired 6x times as many people in 2021 as we did in 2020 and we wouldn’t have managed to do it as efficiently as we did without WorkRamp”


— John Hunt, head of global revenue, Zappi

4. Assign employee mentors

Nine out of 10 workers say they’re happy with their jobs because they have mentors. During the pandemic, companies in the Fortune 500 with mentorship programs performed better than those without.

Developing an employee through mentoring benefits both them and the organization. Career mentoring helps you hold on to employees who want to grow within your company and become leaders. Mentors also help employees realize their goals leading to more collaboration, shared knowledge, and higher productivity. 

Another option is setting up mentor circles. Similar to an employee resource group, mentor circles are when two employees have similar career paths and work together to succeed. This gives employees a chance to work with people from other departments they may not have known otherwise. 

5. Create customized L&D programs

Training does not follow a one-size-fits-all approach. Each employee has their own unique strengths and weaknesses and preferred ways to learn. 

As part of the career path initiative, companies should prioritize creating a customized L&D program tailored to each employee’s needs. Think about the fact that strength-based learning and development leads to 23 percent higher engagement

Key elements to creating customized programs include:

  • Onboarding. A good onboarding process that aligns employees with company culture.
  • Transformation. Let employees weigh in on their learning plan and skill development. Inspire them to meet professional and personal goals.
  • Technology. Let employees choose how they learn. A learning management platform like WorkRamp offers users unlimited access to video content, tutorials, social learning experiences, mentorship, and more.
  • Measurement. Monitor progress metrics to make sure employees are meeting their milestones. This will keep them motivated and on the right track to success.

“The only way for a company to truly grow is for everyone to always be their sharpest and to always be willing to get better. The only way to achieve that goal is for your company to be completely invested in learning both in action and time.”


 — Jen Scopo, Instructional Design Manager, WorkRamp 

6. Explore other opportunities 

Over time, employees’ interests will change. Maybe they’re interested in a different role or want a new challenge. Maybe their manager told them to look into other possible roles. Employees who don’t believe they can achieve their career goals with a current employer are 12x more likely to leave. 

Career paths should be flexible. Everyone’s career path will be different. That’s especially true when 35 percent of employees have used L&D to find new jobs within their organizations. 

Rather, organizations should hone in on the employee exploration and discovery process as another way to engage workers. As a career development strategy, it can help strengthen employee belonging and create a culture of continuous learning.  

“Internal mobility is one of the most powerful ways to attract and retain talent. By helping staff explore different interests or transition into new job roles and functions, you can enhance employee engagement and hold on to top talent.” 


— Sharon Taylor, Director of L&D, Emergenetics International

Create clear career paths in your organization

A career path greatly impacts an organization’s employee satisfaction and turnover rate. Once you’ve aligned an employee’s career goals with those of the company by setting them on a career path, you’re bound to get higher ROI from customer training and skills management. 

Yet establishing employee career paths doesn’t happen without a lot of moving parts working together. For one, a learning management platform is a fundamental component of the employee development journey. 

With the need for employee career paths comes the need to manage every step of the L&D process. Learn more about how WorkRamp can help. Contact us to schedule a free demo.

Complete the form for a custom demo.

Michael Keenan

WorkRamp Contributor

Michael is a SaaS marketer living in Guadalajara, Mexico. Through storytelling and data-driven content, his focus is providing valuable insight and advice on issues that prospects and customers care most about. He’s inspired by learning people’s stories, climbing mountains, and traveling with his partner and Xoloitzcuintles.

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