Imagine you’re hiking on a mountain. The trail isn’t mapped, but others who reached the top tell you there is only one way up. You start out fine but start to feel lost; every time you think you are nearing the top, there is a steeper hill to climb. Eventually, you’re forced to take a rescue helicopter. 

This might seem extreme, but it’s what navigating a career path can feel like for both the employee and the employer. As soon as either party feels like they are on the right path, they get lost — and that’s when employees become disengaged and frustrated and start looking for other roles. 

So what can employers do to help employees create clear and individualized career paths? We knew this question was too large to be answered by only one person, so we talked with three industry experts about what career roadmapping looks like for the employee versus the employer and how you can use it to keep employees engaged and thriving.

The two sides in career roadmapping: the employer and the employee

There are two sides of the career roadmapping coin, and it’s important to understand how it looks and differs for the employer and the employee. For employees, strategy consultant Heidi Pozzo defines employee roadmapping as “the plan for getting from point A to point B that includes gaining all the skills, capabilities and experiences necessary to be successful in the desired role.”  

On the flip side, for an employer, Townshend says, “Employer-driven roadmaps look at both the macro and micro level, with an eye to how that employee’s progress can help marry the company’s goals.”

So both employer and employee definitions are focused on goals. One is goals for a singular person, while the other is goals for many people that make a whole. But one person can make all the difference to how a company progresses toward its macro goals. Let’s take a look at four tips for creating individualized, engaging and successful career path programs for your employees. 

1. Individualize career paths

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for career roadmapping. One way you can help employees is to create a career path tailored to the needs and wants of each individual as these align with the needs of the company. 

Pozzo says, “It is important not to bucket people. Each individual can have different objectives at different points in life. Part of career roadmapping should be understanding what the individual wants.”  

Townshend agrees: “The easiest way to meet the needs of all your employees is to treat them as individuals, ask them what they want and how you can help them get it. Everyone has their own motivators, and if you want to help your employees upskill and bring new knowledge and skill sets into your business, you need to find out what they need to get there.” 

In short, when approaching career roadmapping with employees it’s important to listen to them and approach each employee plan individually. 

2. Look for ways to provide more resources

Actively look for ways to give more resources and skills to your employees. The more that they develop, the more unique skills they bring back into your company. 

Marie Davis, Managing Director at Penn Foster, says, “The employees have to give it their all and bring their best to the table. The employer has to push them, challenge them and give them the resources and tools to succeed.”

Townshend adds, “A good employer will do their best to facilitate an employee’s ambitions and will be realistic enough to see the shorter-term benefits of investing in their development regardless of their long-term destination.” 

So what are some ways you can provide resources to your employees? Offer employee-development courses by inviting in guest speakers, align with volunteer opportunities that support your company’s mission and give skills to employees, or invite employees to meetings with other departments or senior leadership so that they can shadow and learn. 

And part of offering resources and development also means that, when the time is right, look internally for your own talent. 

3. Look within for talent first

Part of career roadmapping is learning what you or employees need to get to the next step, so as part of that learning curve, Davis suggests that managers  “let [employees] make mistakes; let them get the additional training or mentoring, if necessary; but look internally for your talent.”

Empower employees by promoting from within, and think about promotions with a hive mentality, Davis suggests. If you have one employee ready to advance, who on that team can take their role? 

“If employers just promote the successes of their people, that is a testimony to career pathways better than anything else,” Davis shares. “That’s why I was so eager to recruit at Chipotle; when you could say 94% of all managers … were promoted from within — oh my gosh, it was so easy to sell. We need more companies to do that.” 

So promoting from within can not only help the company achieve its long-term goals, it can also support and assist recruiting efforts. 

4. Change the conversation from expectation to opportunity

Often, career paths are approached with an eye toward what each party can do to help the other. However, Davis suggests removing this mind-set and shifting it to a collaborative and opportunities-driven approach by separating out performance and career path development meetings. By doing this, you allow a platform for the two to exist symbiotically.

For instance, an employee may find a special project or client that aligns with their skills and interests and volunteer to work on it. For an employer, maybe they proactively look for those types of projects for people too or find chances to create new roles that align with employee goals while also helping the company.

Create time and space for employees to talk about their career path development so they feel heard. When employees feel heard, their roadmaps will feel individualized to them, bringing us full circle.

Conclusion 

Career roadmapping helps employees find their way, make an impact and deliver meaning to their professional lives. In turn, it helps employers support the growth of their teams and organizations. This process can be tricky, but by approaching each employee as an individual, empowering employees from within and looking for ways to give more resources to your teams, you’ll be on the path to success. Make sure you are retaining talent by working individually with employees to map their paths to the top of the mountain, one opportunity  at a time.