To set up career pathways in your business, the first question is, in your business, do you have a lot of similar roles? Or do you have a lot of different roles? For example, let’s say that you’re a bookkeeping firm. You might have a lot of similar roles, such as a team of bookkeepers and a team of accountants. Then you may also have some individual office roles like marketing and sales, etc.
‘Do you have a lot of similar roles? Or do you have a lot of different roles?’
Or you could be a business that has lots of different roles. If you’re a media agency, you may have maybe one or two people in the same role. But otherwise, you’re all doing different things within that media cycle for your customers.
If you’ve got lots of similar roles, in some ways, this is easier, because you can go back to the position descriptions and say, what are the competencies required in these roles? Then you step those out.
For example, let’s say you have a lot of IT support roles. You might take a look at the job description and identify different competencies. One of those might be the ability to maintain relationships with customers. Next you grade that competency across, developing, proficient and expert, for example:
- Developing – still learning how to maintain relationships
- Proficient – starting to have ongoing contact with the same customers
- Expert – deepening those relationships.
‘Grade that competency across, developing, proficient and expert’
You determine the competencies, and then identify a couple of steps in each of them. It doesn’t need to be ‘developing’, ‘proficient’ and ‘expert’, but you want some differentiation between just starting out and being really good at each competency.
It’s also worth considering pay rates and how they can increase along with those role steps. For example, if I go from beginning to develop a competency through to being quite expert at it, this might have a financial advantage to me as well.
The key with this kind of process is to provide people with opportunities to discuss where they think they sit on those competency scales, and to gain agreement from their manager. If they’re not sitting where they should be, or where you want them to be, to grow their career, you can have an honest discussion to find opportunities for them to improve their competency in the future.
Keep in mind however that you need to have pathways in place. It’s a surefire way to demotivate someone if you tell them they’re only at level one, but there’s no opportunity to stretch and improve to get to level three. You’ve got to give them the ability to improve.
The aim is to reframe this competency-based system into a career path. If I’m going from level one to level three, within my role as an IT Support Officer, what happens when I get to level three? Perhaps I will earn another title. Even if I’m generally doing the same job, I’ve been recognised for taking my next career-path step. After that, I may specialise, for example, I may become a developer.
The process aims to to map out these steps. It can take a bit of work, so usually it’s done if you have lots of similar roles in a larger organisation.
But what happens if you don’t have a lot of people in similar roles, you’ve just got a lot of different roles in the organisation? This is where it becomes much more individual. It’s about identifying, firstly, who would benefit from having longer-term career paths, and who wants a career path.
Sometimes those things aren’t the same. Sometimes we think that we should give someone a career path because that person is so valuable to us. But when we speak to that person, they say ‘I’ve got no idea what I want to do with my career.’
You need to ask:
- Who would like a career path?
- Who is really valuable to the organisation that you want to be able to develop?
I have included a long-term career path template in my book, Great People Great Business (page 144). But you can also use your favourite search engine to look up ‘career plan document’ or ‘long-term career path plan’ and you’ll find something similar.