Do you want to know one of the best kept secrets in People Ops? It’s not even an obscure idea. In fact, it used to be much more prevalent. 

It’s an employee experience strategy called career mapping. 

Career mapping was more common before the advent of the Internet. People would join a company and typically stay until they retired. The company would develop and promote employees, and employees would repay companies with their loyalty. 

Then the Internet made it faster and easier for employees to find a new job, and for companies to find new employees. Average employee tenure decreased, and companies largely stopped investing in career mapping and employee development under the assumption that people would only stay a few years.

Fast forward to today. We’re facing record low unemployment, record high job openings, and a significant skills shortage. Employers are scrambling to find the talent they need to meet business goals. People—especially top performers—can be picky about where they work. Career mapping could be the golden ticket to help employers find and keep the skilled workforce that they need.

The benefits of career mapping

Career mapping has obvious benefits for driven employees. They are able to grow professionally, earn more money, and stay relevant in an ever-changing workplace. 

There are many benefits to employers as well, which justify the investment:

  1. Employee retention: Lack of career development is one of the most common reasons employees leave companies. Map out a career path with each of your employees to show them what their future at your company could look like. Then provide an employee development plan to help them get there. Employees will appreciate your investment in their futures and be more inclined to stay. Offering relevant career opportunities as they arise can then keep your valued employees onboard long-term.
  2. Candidate attraction: Career mapping is an incentive for people to join your company, just as much as it is for people to stay at your company. Share career development stories throughout your employer branding materials, such as your career site and social profiles. Ask employees to share their development experiences in Glassdoor reviews. Learn about your candidate’s career ambitions during the recruitment process, and preview what a career path might look like for each candidate. Let candidates know how important career mapping is to your company, and the most driven among them will gain a stronger interest in joining your team.
  3. Higher quality workforce: Pairing a career path with an employee development plan means that your workforce is learning new skills that can help your business succeed. Even if your employees don’t stay long-term, they will be able to perform their roles better while they’re still with your company. This could lead to a strong impact on productivity and profitability.

Career mapping the right way

The practice of career mapping won’t help in itself. It must be done correctly if your company wants to realize the benefits.

  1. Determine your organization’s future needs. Think about your company goals, planned growth, and product roadmap. Consider which skills you will need, and which may be in short supply in the future talent market. Determine which of your current roles could provide a natural segue into future new roles. Also consider which of your leaders may be retiring, and how you may be able to backfill those positions with high potential internal talent.
  2. Discuss professional goals with employees. Career mapping is most successful when your organization’s needs meet your employee’s career ambitions. Discuss potential career paths with each employee during your onboarding process to see where there’s alignment. Be straightforward if employees see a future for themselves that may not exist at your company. You’re not doing anyone any favors by creating a career map that doesn’t actually lead employees anywhere anywhere. Discuss opportunities for new roles you expect to open in the future if you think the employee would be a natural fit.
  3. Develop employees to help them move down their career paths. It’s not enough to build a career path. Companies must also develop their employees to make career paths achievable. Employee development can come in many different forms, such as mentoring, stretch assignments, conferences, and online learning. Find solutions that meet your employee’s unique learning style, and fit within your company’s available resources. For instance, one employee might benefit from one-on-one mentoring, but you would need to match them with another employee who has the time to commit to a successful program. Another employee might benefit from a coding bootcamp, but you would need to make room in your budget for that kind of activity. 

Final thoughts on career mapping

Career mapping helps you sync with employees to learn their professional goals, while also taking their strengths and your company’s needs into consideration. At a time when great talent is difficult to come by, this may be just the employee experience strategy you need to attract and retain a skilled workforce. As with any People program, this may require some trial and error to get right. Stay in tune with your employees by collecting frequent feedback, and implementing necessary changes. Over time, you should see your investment pay off.


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