Why career pathways won’t help build talent

While retaining high potential staff is of top priority for any business, most tend to tackle this through traditional methods which ultimately don’t work anymore.

While the workforce of the future will be heavily dependent on identifying and developing high potential employees, Aaron McEwan, senior director and advisory leader, HR practice at CEB, says this is actually part of a wider, more important business challenge: the overall retention of employees.
 
Research from CEB has discovered that the number one reason staff leave their employer is due to a lack of career opportunity, he said. However, this seems to be contradictory with employers saying they face a skills shortage while staff feel there are no opportunities for growth.
 
So how can these two realities exist?
 
“The reason they can exist is because we, as HR, have not been very good at breaking this belief system that employees are solely responsible for their own careers,” McEwan said. “What we need is for people to believe it’s about growth opportunity.”
 
While the majority of firms insist on using career pathways to develop their staff, the simple strategy of moving people from job to job doesn’t work anymore, he stressed.
 
“We lost something like 10% of our workforce during the GFC,” he said. “For around 70% of organisations, there’s no intention of bringing those layers back.”
 
This means that most companies can’t promise people promotions – a reality which is not lost on most high potential staff. In fact, around 50% will eventually move on because there are no opportunities for growth.
 
Instead of career pathways then, some firms are shifting to career maps which allow for an accumulation of growth opportunities and experiences instead of a linear developmental plan.
 
“Our job as employers is to connect our [high potential employees] to experiences that will help them grow and become more valuable to both the internal and external market,” McEwan said.

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