Tips on creating career pathways

Leadership expert Karen Gately provides advice on professional development and why it's crucial to keeping employees happy

Tips on creating career pathways
Retaining talented and energised people willing and able to deliver on your organisations vision today and into the future requires a deliberate approach to career management. Understanding the career steps people can and want to take within your business is important to your ability to align development initiatives with each of those options. 

For example, understanding the various paths someone can take from an entry level role through to an operational line manager position, allows you to identify the knowledge, skills and experience needed to take each step. A clear view of the career paths people can pursue allows you to set clear development goals and implement effective learning solutions. 

The ultimate indicator of success for your business is the ability to access talent from within your team when you need to. In other words having the depth of capability needed to achieve strategic objectives at every step along your organisations journey.  Success for the people on your team is the ability to a build rewarding and enjoyable career with your business. 

For people to feel a sense of progression or achievement they need to know what they are working toward and when they have got there.  Rather than depending on promotional steps alone to make people feel successful and rewarded, focus also on learning milestones that open up opportunities to assume bigger roles and greater accountability. 

Grow your own talent 

Adopting a ‘grow-your-own’ strategy means working to develop specific capabilities needed now and in the future.  It also means supporting people to grow their capabilities and advance their careers in line with your business requirements. Start with your organisation’s strategic plan, identifying capabilities that will enable success and competitiveness, and develop learning solutions to deliberately foster these competencies within your team. 

Understand what is required in each role

Every supervisor, up through the senior leadership team, needs to understand intimately the ‘must-have’ knowledge, skills and experience required by each role in their team. Equally they must understand the level of competence for someone to assume each position and what they will need to develop to advance to the next. With this depth of awareness effective decisions about learning and development priorities are more likely to be made.

Guide people well

Enabling people to align their career aspirations with opportunities within your business requires that leaders be able to share insight to organisational requirements and expectations.  Every people leader therefore needs to understand which skills are mission critical and therefore most valued, and those less likely to make a significant difference to career success.  People need to understand what opportunities are available to them and the steps they need to take to secure them. 

Take a balanced approach

Ensure focus is balanced equally between development initiatives that address short-term needs with those focused on longer- term business needs and career aspirations.  Balance your focus also between building technical, interpersonal, and personal capabilities.  Often when someone has mastered the technical aspects of their role, there is more they can learn about effectively applying what they know to getting the job done. 


Choose to invest in your people and enable them to grow with your business.  Make learning matter and core to your HR strategies.  Create an environment in which people feel both safe and inspired to learn new things and ways of going about their work.    Ensure every leader and person on your team is committed and held accountable for the success of learning and development initiatives. 

Inspire & engage 

While success depends on every manager deliberately and purposefully growing the capabilities of their people, just as important is the ownership each person takes for his or her own professional development. 

Hire and invest in people who are motivated to look for opportunities to learn through experience. Expect and inspire people to strive to keep growing throughout their employment, and indeed their careers, recognising the truth that we can always learn more. 

Karen Gately is a leadership and people-management specialist and a founder of Ryan Gately.  Karen works with leaders and HR teams to drive business results through the talent and energy of people. She is the author of The People Manager’s Toolkit: A Practical guide to getting the best from people (Wiley) and The Corporate Dojo: Driving extraordinary results through spirited people. For more information visit or contact [email protected]

The preceding article was originally published on our sister site Learning & Development.