The Trajectory: Employee Career Pathing (Theme Story) HRF Q1_2018


According to research, one of the main reasons why employees are unhappy and as such, unable to drive the culture of the workplace is not having a clear career path. Increasingly, companies have recognised that employees who do not have a sense of growth possibility in a firm are likely to leave that organisation in search for growth options.

If you are someone who manages others, have you thought about a trajectory for each of your employees? Have you connected recently to talk about their career goals? Are you facilitating reaching those goals so that your team can grow and develop their core competencies? If you are not, those high performers you manage may soon leave to go find someone who will.

In this article, we will explore the different facets of employee career pathing, which workers, managers, and human resource practitioners can be mindful of, and gather the thoughts of some HR heads in the process.

The Origin and Career-Pathing Today

The concept of employee career pathing developed as a result of organisations seeking to create more meaningful growth opportunities for their staff. As part of the off-shoots of career pathing, concepts such as career ladders, career development paths, career lattices and other similar terminologies have sprung up. All these concepts share a common denominator: employee growth and talent retention to ensure high productivity leading to shareholder value.

One thing is clear: there is a morphing of career pathing as we have known it. Organisational careers and the job architecture do not look the way they did before. The modern organisational design is flatter, de-layered and the span of control is measured all in a bid to ensure operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.

I argue that the traditional career trees are withering and giving way to what I call “career shrubs:” short span career experiences.

Today’s workforce has been described as the G5 multigenerational workforce, and has re-shaped the world of work. The focus of older generations, which has traditionally been on vertical growth within the same organisation or function, is giving way to today’s younger generation, who seem more at ease taking lateral positions that offer new learning experiences.

According to Christine Juettner, Managing Director of talent and technology firm, Cobb Systems Group, LLC, “The implication of this is that employees can ‘re-price’ themselves and switch industries and roles based on their ability to demonstrate knowledge, skills and experiences that are transferable to new situations, regardless of their actual experience in a particular niche function that so often limits who will hire them today and for what roles.”

My view is that traditional career paths do not guarantee ‘Career Insurance’ – ‘Career Experiences’ do. Career Experiences through mobility opportunities, rotations, swaps, attachments, transfers, working in squads and other knowledge enriching and skill acquiring activities ensure that staff are developed all-round. Of course, there is the argument of ‘width’ verse ‘depth’ – that will be left for another time. An employee value proposition, which places emphasis on career experiences is a ‘better sell’ for the 21st Century workforce than traditional career pathing. The debate is on.” – William Easmon, HR Director (Barclays Bank).

Think Sustainability

When we think about employee benefits, it is easy to go straight to the common ones like: health insurance, paid time off, and other ancillary offerings. One benefit to offer employees that can actually save your organisation in terms of lost productivity, reduced turnover, and increased employee engagement is Employee Career Pathing.

Reasons normally given for looking elsewhere for work tend to be:

Better compensation and benefits

Seeking a new experience with new challenges

Dissatisfaction with their current career path

However, all three are linked and it could be argued that the underlying dissatisfaction with their current career path is: limited compensation and benefits or limited new experiences and opportunities.

What is not mentioned, but is critical to an employee’s progression on a career path, is what efforts they make to reflect and improve on their performance in whatever position they are in. This is frequently overlooked yet, if addressed with the right support, it can empower the Employee’s career development.

The question then stands: how can an organisation address this need and make our Company a place that employees want to be? Suggestions that can be implemented include:

1. Introduce and explain the concept of Employee Career Pathing to all employees, beginning with those coming from a professional background, or with a graduate degree. Discuss with them their career plans and expectations over the next five, and ten years

2. Link the importance of reflecting on their performance and seeking to continuously improve on it to achieving their career goals

3. Within the company, adopt a policy of internal recruitment and promotion prior to bringing in external recruits

4. Introduce and establish a performance management system that encourages employees to measure their performance in their current roles.

Ask employees the relevant questions: ‘How can your work be improved?’ ‘Through what processes will you reach your goal?’ ‘Over what time scale will you be able to reach your goals?’ and ‘What are the implications for your chosen career path?’ – Sergius Ephson, HR/Admin Manager (MAC Ghana Ltd.)

The “End” in mind

One thing that is inevitable in a trajectory of career-pathing is ‘the end’. Knowing how you want your career to pan out should include how you will want it to end. For this reason, employee career pathing should also focus on retirement, from the moment you receive your appointment letter.

About 20 years ago, a Ghanaian worker typically retired between the ages of 55 and 60. Now, people are more likely to delay retirement and continue working longer or work part-time in retirement. Good planning will save you from the worry of an unsettled future or career’s end.

As a worker, it is wise to plan for a long retirement when calculating the amount of money you need to save. Considering workers are usually focused on achieving the heights of their career and reaching the peak of their trajectory, the onus lies on managers and human resource practitioners to sensitise workers on this.

Workers need to save and if they do not, they may outlive their retirement fund – taking into consideration the effect of inflation. At just 3% a year, inflation could reduce the purchasing power of your income by more than 25% in ten years. Additionally, almost half of today’s retirees say they are spending more on healthcare than they anticipated. This is another reason why workers should make career moves and choices, having ‘the end’ in mind. Healthcare costs are increasing each year, even as life expectancies increase.

Another point worthy of note: statistics show that women live longer than men, but earn less than men during their working years (which are often fewer due to time taken off for childbirth). According to the Ghana Statistical Service per the 2010 census, 52.3% of the population over age 60 is women, and about 51.6% of older people living in poverty are women. For this reason, women need to take charge of their career goals and take a lot more into consideration as compared to men.

We have no control over growing old, but we have control over living comfortably in our old age. As we consider the trajectory of our careers and that of those we supervise and manage, we need to take a special interest in our future – the end of the trajectory – as much as we think about the next steps to take in the short-term.” George Banahene Opoku, HR Officer (Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Co. Ltd)

HR Focus Magazine would love to receive your opinion on the foregoing topic. The debate is indeed on! Send your comments to

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