Career Paths

A few decades ago, most people started working at a company and stayed there for most of their career working their way through the ranks. Today, most people work at multiple places and move laterally from place to place as opposed to moving up the ladder in a more traditional way. Nevertheless, some organizations still maintain a step by step career path.

Having a defined career path in an organization can have definite pros and cons. On the plus side, it allows employees to have a clear idea of where they fall in an organization. They know who they work for and who works for them. They also are aware of what the next step may be for them if they continue to succeed at the company.

On the other hand, such clearly defined paths sometimes do not offer the flexibility desired in many of today’s workplaces. Currently more and more organizations are requiring their employees to wear multiple hats and may change their job responsibilities from quarter to quarter depending on the work that needs to be done. When job descriptions are drawn too rigidly, both the employee and the employer lack the flexibility to create a position that both highlights the strengths of the employee and takes care of the needs of the employer.

In addition, these organizational structures may have been put in place many years earlier or under different management and may not necessarily reflect the current values of the company. Promotions within a company should reward excellence in the ways that are most important to your organizational culture. Relying on a structure that, for example, rewards the employees who spend the most time in the office, may not make sense for an organization that claims efficiency or worldliness among its highest values.

Does your organization have a clearly defined career path and do you think it reflects the values of your organization?

Are employees confident that they have a future with this organization?

Here are 3 things for managers to keep in mind as management in structuring a career system:

  1. Solicit feedback from employees at the various levels of your organization to assure that your system makes sense from a broad range of perspectives,
  2. Allow flexibility within your job descriptions,
  3. Revisit your structure annually to make sure it still reflects the values of your organization.

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