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Why The Key To Employee Retention Lies In Defining Potential Career Pathways

2018 is proving to be another year of strong hiring and company investments, leaving most hiring managers wondering what they will do if any of their best employees leave because of a “better opportunity.” As Steve Yakesh mentioned in Preparing For Tomorrow’s Workforce Strategically, our workforce as a whole is shrinking, and the average time someone stays at a job has decreased to 3.5 years. If companies want to combat that, it’s crucial that they focus their efforts on not only attracting the right people, but keeping them. But how do you do that when all employees come from different backgrounds and have different motivations and career aspirations? How do you retain your top employees?

While there has been much discussion over generational differences in the workplace and how to motivate millennials vs. Gen X’ers, I think focusing too much on age-related motivation is overdone. At the end of the day, we’re all humans hoping to be viewed as successful professionals, hoping to find meaning and satisfaction through our work, and wanting to be valued for our contributions. When I meet with people who are looking for a new job, one of the main reasons they’re looking is consistently, “I just don’t see a path to continue to grow in the organization.” In my experience, a path may be there, but companies have a hard time communicating the career pathways that are possible within their organization.

So what’s the secret to retaining your best employees? Outlining ways for them to grow within your company by establishing potential career paths as clearly as you can.

As Tim Cook (CEO of Apple) has explained in his speeches on career planning, the journey might not always be predictable, but companies can increase attraction and retention if they outline potential career paths available to employees. Then as your employees aspire to grow within your company, there’s at least some outline of how that can work instead of them being in the dark about growth opportunities and looking elsewhere for an opportunity. If managers combine defined career progression pathways with one-on-one growth conversations with their employees, I believe they can see a lift in recruitment, engagement, and retention.


So, how do you start defining career pathways in your organization? Here are 5 simple steps:

  1. Create or update your org chart to the lowest levels of your organization.
  2. Clearly define job descriptions for all roles within your company.
  3. Create a tiered structure within each job function: i.e. Jr., Sr. and Manager.
  4. Ask your employees what their aspirations are within the company. What roles within your organization interest them? Explain to your employees what they need to achieve to elevate to the next tier through 1:1 conversations.
  5. Help them get there. Don’t be afraid to develop people out of your department—because at least you can control the timing of the movement.


If you want to retain your best employees, make sure you’re communicating possible career pathways for them within your organization. People like to feel valued and understood when it comes to their goals and aspirations—and if you stay one step ahead of that conversation, you can prevent good people from leaving your business.


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If you’re looking to speed up your hiring process to get the best talent, contact us today! For more career tips and advice check out Versique’s blog.