How to establish a systematic career path for employees

These days, employees want more than just a monthly paycheck. With the job market heating up, companies have to show employees that they are actively grooming and training them for greater things at work. But how can companies do this?
By Lisa Cheong

In the ongoing war for talent, it would be foolish for any smart business executive to ignore the need for employee development within his or her organisation. As employees have more career options to choose from, providing staff with career opportunities and growth will help distinguish the
company as an employer of choice.

Companies that provide employees with a structured career development plan will also see intangible rewards, such as lower attrition rates, lower recruitment costs, higher staff loyalty as well as higher employee morale and engagement rates.

For HR practitioners looking at developing a systematic career programme for developing employees, where would you start?

1) Support from the top

Before launching any new HR initiative, it is always important to get the buy-in of your company’s CEO and other senior executives. With the CEO’s
support, this will set the direction and objectives for the programme, as well as emphasize its importance to the skeptical middle managers. It would also pave the way for the future when HR practitioners are trying to garner morale or fi nancial support.

Developing a systematic career plan should be planned with solving future business issues in the mind. During the conceptualisation stage, questions HR practitioners should ask themselves include:

• What is the purpose of developing this HR programme?
• How can this programme help ensure the company’s business continuity in the future?
• How does this programme help the short and long-term business goals?
• How does this programme help us develop our employees’ skill sets that would help boost our business in the future?

2) What’s your profile?

Companies first need to establish their competency models, or what they define as a typical profile of ideal performers. These profiles would include an ideal performer’s characteristics, skills, work ethics and values at each level of the organisation.

By defining the ideal performer at each level, this would help organisations and managers with future promotion decisions, as a stellar individual
contributor might not have the characteristics and traits needed to be a manager at a higher level.

3) How do you measure up?

After the development of a competency model, companies need to gather information to understand how they measure up to the competency model. These can be done through 360-degree assessment tools that look out for the specific traits listed in your organisation’s competency model.
Other ways of assessing potential employees also include personality profiling tools and psychological profiles and leadership assessment centres.

Managers should also assess employees in order to pinpoint specific developmental gaps which are lacking in individuals. These identified
developmental gaps should be aligned to the skills and traits needed for business growth.

At this stage, managers should also engage employees in a dialogue about their own personal career goals. While an employee might have the
competencies for a higher leadership role, if it role does not fit into the employee’s personal career vision, then companies would have to take that into consideration in their career planning process.

4) Bring it into action

After assessing employees’ performance and skill gaps, the company can then develop an action plan for each employee, focusing on closing
employees’ competency gaps and preparing them for future roles. These action plans should be detailed steps on how individuals can go about
learning specific skill sets or leadership traits. These may include steps such as executive courses, training courses and on-the-job training.

Other than steps for development, companies should also take into account the key performance indicators (KPIs) which an employee need
to meet in order to move on to a higher position. Doing so establishes accountability among employees and their managers, and ensures that
employees put in effort and work towards meeting their performance targets.

5) Taking stock
Much like companies who monitor their stock inventory to understand how much they need to produce or sell, HR practitioners would also need to
take stock of their employees and what skills they have in their organisation.

With the help of information management systems, HR practitioners should keep a database of their employees and the skill sets which they have, in areas such as education, job titles and soft skills.

By creating such an inventory, companies can track what skills the company has and whether it needs to spend more money or effort developing
skill sets which are lacking. Also, if there is a new development or acquisition that requires specifi c specialist skills, HR practitioners can look through the inventory to find the best person needed for the job.

6) Measuring your results

As with every business programme, it is important to measure how well (or poorly) the career development initiative is coming along. Aside from
financial savings, HR practitioners can measure for intangible benefits, such as time saved on recruitment and engagement levels.

Evaluating your career development programme will also allow your company to make any tweaks or changes to the system in order to improve it.


Developing a career development programme employees is not just a onetime affair. As with most HR initiatives, this requires a long-term commitment, not just from HR, but from managers across all levels as well.

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