Skip to content
Talent management
career pathing

What is career pathing? Definition, examples, & benefits

Talent management
career pathing

The job market has permanently shifted in favor of the employee. Cultivating an incredible work environment is no longer enough.

To secure top talent and increase retention, you must put the employee in the driver’s seat. The best way to do this is by creating tailored career paths that reflect employees’ career goals and align with the company’s business objectives.

This article will cover everything you need to know about what career pathing is, its benefits, and examples.

What is career pathing?

Career pathing is a unique employee development route outlining their progression within the company.

It is a roadmap of employees’ short and long-term professional goals. When creating career pathing, tailor it to the employees’ history, skills, knowledge, and experience. This will positively impact the employees and motivate them to apply themselves within the company. Remember, the more detailed the career path the better.

A career pathing program does not always have to be vertical. That’s because not every employee will want to move up the corporate ladder and progress into leadership roles. Some employees will be happy to work for different departments without a fundamental change of their current role.

Image source

What is the importance of a career pathing?

Implementing career pathing is crucial to:

– employee growth,

– development,

– and overall satisfaction.

A clearly defined carer path helps employees understand their career advancement opportunities within the organization. As a result, employees do not have reasons to look for opportunities elsewhere and are motivated to continue learning and growing within the company.

The 4 benefits of career pathing

Creating an effective career pathing process will require effort from HR professionals, their time, and resources. However, investing in career pathing will soon bring in the following benefits:

Employee retention

The recruitment process is expensive; advertising the role, interviewing, and screening candidates are just some of the costs an employer endures. Employee productivity also suffers, and valuable knowledge is lost. When you add it all up, the cost of replacing an employee can amount to even twice the cost of the employee’s annual salary.

Thus, retaining existing employees through clearly defined career paths (both reskilling and upskilling) will save you money in the long term.

Employee engagement

An engaged employee is vital to business success. For example, companies with high employee engagement are 21% more profitable. Increasing employee engagement within an organization will strengthen morale, reduce absenteeism, and increase productivity. The benefits just keep coming in!

Offering employees tailored career objectives and detailed career mapping shows them the company is serious about their career development, and as a result increasing engagement and overall employee satisfaction.

Employee development

An engaged employee will demonstrate the willingness to learn more about the company and gain skills beyond their current role. Creating development opportunities for employees motivates them to surpass organization standards, reduce recruitment costs and improve workplace performance.

As a result of this trend, more companies are shifting their focus on upskilling, training and reskilling their employees, by creating an encouraging work environment that promotes earning new skills and skill sets.

Succession planning

Succession planning refers to the career pathing process where leadership roles are passed down to an employee or group of employees. Such progression helps businesses ensure a smooth transition when key employees retire or leave the company.

Promoting from within guarantees employees professional growth by helping them develop new skills, and better understand the business.

Assessing organizational needs

For career pathing to yield the desired jobs and the best results, organizations must clearly define the goals they wish to achieve. The common goals for introducing career pathing are:

  • Increase employee engagement
  • Improve employee retention
  • Increase internal mobility
  • Promote from within
  • Address skills gaps
  • Succession plans
  • Diversity in leadership

Those in leadership roles need to assess organizational needs, adjust career pathing to growth plans, and align it the employees hr leaders’ career development.

Here are the key factors worth considering:

  • Is your company planning on growing in the next 5-10 years?
  • Is your plan to expand into new territories?
  • Will you be introducing new technologies that require a specific skill set?

Do not forget that industries are shifting and transforming digitally. When planning a career pathing, you need to consider that by 2030, more than 1 billion people will need to reskill to remain employable. To create a career pathing program that is long-term.

Building a successful career path plan

Modern employees perceive pursuing a career as far more rewarding than focusing entirely on a job. People are no longer committed to their jobs but to their careers. Everybody is looking for ways to grow and develop professionally.

A good employer will take the time to create career development opportunities for their employees, aligning them with the company objectives. Here are 5 keys to building a successful career pathing for your employees:


Begin by understanding new hires’ employees’ and existing employees’ purposes. Conduct interviews or send out surveys that ask your employees the following questions:

  • What are they passionate about?
  • What motivates them?
  • Why did they choose the career path they did?


Take the time to find out each employee’s vision for the future. Ask your employees the following questions:

  • Where do they see themselves within the company?
  • Where do you see yourself in the next 5 or 10 years?

The latter question will help to determine whether the employee is interested in vertical or horizontal career progression.

Set career goals

Once you understand what career advancement paths employees see for themselves, you can align them with the broader company strategy, setting clear career goals. Use the SMART technique to ensure the goals clearly and realistically outline the overall career development for the individual employee.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

Start with skills mapping

Skills mapping is the detailed process where employees measure and record their skills in dedicated skills management software. The maps are later used to identify skill gaps which require to be closed in order to reach business objectives. When the skill gaps are identified, companies can build a plan that aligns its goals with those of the employees. This is where human resources outline positions within the organization that match individual employees’ interests and skills.

Each position should be carefully selected and reflect employees’ personal characteristics, career goals and vision. It should offer progression for the employee and capitalize on their knowledge and experience.

Introduce mentors

Career mentors are mutually beneficial. Creating a career mentoring scheme within your organization shows your dedication to employee career growth. A mentoring program will especially resonate with entry-level employees who may be seeking guidance in career development.

Career mentors can also train employees in their roles, creating a culture of progression from within the company. With clear progression routes, employees will feel driven to continue to develop professionally and as an employer you are ensuring your own position and business is safe in case higher-up employees resign or retire.

Mentors can be easily identified by companies using skills mapping and management software. When you look on the company map, you can see how many people possess a given skill and to what extent.

Female programmer working with laptop in office

What is a career path example?

Career pathing should reflect the organization’s plans and employee development. Thus, there is no right or wrong answer. As previously explained, career pathing can be horizontal or vertical. It should support expansion, growth, and/or facilitate digital transformation. But to help you understand better, we have prepared 2 career path examples.

A vertical career pathing for Software Developer

An entry-level software developer may choose to progress upward within an IT company, becoming a senior software developer. They can then, for example, move up to an engineering manager or computer architect role.

In this example of career pathing, it becomes apparent that the employee what is career pathing is seeking a role with upward or vertical career growth and the company is looking for employees they can promote from within. Thus, the employee understands the growth opportunities and the progression within the company is aligned with their long-term plans, increasing overall employee and job satisfaction.

A horizontal career pathing

A horizontal career pathing will see a sales representative move into a marketing role, to gain a broader understanding of the company’s services.

Within this example, the employee’s career path does not move up the traditional career ladder, but allows the employee to gain a broader knowledge base and a completely new set of technical skills. This type of progression is ideal for employees who do not see themselves in managerial positions, but rather are motivated by gaining new knowledge and skills.

For horizontal and vertical career pathing to be successful, they must be aligned with the company strategy and reflect the individual employee’s professional goals.

How can DevSkiller help?

As you can see, career pathing is detrimental to the organization’s future growth and overall employee satisfaction. However, it is a time-consuming task that will keep HR professionals busy.

DevSkiller’s Career Pathing Tool will provide you with all of the necessary tools to quickly and seamlessly identify opportunities within your organization. Don’t just align your employee’s career progression with the broader company goals, but also give them the freedom to choose which career path they will take.

Concluding remarks

Cultivating an amazing work environment is no longer enough to attract the best talent. Companies need to demonstrate to their employees and potential candidates that they are committed to their professional development. Creating career pathing that clearly outlines career options within the company will have a positive impact on retention rates and overall employee satisfaction.

Get started with
DevSkiller today

Discover how DevSkiller can help you grow.