How To Develop A Career Ladder For Employees
When considering different career options, many people choose to follow a career ladder. The career ladder definition varies depending on where you look, but the essence of all those definitions is mostly the same. In general, a career ladder encompasses how an employee progresses from an entry-level point to higher roles with more responsibility, authority, and pay.
Additional terms for career ladders are career lattices, where employees can still progress, but in other areas or departments. The lattice is very popular because an employee can move diagonally, horizontally, or vertically in their career path.
A third term often used when describing a career ladder is career pathing. This is a process where human resources assist an employee by matching them with opportunities within the company based on the talent needs of the company. Career pathing usually begins when an employee starts with the company and is based on their interests, skills, and objectives for their career.
Many employees want to progress but may not know what career options are available to them. This can cause stagnation or a retention problem. This is why it is vital to any organization to have a hands-on human resources team that works with management to speak with their employees, assist their professional development goals, and strategically align their roles with their current and future skill sets.
Training, upskilling, and reskilling employees from within creates an alignment where employees understand they are valued, management demonstrates they are valued, the company can discover untapped talent within their ranks, and the company sets itself up for succession. Career ladders are one of the best solutions where everyone is on the same page, employees can look forward to accomplishing their goals, and human resources is able to track and monitor career paths to determine if employees are being under or over-utilized.
Everyone has wondered how to pick a career, but with more organizations adopting the use of career pathways, it doesn’t have to be a siloed event. For instance, a career ladder in healthcare could possibly look like a nursing assistant moving into a registered nurse role and then an advanced practice registered nurse or specialist role like a nurse anesthetist.
There are many different specialties and opportunities for someone with nursing skills beyond working in a hospital facility, so with more visibility into career pathways, people can gain autonomy and flexibility to mold their careers based on their personal goals and aspirations.
There are a few career ladder ideas to take into consideration that step away from the norm, like career mapping, where employees go through self-assessment, an individualized career map, and exploring other opportunities that may not be directly tied to their current skill set. Additional ideas include job redesigning, rotating job roles, and creating dual career ladders.
To gain additional exposure using the skills they have, employees could also create a nontraditional career path that includes things like contingent work, consulting, and in healthcare, travel nursing, or some other healthcare-related role where the employee goes from place to place instead of staying at a permanent location.
Career Progression Plan
The human resources team should have a plan that includes demonstrating how they assist employees in creating a viable career progression plan. Career progression software helps in this area, reinforcing the career ladder meaning in multiple ways.
By using career progression software, career mapping becomes easy and accessible, even for larger companies. Many organizations have a skills transfer gap because employees don’t have the opportunity to apply the skills they’ve acquired during professional development to their role or other roles that are part of the career ladders. To fully develop employees and prepare them to move up or across the ladder, there must be an effective and efficient way to get employees up to speed in continuously developing their new skill sets.
If this does not occur, the career progression of the employee will suffer, and the company will eventually experience a retention problem because the employee will take their newly acquired skills to another organization that is willing to use their knowledge.
Is this difficult? It doesn’t have to be. Once human resources has the software in place that can help develop and track an employee’s professional development progression, management, and human resources can work together to provide opportunities for growth.
Career Progression Framework
What are the basics of building a unique and successful career ladder program at your organization? First, you need to build a career progression framework. This means understanding the job roles and attached skills within the company and having a way to accurately assess the current workforce.
Developing and implementing a career ladder program doesn’t happen overnight. Having a strong framework allows for career ladders as well as lattices, so that employees can be offered vertical and lateral career progression.
When considering career progression framework examples, let’s look at an engineering career ladder:
For small teams with up to 10 engineers, you may have the engineer, senior engineer, and engineering lead. This is a single-track ladder.
In contrast, a large team with 100 to 1000 or more engineers requires more expertise and ownership. While it may start with Engineer 1, II and then Senior Engineer 1 and II, as the engineer moves into a tech lead, staff engineer, senior staff engineer, then principal and senior principal engineer, they may also consider moving into a people managing track that includes Engineering Manager, Senior Engineering Manager, Engineering Director, Senior Engineering Director, VP Engineering, and Senior VP of Engineering.
Utilizing Career Ladders
Companies that use career ladder programs and software can connect their employees’ aspirations and skill sets to business needs, making it a benefit to both. Having a visual representation of the ladder for employees and management to see creates a memorable image for people to better understand what needs to occur to take the next step forward.
Career ladders, career lattices, and career pathing are all essential in helping employees tap into and develop new or hidden skills that not only give them more confidence in their current roles but helps management in successfully utilizing those employees at their most optimal levels.
A career ladders company and career progression software can help organizations better understand the logistics of how they can benefit by investing in this visibility. Whether the company is developing its current employees or looking for new talent they can develop for the future, being transparent in how they use career ladders and other methods for improving their workforce helps the culture move forward while retaining the best and brightest on their teams.