Development plans the right way: creating career paths

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In his book, “The Little Prince”, Antoine de Saint Exupery wrote, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” The ripple of those words of wisdom touches even talent development and management. That’s exactly why we need a development plan— so that excellence in talent management is not merely a wish or a dream. This development plan is a formal blueprint that transforms what every HR manager wishes for into something tangible where HR sets out objectives, targets, strategies and learning and training outcomes for each employee. Yet HR knows, just as our famous French author did, that going “straight ahead of him, nobody can go very far.” So HR needs career paths for the workforce to project a vision on how employees can grow professionally within the company. Employees need a map to guide them on where to go and how to get there.


Successful HR departments know that if there is no career development plan in place,the risk of brain drain and the level of employee performance is at stake. This inevitably leads to a negative effect on productivity, which in turn, has a direct impact on reaching the company’s target business goals.


Successful HR departments are also aware that proper and personalized career development can be used as a powerful tool of persuasion for attracting talent.


Lastly, successful HR departments understand that they have to prepare for development planning by getting the ingredients, tools and processes in place beforehand. That translates into a more detailed checklist of preliminary considerations or questions which we provide elsewhere in our complete white paper on Where do I start development plans from? Creating career paths and identifying talent.


First steps

Once we have gone through these preliminary considerations, then we can ask ourselves the next key question: are we ready to transform our employees and to improve the perception that potential candidates have of our company? By now, we should be.

First of all, to implement any development plan, it is a prerequisite to have identified our talent well and defined career paths properly. Doing these two steps correctly allows us to create and implement a personalized development plan and track it.

However, in the article we only going to focus on doing career paths properly. This means all planning and designing of career paths and the subsequent succession plans must be aligned with the company’s current and future needs.




Designing career paths and succession plans

How are career paths important? A career path is the route or direction each employee follows for their professional development within the company. Although we build them based on management’s strategic plan, these can continue to evolve to reflect changes, as business situations are not always stable, e.g. merger and acquisitions or a complete change in direction. However, career paths can also undergo transformations when we analyze the current workforce and their talent.

Next we will take a brief look at the various actions to take for defining career paths.


1.Design an organizational structure and define the jobs or positions for each path

HR needs to have a clear idea of what they expect from each job or position within the organization before going into the details of specific tasks, functions and responsibilities the employee must know in order to qualify for a particular job or position.


2.Identify key jobs or positions in the organization and prepare a succession plan for each one

Key jobs or positions are the ones that the company values as strategic and stand out for delivering significant competitive advantages to the market. Like diamonds they are hard to replace quickly, let alone find in the market. That’s why succession planning is so important for grooming others to take on these key positions.


3.Make career paths flexible

In fluid times like these, there’s an even greater demand for flexibility.

“Has your planet any oceans?” asked the prince. “I couldn’t tell you,” said the geographer.

“Has it any mountains?”

“I couldn’t tell you?”

“And towns, and rivers, and deserts?”

“I couldn’t tell you that either.” “But you are a geographer!”

“Exactly. But I am not an explorer.”

Indeed, there will be times when we have to create new jobs or paths for certain key employee profiles in our company, or even create horizonal projects as needed, in which we encourage employees to participate. And even more so when it comes to innovating products and services that require new skills and job titles.


4.Consider two options in development paths: Managers vs. Experts

To be a geographer or to be an explorer in the little prince’s world, that is the question. There always comes a time when it is critical to make a choice and take a particular road, like that of manager vs experts in companies today. Each of these career paths are arguably just as important as each other. Especially today when companies are creating ever more complex products and services that require even more in-depth specialist expertise, at the same time as more sophisticated managerial skills to lead teams while coordinating with experts.


5.Prepare a communication plan

The fox said to the little prince, “Language is the source of misunderstandings.” That is reason enough to do this plan which should inform and sensitize the stakeholders involved, by focusing on motivating and engaging people on the benefits of career development paths, plans as well as the opportunities these offer.


If we have carefully prepared ourselves before starting to design development plans and define our career plans with care and properly, we will then be in a position to manage to manage the most important moves, rotations, successions or promotions within our company.

In our next articles we will cover talent identification and categorization. However, if you want to know even more, download our white paper, Where do I start development plans from? Creating career paths and identifying talent.


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