Career Pathing

Don’t Let Your Team Engagement Die with the Performance Review

When it comes to performance, candor carries the day, says Jack Welch, famed ex-CEO of GE. If you perform well on your review, you get a raise. If you perform poorly, you get yanked. This frank approach was the inspiration for GE’s annual review system, often called “rank and yank” for being so systematic, and oftentimes, brutal.

Many believe this form of performance management is dying, but we believe we’re far past that. Even GE, once a popularizer of the system, has abandoned the practice altogether. Adobe is also benching the process and structuring ongoing conversations, called check-ins, around expectations, feedback, and growth and development.

In other words, the performance review is dead. And there are three trends in business that killed it.

1. Low unemployment. Employment in the U.S. is currently around 4 percent, the lowest rate since 2000. This inevitably leads to a more competitive job market. Scarce talent often leads companies to hire from within, or find creative ways to seek out the best talent, then engage and retain those employees. This challenge is very familiar for the ever-changing IT industry, where finding skilled talent can be difficult and turnover can be costly. 

iVentures is one IT company faced with this problem. The traditional review process made its technical and customer service teams feel stagnant, and in 2015, iVentures turned to career pathing. Jennifer Korsun, iVenture Solutions’ director of people operations, sums up the impact of the switch in this way: “We were looking for a solution that could track employee development progress and allow our employees to build out a career path for themselves. We wanted a tool that could give them a clear picture of their gaps, so they knew what to work on to get them to that next step in their career.”

Having that clear picture helps employees at organizations like iVenture visualize a future within the company — ultimately saving the business time and money needed to recruit in a competitive talent landscape.

2. High volatility with low engagement. Disruption is everywhere, and technology is affecting every market and business opportunity. To remain competitive, companies need to attract, keep, and engage all-star talent. Only 33 percent of the American workforce is engaged in their jobs. Choosing career pathing over the performance review can increase employee engagement at all levels, especially since everyone in the company can participate in the process.

One iconic food brand wanted to start career development initiatives to improve their overall employee engagement. The HR team worked with us to develop a career mapping model for all employees to build their careers internally through clearly identified career progression opportunities. The goal was to expose various lateral and vertical career path opportunities available to employees all around the globe. As a result, employees move from just checking boxes on a form once a year to active participation in an ongoing process with multiple checkpoints throughout the year.

3. Long-term development. With so much changing and millennials’ dominance in the workforce — along with their emphasis on societal impact — the next-generation workforce wants long-term career development. According to the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey, young workers are eager for business leaders to be proactive about making a positive impact in society — and to be responsive to employees’ needs. Contrary to popular belief, they want to know how and where they fit in the company.

That’s an important benefit of career pathing. Unlike the performance review of the past, career pathing can make it clear to employees how they can grow their career, what skills need to be developed, and how long it will take a typical employee to progress from role to role.

As you can see, career pathing has many benefits. And it’s the best way to ensure that your organization is ready for the future of work. Give your performance review a reboot with a career pathing strategy that will overcome the business challenges of a tight employment economy, empower your employees, and improve the employee experience.

Career Pathing vs Succession Planning: Understanding The Difference

Career pathing and succession planning are common terminologies within talent management but the difference in their application and the separate benefits of each can be misunderstood and overlooked. In the majority of cases, employers prioritize succession planning, assuming that career pathing will somehow ‘fit’ naturally into it.

But high performing organizations require both.

Why it matters

Succession planning on its own, while essential for high performance organizations, is no longer sufficient to completely support an effective talent management strategy. Today’s talent has choices.

As employee confidence is at record levels, HR must go all out to not only attract highly skilled candidates but to hold on to the talent they have. Research from Hays shows that 4 out of 5 employees would leave their current roles if a better job offer comes along – and that isn’t dependent on compensation. Employees will compromise on salary in return for the right benefits, workplace culture and career development opportunities[1].

What’s more, these key strategies are both critical if employers are to respond to the shift from ‘careers’ to ‘experiences’. But just 37% are either ‘ready’ or ‘very ready’ to address such a transition[2].

Developing effective yet distinct strategies around succession planning and career pathing can help to address this transition but HR must get clear on the difference.

Succession planning : Focuses on identifying and nurturing talent to fill anticipated business critical positions. It is employer driven to ensure a highly skilled talent pool is available to replace departing employees.

Career pathing : is the systematic process an employee uses to chart their own career development path within an organization. It gives them autonomy and a sense of control over their career.

Where succession planning is carried out on a ‘top down’ basis in response to organizational needs, career pathing is driven by the employee. The aim is to bridge the gap between the two and in doing so improvement engagement, reduce attrition levels and create a positive culture that attracts more talent to your brand.

Bridging the gap

The differences are subtle, but clear:

Essential steps of career pathing

  1. Your employee carries out a self-assessment of their own individual abilities, interests, career aspirations and goals. This includes evaluating and understanding their current skills and experience that can help them to identify roles which may fulfill their potential.
  2. Multiple career options are mapped out based on that self-evaluation to enable them to develop a career plan focused on both short-term and long term career goals.
  3. Flexibility with career pathing is essential as the focus shifts to the employee experience.
  4. Career counseling may be helpful to ensure goals are realistic and an effective plan is created.
  5. Employees are empowered and enabled by recommending career paths, job enhancement, vacancies and job rotations aligned to skills, goals and aspirations.

Planning for success

In Succession Planning, HR carries out an evaluation of existing talent and future skills requirements, involving the whole organization. Succession planning should not be limited to the C Suite.

  1. Business critical roles are identified which require succession planning.
  2. The competencies and experience needed for each of these roles are evaluated.
  3. Existing employees are evaluated against these requirements and key talent is identified in terms of performance and potential for meeting future skills needs.
  4. For each individual, the development needs and skills gaps required to take them to the next level are identified.
  5. Employees are then enabled to be prepared for future promotions, ideally focusing on experiences.
  6. A development plan is then prepared which is mapped out identifying progress along the way.

Both career pathing and succession planning must be carried out as stand-alone exercises which enable HR to identify the similarities and highlight the disparities between employee expectations and aligning skills with business goals and strategies.

Research from Gallup suggests that listening to what your top performances value most helps to improve retention and improve your company culture[3]. Defining distinct yet aligned strategies around career pathing and succession planning are crucial to achieving that.

Support with dedicated software

Achieving effective career pathing and succession planning requires more than a ‘one size fits all’ approach and should be clearly differentiated within your organization’s overall talent management strategy.

Support your career pathing and succession planning strategies with career pathing software and succession planning software designed to help your business create a more competitive culture.

To learn more about career pathing and succession planning, visit our learning center for webinars and other content.