A lack of career progression is one of the most common reasons why people take to the job market and leave their current position.

Employees can find themselves feeling dissatisfied in their job role because they can’t see any room for progression. Or they look outside their organization and see other people with the same job title perhaps earning more or assuming different responsibilities.

However, behind the scenes, it’s not always that simple. For example, organizations may just have a different approach to job titles; one senior finance manager may be performing the same role as a finance manager at most other organizations. Job titles can be misleading.

This is where job evaluation and career frameworks can be helpful.

Job Evaluation

Assessing the skills and responsibilities of a role is known as job evaluation. The evaluation process is the foundation for having fair pay and an accurate career framework. Often, people think it’s complex, but in practice, it can sometimes mean little more than ranking an organization’s roles by importance. Sometimes rankings are point-based on the complexity of the roles’ responsibilities, or alternatively, put into career bands that represent roles according to the skills and responsibilities required, regardless of job function.

Establishing a Career Framework

A career framework allows leaders to make more informed decisions when it comes to many human resources (HR) processes such as pay, including equal pay, benefits or promotions. It also enables them to be more organized and have better insight into the skills available in their organization, allowing them to be strategic with succession planning so that if employees leave critical roles, there are other people with similar skills who can step in.

Leaders of small organizations tend to make decisions according to the whims of their managers. But the bigger the company, the harder it is to ensure these decisions are consistent — especially for those organizations that operate across different sectors and/or multiple countries. This is where a career framework allows you to have a holistic view across the organization, establishing a clear system for managing pay, benefits and career progression while ensuring consistency in decision-making.

When you have a career framework, each role is evaluated and placed into one of your career bands or levels. Each level/band has a pay range around it to enable you to manage pay more effectively. From here, business leaders can reward everyone consistently, according to their skills and responsibilities.

A job-levelling framework can help leaders respond to what their employees are asking for, setting clear expectations and career-path visibility. Employees want to know where they stand within an organization and how they can progress. Job levelling offers an explicit route forward, so employees can aspire to their next role.

Developing Career Path Visibility

Career development and progression has been a hot topic for a long time. In organizations with little opportunity for career progression, high performers will often choose to leave — much to the detriment of the business. So, how can your organization make the most of career pathways to hold on to your best employees?

Career pathways are used to identify and support employee development opportunities, as well as address the capabilities required to support an organization’s business strategy. Historically, career pathways have been defined as vertical progression within a structured hierarchy of roles, each step up carrying more responsibility. But with today’s changing workforce, career pathways are evolving into a series of developmental opportunities, offering various forms of career movement, both vertical and lateral, to encompass new skills, experiences and perspectives.

Dual Career Paths and Undesirable Leadership

Increasingly, organization leaders are taking a different approach: identifying dual career paths that distinguish between individual contributors and management roles.

Organizations tend to recruit people for their skills and capabilities, and if they perform well, they are promoted. As individuals move up the career ladder, they may find themselves managing a team. These decisions are often made because people are good at their jobs — not necessarily because they have good leadership or people-management skills.

Forcing individuals into leadership roles alienates two groups of people:

    • Employees who have no desire to take on people-management responsibility but see it as the only route to progression.
    • High performers who are technically skilled but lack emotional intelligence and the ability to manage others.

To tackle this conundrum, the dual career-path approach enables organization leaders to provide alternatives to their employees. Of course, it isn’t always possible to offer alternatives and there will be times when progression in a particular function requires taking on people-management responsibility. In this case, it is vital that an organization offers leadership training to people who may assume a management role down the line.

Preferably, this training should be made a prerequisite before anyone is given people-management responsibility. A new manager with no desire or aptitude can do plenty of damage to the morale of the entire team in just a few months if they haven’t been given any guidance. In this case, it may be better to defer people-management responsibilities to another senior manager in the interim.

Being Clear About Career Progression

Whether an organization develops dual career paths or shifts focus to offer more developmental opportunities, it’s important to have a clear career planning strategy:

    • Defining behaviours: not just “what,” but also “how.”
    • Emphasizing long-term organizational fit versus short-term need.
    • Providing employees with clarity around career-development opportunities.
    • Ensuring that anyone placed in a management role is given adequate support and leadership training before they start.

Career progression doesn’t always mean moving into a more senior role, but it could mean taking on larger, more challenging projects. Employees want to see what the future holds. If they decide to stay loyal to an organization, where could they see themselves in the future?

A transparent career framework allows employees to picture and plan their long-term careers with an organization. This doesn’t mean there will always be a development or promotion opportunity available, but all opportunities — or lack of them — will be clearly visible. Lack of career progression is one of the main reasons why people leave their role to join another organization, so giving people clarity over this is invaluable.