How to Develop Career Paths for Employees in 6 Steps

A new trend is emerging in the world of learning and development (L&D)—and it centers around your employees’ futures.

Ask around your organization and you’ll find more and more people talking about unique career paths, from short-term skills to master and potential roles employees can achieve.

However, many managers themselves aren’t investing in developing career paths for their teams. Data from Gallup reinforces this: Its research found that 52 percent of employees exiting an organization say it could have done more to keep them from leaving.

Moreover, over half of respondents say their manager did not discuss their job satisfaction or future with them in the three months before they left.

The need for defined career paths is clear. Before getting started, it’s vital to understand the advantages and how organizations can implement a career path initiative.

Implementing clear career paths is a highly effective talent management strategy for retaining top employees and developing the skills your organization needs.

Career paths map out the possible positions an employee can progress through in your company. They show employees the growth trajectory and advancement possibilities within the organization.

In this article, we’ll explain what career paths are and provide a step-by-step process for successfully developing career paths tailored to your employees’ goals and your business needs.

What are Career Paths?

A career path is a predefined trajectory of job titles or roles that allows employees to progress and advance through an organization. Career paths:

  • Outline the possible sequence of lateral and vertical positions an employee may hold within a company.

  • Show the common routes an employee can take to advance from entry level to leadership.

  • Provide visibility into future opportunities and upward mobility potential.

  • Help employees develop the competencies and experience needed to be eligible for advancement,

Well-designed career paths align employee growth with business goals They provide employees a roadmap for long-term success while ensuring the organization has the right talent pipeline.

Benefits of Career Paths

Implementing career paths provides many benefits:

  • Retains top talent – Employees see a future at your company and are less likely to leave.

  • Improves engagement – Employees feel empowered knowing advancement possibilities.

  • Supports succession planning – You build a robust leadership bench by developing talent.

  • Enhances recruitment – Career paths attract top talent who see opportunities for growth.

  • Optimizes skill development – You can tailor training to career path needs.

  • Boosts productivity – Employees are motivated to perform well and progress.

  • Reduces hiring costs – Vacant roles can be filled internally via career paths.

Overall, career paths lead to more satisfied, invested employees and ensure your organization has the skills and leaders needed to execute business strategies.

How to Develop Career Paths

Follow this six-step process to implement effective career paths tailored to your employees:

Step 1: Update Your Org Chart

Begin by reviewing and updating your organization chart to understand the structure of different departments and teams.


  • All current roles and positions

  • Reporting hierarchies and relationships

  • Possible lateral moves between departments

Your org chart provides the foundation to map career progression possibilities.

Step 2: Define Job Positions

Next, define standardized job positions and levels within your company. For example:

  • Entry-level individual contributor roles

  • Mid-level individual contributor/specialist roles

  • Management and leadership roles

Outline the core responsibilities and competencies required at each position and level. This creates a framework to build career paths.

Step 3: Track a Roadmap for Each Skills Track

Identify common skills tracks or specialties in your organization. For each one, map out career progression roadmaps.

For example, an engineering skills track may go:

  • Engineer
  • Senior Engineer
  • Engineering Manager
  • Director of Engineering
  • VP of Engineering

Do this for every major skills area to visualize advancement paths.

Step 4: Identify Training Needs

For each role on the career maps, detail:

  • Required hard and soft skills
  • Necessary credentials or training
  • Important developmental assignments or experiences

This outlines training requirements to progress through each career path.

Step 5: Create Training and Development Programs

Use the training needs identified to create developmental programs that prepare employees for advancement. These may include:

  • Formal training courses
  • Certifications
  • Mentorships
  • Job shadowing
  • Stretch assignments

Bridge skill gaps and give employees opportunities to gain expertise needed for the next level.

Step 6: Map Each Employee’s Career Path

Finally, meet with individual employees to understand their goals and map out customized career path plans.


  • Which career track interests them

  • Development gaps they need to fill

  • Timeline for progressing to the next role

Enable employees to take an active role in their own career growth.

4 Tips for Implementing Career Paths

Follow these best practices to maximize the impact of your career path program:

Get leadership buy-in – Educate executives on the benefits of career paths to get their active support.

Communicate to employees – Raise awareness of career paths through presentations, emails, intranet postings, and training.

Make it visible – Post career path roadmaps visibly in the office and employee handbooks.

Revisit regularly – Review career paths annually to align with evolving business needs.

FAQs About Career Paths

Here are answers to common career path questions:

How are career paths different from job titles?

Job titles describe an employee’s current role. Career paths show potential future jobs and advancement possibilities beyond just the employee’s current position.

How often should they be updated?

Review and revise career paths at least annually. Update them whenever your business strategies pivot or new roles emerge.

Can career paths be customized per employee?

While career paths are standardized frameworks, employees can follow customized paths within them based on their unique goals and capabilities.

What if an employee wants to change career paths?

Encourage lateral moves between career tracks as development opportunities. Allow employees flexibility to pivot tracks over time.

What if no role is vacant for an employee to advance?

If no appropriate role is currently open for the employee’s next step, work with the employee to create development plans preparing them for when positions become available.

Examples of Career Paths

Here are examples of career paths for two common roles:

Software Engineering Career Path

  • Software Engineer
  • Senior Software Engineer
  • Staff Software Engineer
  • Software Architect
  • Principal Architect
  • Director of Engineering
  • VP of Engineering

Marketing Career Path

  • Marketing Associate
  • Marketing Specialist
  • Marketing Manager
  • Senior Marketing Manager
  • Marketing Director
  • VP of Marketing
  • CMO

Tailor your own career paths to your organization’s structure and strategic priorities.


Implementing clear career paths provides tremendous benefits for retaining top talent, engaging employees, and building the skills your organization requires.

Follow the step-by-step process provided to develop career paths tailored to your employees’ goals and your business needs. Make career paths a visible, vital part of your talent management strategy.

When employees have transparent career progression opportunities and internal mobility, they are more likely to thrive and stick with your organization for the long haul.

how to develop career paths for employees

Discuss goals with employees during onboarding

Identifying an employee’s underlying motivations can help them discover their best career path. It all starts with your onboarding process. An employee with a clear career path during their onboarding process is 3.5x more likely to define their onboarding experience as exceptional, increasing employee satisfaction.

As part of onboarding, ask employees to take a self-assessment. Through their results, employees can better understand their current skill set, knowledge gaps, strengths, and areas for improvement.

Discussing long-term goals within the company becomes manageable and realistic with a self-assessment. The next step is to create a learning and development plan that matches the employee’s goals.

How to create a career path in 6 steps

  • Determine your organization’s needs
  • Discuss goals with employees during onboarding
  • Identify training needs
  • Assign employee mentors
  • Create customized learning programs
  • Explore other opportunities

How to Implement a Career Pathing Plan at Your Organization

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