Strategies for communicating career pathing effectively

Marina Waser profile
By Marina Waser

The last in our blog series on effectively attracting and maintaining talent concerns career pathing. The articulation and plotting of an individual’s career plans within an organisation, can be often misunderstood or overlooked within a busy team. 

One of the most crucial ingredients to successful employee retention, when managing career pathing is creating a two-way exchange. Employers outline the advancement, career development or learning opportunities open within a business, and employees work with either HR or their line manager to identify those internal opportunities best suited to their own skills, experiences, competencies, interests, and preferences.

Why is career pathing so important?

There are four reasons why effective career pathing is so important to the retention of key talent:

1.  It communicates the value that the business places on committed employees and empowers those employees to succeed

There needs to be movement and opportunity within a career path, otherwise people will leave to progress their personal development or salary elsewhere. Articulating a clear framework of commitment to progression and the subsequent rewards (either remunerative or developmental) empowers employees.

2.  It demonstrates the varied opportunities open to employees within the business 

Development opportunities don’t always have to be linear.  Effective career pathing enables employees to see that there isn’t just one way to grow within a business and that there are lateral growth opportunities too.  Indeed, valuable talent isn’t always motivated by traditional progression. Demonstrating opportunities to deepen knowledge, become a technical expert, or become better at their current discipline, is hugely valuable to those not necessarily interested in reaching the Boardroom.

3.  It clearly communicates the expectations of both employee and employer on their career trajectory

Reward begets effort and commitment, and this is never more clearly communicated than within clear and robust career pathing. The expectations of both parties are articulated and managed, leading to a deeper understanding, trust and commitment between employee and employer. 

4.  It serves as a litmus test for employees that aren’t bought in, engaged, or committed to the business

Not all employees are the right fit. The expectation management that comes from career pathing enables employees and employers to examine how an individual’s skills and motivations fit within the business.  Those employees disenfranchised with the rewards on offer in return for their commitment and effort can then be clearly identified and indeed, their own dis-interest in the business can lead to them leaving. 

Why is clarity so important within effective career pathing?

For employees, keeping the process and the individual plan simple is the most important aspect to effective career pathing.  Ensuring that effort or progression is also clearly recorded and measured, so there is no frustration around missed promotions or opportunities is also vital to ensure transparent and honest internal communications around employee development.   

From the employer's perspective, having a clear career path for talent enables accurate and efficient succession planning. 

How can effective career pathing increase engagement?

The transparency that comes from effective career pathing goes a very long way towards driving employee engagement and therefore performance in organisations.  When companies and leaders are transparent it inspires the trust that must come before genuine engagement and commitment from employees.

Managers and leaders need to be talking to individuals about their unique position within the business and where they can go. Making career pathing personal to the individual is the only way you can be assured of genuine long-term engagement. 

What are the steps towards effective career pathing?

Focusing on an inspiring, purpose laden message about the future of the organisation, where the business is going and articulating how important the individual is within that journey is the first step towards engaging an employee with their career pathing. 

It’s important to remember that any career pathing involves change; be it individuals moving to a different level, team, or discipline - or even being allocated more responsibilities, a different status or title - there will be change. 

As with any effective change communication, honesty, transparency, and clarity are important factors to generate engagement and adoption of the career pathing process that will lead to this change. 

Why is an understanding of employee behaviour so important in this process?

Understanding employee behaviour is important in any process and when it comes to communication and engagement, you must understand how ready and motivated individuals are in terms of the changes they are going to be a part of.  Only when you have taken the time to listen and understand employees, what they want and how they want you to communicate with them, can you develop an effective tailored communications strategy around the career pathing process, as well as the individual career pathing programmes themselves. 

How do you engage and inspire employees in the career development conversation at all levels of an organisation?

Effective internal communications around career pathing is dependent on ensuring you inspire, engage and inform. These three tiers are vital for any effective internal communication strategy:


Leaders at all levels need to paint a picture of the future, why, what the business is doing is so important and how the employees role makes an impact.  Excite your people about where the business is heading and what this could mean for them as individuals.  Messaging must be tailored and relevant to all levels within the business; from C-Suite all the way through to Intern level, to ensure every employee in the business is excited by the vision and ultimately their own career path.


Engagement is a two-way exchange. Engagement isn’t something you can do to people, it's an outcome - an outcome based on a level of mutual respect - which can only happen if there's a two-way flow of honest communication.


To inform your people accurately, a carefully considered internal communications strategy and plan is needed, which ensures you bring the right people into the conversation at the right time.

It is best practise to provide line managers with the tools that they need to communicate messages in an authentic way. It's crucial those line managers have bought into the plan, as it’s the only way they will feel empowered to champion the career pathing process and communicate in a consistent way. 

In summary

Career pathing is key to generating employee engagement that cascades throughout a business. Engaged employees are more motivated, committed, and enthusiastic about belonging to and working within a business, talent is effectively retained, ultimately driving increased business performance.     


Looking for support with strategies for communicating career pathing effectively? 

That’s what we’re here for.

Get in touch and let's have a conversation.

Marina Waser profile
By Marina Waser