June 15, 2021
Succession Planning 06 March 2018
How to Drive Growth with Pathways
Crystal Huang

Your business is a living, breathing organism, made up of unique employees, processes, and strategies. Gone are the days of the one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, the most successful companies are custom tailoring their strategies and growth pathways for employees. This benefits the company by helping employees feel valued, be rewarded for efforts, and helps maintain a healthy company culture.Now you might be wondering, what are pathways? Pathways should exist for each candidate, employee, and position within your company. They usually contain current positions, responsibilities, as well as a “pathway” of new milestones, trainings, evaluations, and feedback in order to progress within the organization. Pathways help maintain transparency between the employee and employer. It’s also a great way to stay organized, know what employees possess what skills and what gaps to fill.

When these pathways are clearly laid out for employees, they tend to have increased:

  • Motivation

  • Engagement

  • Productivity

  • Results

These employee benefits will directly impact your company culture and your bottom line. Let’s get into some more details about how your company can benefit from setting up your own pathways.

In a recent study, Andrew Chamberlain from Harvard Business Review and Glassdoor data scientist Morgan Smart looked at data from 5,000 job transitions. By combining data and other real-world variables they were able to pinpoint some great insights on what factors push out or motivate employees.


One of the key drivers for turnover was allowing workers to stagnate in their current role. This surprisingly surpassed salary, industry, and other factors. They found workers who are staying in the same job without a title change are more likely to exit the company and look for opportunities elsewhere at another company.

You, as the employer, can motivate your employees and improve their potential career mindset.

Motivation can be driven directly through pathways because employees are now seeing exactly what is needed for the next step. How do they match up? What have they accomplished? What areas do they need to improve in? 

To help avoid stagnation and improve growth, allow for learning, training, and mentoring. Although sometimes these can be an investment, it’s been proven time and time again it’s a worthwhile investment. Once upon a time, all the knowledge you learned was valuable for years and years to come. However, now in our current age, skills and knowledge can quickly become obsolete within a few months

It’s crucial to keep your employees and your business ahead of the curve and on par with trends in your industry. Allowing employees to consistently learn and achieve new goals will ignite the fire to produce results. As Matthew Elmore says,

“It's in [your] best interest to create the opportunity [to move up] within your company.”

“Your employees are assets. You can let them stagnate and become depreciating assets, or you can help them become better and more valuable.” 

-Matthew Elmore, Co-Owner, ERA Marketing 

Get together with decision-makers to decide which training and milestones should be in place and make a plan. This will not only get your business organized but also help shift learning and expectations from a once-in-a-while mindset to an ongoing campaign to evolve and improve. 

When you know the training and milestones you expect from your employees, put it all in order in a timeline with expected goal numbers on your pathway. We found that it is effective to include projects throughout the pathway to assess your employees’ progress. Don’t forget to include pay evaluations to reward your employees for hitting the goals and milestones that you set!

Once you’ve set the pathways, take the opportunity to talk to employees. See how they feel, walk them through each step, ensure they understand the expectations. Not only will you both be on the same page but this will greatly improve your transparency and employees will know and see that they don’t need to be in the same job or position for their career at your company.

Career Control + Transparency

As discussed above, employees want to know what lies ahead for them. Not only does it help them feel secure in their position, but it shows how much you, their employer, values them. Pathways are also a great way to help the employee to become responsible and take part in their own career development.

This is why a one-size-fits-all structure will not work. Not only do your business needs change but each individual person you hire will impact your company in a different way. Employees must play a part in directing their learning and career progression. This ownership will improve their value as an employee in addition to boosting their own motivation. This type of relationship will always bring more success than one of an employee completing something or keeping a job out of obligation. 

When an individual feels driven or responsible for a project or task they are much more likely to do it with passion and on their own free will.

Humans naturally crave transparency, openness, and honesty from their leadership. However many employers still are not trusted by their employees. In fact, a recent APA study showed 1 in 4 workers say they don’t trust their employer, and only about 50% believe their employer is open and upfront with them. If leaders aren’t involved in the journey of employees and the company how can they expect employees to be engaged and pursue their own journey within the company? Psst… this also means upper management should have pathways of their own and be continuously learning as well! Lead by example!

Help employees feel in control by meeting with them routinely and creating an open relationship in which employees feel comfortable speaking their mind and expressing their goals within the company. When pathways are implemented it creates easy points for each manager to go through and everything is result-oriented. Employees can also see their own progression, gaps and receive feedback or ask questions on something they feel they are lacking in.

Organizational Structure + Culture

Once pathways have been put in place you’ll be on your way to a better-organized company. An improved organizational structure is more than just pleasing a type-A personality CEO. It can also help lower hiring and training costs significantly. For example one of our clients, a large tech company, (excluding their name for privacy) was constantly hiring engineers. They were growing, new problems, not enough hands, sound familiar? Well when we took a look at their current landscape, the leader realized they didn’t have a system to organize their engineers for their individual skills or what they had learned or accomplished in the company. As they had so many engineers, it was difficult to pinpoint who had what skill-sets off the bet. 

When this company had a new project come up, they would push it out to the teams to see who could do it. When no one responded (and since they had no idea who could do what), the company went and hired a new engineer to help with the project. Not only was this inefficient, but they were seeing a lot of redundancy and high operational costs, considering the number of engineers they had. 

Here are the steps we took with them to solve those issues:

1. Employee Profiles - We onboarded all their engineers to the platform and had each engineer create a detailed profile on the platform. The profile listed both their technical and interpersonal skills. It also included any hobbies they might have. This is important as if an employee had a high-interest level in photography and a particular project had that topic involved, that employee would be deemed as valuable to the team.  

2. Build the Dream Pathway - Next, dream pathways were created for each role based on the skills set required for that role. The pathway included goals, projects, evaluations, and feedback. Note that you will be creating a pathway for the job based on the ideal candidate/employee you wish to have.

The pathway should include every skill-set you deem fit for this role. To take it a step further, create dream jobs and pathways for roles you wish you had within your team or department. (What do you need to have to push 100% output and hit all company goals?)

3. Personalize each Pathway -  Once that foundation for the pathways had been created, each pathway was then personalized based on the skill-sets the individual possessed. For example, if Job 1 required skill-set A, B, and C, and the employee only possessed skill-set A, I now know I need to include training and evaluation for skill-sets B and C. 

Although it sounds complicated, Pathways can be created for a team of 10 in just 20 mins or less. 

Once a manager realizes the training and skills gaps, they can now work on either inserting appropriate training they already have or developing/finding new training to help develop the skills required for the job. 

The great part is you can now also evaluate how the employee’s pay-scale measures up to what the job position requires. If they know more than the job required, perhaps a pay raise or promotion is in order. If they know less than what they are being paid on, you now understand the gaps that need to be filled before they can even approach the next pay-grade. If their pay is right on par with their skill-sets, you can introduce pay evaluations as part of their pathway.

4. Creating a Mentor Program- Now that we know who is on the team and details for departments, it’s time to get down to the details that make up each of their employees. 

For our client, they were looking to strengthen their culture and training strategy with a mentor program. Mentors were set and meetings happened. This gave a chance for in-office relations to occur as well as the mentors and leaders to take note of each employee. 

  • What skills did they possess?

  • What had been accomplished or what was a work in progress?

  • What did they want to learn? What was next on their career development pathway?

5. Filling in the Gaps - Now that they had a clear picture of what talent and skill-sets they had in-house, they are able to fill in the gaps. Gaps can be training to enable the employee to take on more responsibilities or to be able to complete tasks/projects required of them. 

Gaps could also mean hiring a new person to fill in the skill-sets you do not currently possess within the company. It does not mean you have to hire for that job position immediately, but it lets you know clearly what skill-sets are required to get the job done.

A Larger Talent Pool = More In-House Hiring.

Now that each employee was on a pathway and had a mentor they met with regularly, you can keep track of employees better and also improve workplace relationships. This also leaves a great opportunity for the C-suite executives and HR to stay in the know. The CHRO can monitor the health of their company based on their talent-pool while HR can quickly access the database and see if they have any qualified candidates for upcoming positions in their current talent pool, rather than doing another round of external hiring. 

Not only does this save time and money but it also improves your company culture, and you will have already found a great candidate who fits in with your culture.


If you’re still here, we already know your company isn’t a cookie-cutter company right? So stop wasting your time with what everyone else is doing and get your own tailored plan going today. Not only will you see vast improvements in employee engagement, development, transparency, and culture but you can cut costs while watching your company thrive! 

Some might think that their company is too small to have to worry about training and developing employees, but that's a myth. The best time to start structuring your organization is now! Start using our platform to build career pathways for employees while your company size is still small, manageable, and easy to organize. It's a great way to strategize for future company growth while laying the foundation to build effective teams. Don't fall into the trap of waiting too long and having it turn into a daunting task when the company grows big.

If you’re ready to get started, contact one of our in-house specialists for a free consultation to see how pathways can drive explosive growth for your company!