The Zig-Zag Approach to a Happy and Fulfilling Career

Performance Improvement


December 13, 2016

How career path illustrations can increase employee engagement and retain top talent in organisations.

The era of a linear career path is over. One of the biggest causes of disengagement amongst employees is a lack of clarity around how their career can develop within an organisation. Often, career paths are treated as an implicitly known fact, rather than explicitly documented as part of an organisation’s performance management approach. Career path illustrations provide clarity on progression opportunities, motivate high-performers and galvanize self-development by giving people the power to drive their own career.

Transparency in career progression supports organisations in creating a mobile, motivated workforce and providing employees with ample opportunity to excel, whatever their chosen career path.

There are two key stakeholders to consult and work closely with when creating your career paths; HR and line managers.  Human Resources provide valuable insight into typical and atypical career paths because of their first-hand experience of colleagues moving roles, and the skills required to do so. We also recommend working closely with line managers in each division to solicit feedback, validate your assumptions and ensure future ownership of the pathways. The tools belong to the team so their input and buy-in is critical to the relevance and adoption of the pathway.


Create a compelling set of tools

The visual representation or flow of the pathway is also important. Many of our clients prefer not to use a visual that only shows upwards progression options, they prefer to use illustrations that show both upwards and sideways job moves. The illustrations are used as a prompt for conversations rather than an exhaustive list of options. This depiction supports conversations around whether team members want a greater breadth or depth of skills. The illustrations should ideally show both technical and management career paths allowing colleagues to see that both paths have opportunities for progression and are valuable to the organisation.

When designing your career path, be visual and creative. Use colour, shading and icons to differentiate content. A flexible, flowing path mixing linear planes with gentle curves show career paths are dynamic and flexible – as in life. For inspiration, think of tube maps, treasure trails or forest pathways.

To get the most out of your illustration, support it with Learning & Development options, role descriptions and quotes from colleagues who have made the job moves illustrated in the pathway. Linking the job moves to competency models and performance management materials provides clarity on the skills people need in order to move into their next role – either up a level, sideways or into a new division.

Getting the most out of a career path toolkit

Inspiring staff engagement through formally launching the career paths in a campaign or as part of your performance management approach creates excitement and interest in how they might be used. Engage staff members and encourage them to create content – such as a word cloud that describes their function / team – that can be incorporated into the career path materials at a later date. Encourage staff members to own their career paths, with a champion in each area responsible for updating and sharing latest iterations.

Performance management and career planning is not just a desk-side activity. Making a mobile-friendly version of your illustration embeds them into regular use after the excitement of a launch.

The career paths are particularly useful in performance management discussions to support personal development and identify both upwards and sideways progression options. The illustrations should ideally be stored alongside your Learning & Development and Performance Management materials in a centralised hub for colleagues.

Finally, career paths are most effective when used regularly and applied with context and understanding. Shaped by real-life experiences – they are yours to inspire conversation or challenge convention.

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One Response

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  1. Samir Jaluria
    Dec 19, 2016 - 12:58 PM

    Well-written and absolutely spot on! Thanks for sharing.