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Do your line managers have the time and skills to support career development?


Our research team has been exploring career pathways and the journeys employees take through their organisation. A traditional career path is generally a straight-line from junior to senior role in the same function or department. However, our research shows several diverse career routes that employees have taken. 

For example, within MHR, Payroll Analysts, considered an entry-level role, only a third move on to the expected next-step role of Senior Payroll Analyst. With the majority moving into 14 different roles within the company. Looking just one step further, there are nearly 40 roles that branch out from the initial Payroll Analyst role, showing the variety of paths open to them. 

This kind of information could be useful to new starters who might not know the organisation well enough to figure this out. Even their manager wouldn’t necessarily know all the possible next-step roles available. 



With the aggregated career pathways as the base data, you can start to picture what else could be useful to someone wanting to progress their career. For example, the skills required for the next step, the training resources available, what goals were achieved by previous employees, even a mentor who is a step or two further along their own pathway. 

As part of our research, we looked at the concept of “role expectancy” which is the time someone is expected to remain in their role. Managers should plan for change as it is inevitable that their employees will move into new roles eventually. However, depending on things like the pace of skills developed, and the variety and challenge of the work, this will vary for each role. 

Knowing the expected time someone might stay in a role is essential for continuity planning. For example, Payroll Analysts are usually ready to change after 12 months. If their manager can plan for this, both parties will feel better equipped and engaged with the situation.  

The benefits of this are an increase in retention and morale, as employees will feel supported and that they can progress.  



Using historic career paths could present some limitations. The data might not necessarily contain all possible career pathways as some paths may not have been trodden yet. To mitigate this, some paths could be loaded either manually or based on an automatic skills match-and-gap process. There is also the risk of singling out individual career paths if they are too unique, but this is easily mitigated by ensuring paths have been taken by a minimum number before disclosing them. 

Our research next steps

We believe that having access to a career pathway tool would increase retention and morale in an organisation, with employees seeing a large positive in having the option to transfer jobs internally rather than moving on entirely. While there are other factors that influence someone’s decision to leave an organisation, a significant factor is the support for development and a good relationship with their manager, both of which could be strengthened with a career pathway tool. 

As a research team, despite the time we have already spent, we feel we are only getting started with career pathways. Research organisations, such as The Josh Bersin Company, are encouraging our interest, stating that career pathways are “critical for your organisation's ability to retain and reskill talent now and in the future”.  

If you would like to participate in our research interviews, to help our understanding around developing and retaining talent through career pathways, then please fill out the form to the right. Please note this information will only be used to contact you in relation to participation in our research.


By Hannah Jeacock, Research Director

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