Talent Strategy | Job Architecture and Career Path Design

Job Architecture and Career Path Design

Taking time to comprehensively define potential career paths up and around your organisation has never been more important.

In today's ever-evolving business landscape, taking time to comprehensively define potential career paths up and around your organisation has never been more important. This is particularly the case as companies struggle to retain employees post-pandemic.

Gallup recently found that 49% of U.S. employees are watching for, or actively seeking a new job. The same is true in the U.K. with an additional 36% waiting until the economy improves, or for the right opportunity to arise, before they make a move.

As retention falls, recruitment costs soar. When costs are factored in for recruiting, hiring, training, and onboarding, replacing an employee can cost up to 21% of the annual salary for a role. When scaled up across all roles, this is a significant cost for any organisation.

What are the key factors that make someone want to look externally for a new role?

A study reported in the Harvard Business Review found that workers who stay for a while in the same job without a title change are significantly more likely to leave for another company for the next step in their career.

The study suggests that employees who do not see a clear progression from their current role to a better position in the same organisation, are more likely to turn to opportunities elsewhere.

A barrier for many organisations is that their job titles, job content and job architecture are in such a chaotic state that this prevents the development
of career paths

A solution to this is to be clear about the opportunities that exist around your organisation and build career paths that show employees a route to get from where they are now to where they want to be.

However, a barrier for many organisations is that their job titles, job content and job architecture are in such a chaotic state that this prevents the development of career paths within functional areas let alone laterally across the organisation. Employees are often left in the dark about opportunities within their business area or those that exist outside of their own team or function.

What are career paths?

Career paths, also called Career Ladders, map out how internal movement can happen within an organisation. They provide a roadmap for employees to identify potential opportunities for the next step in their career based on their skills, interests and career objectives.

At a basic level, they show all the possible career path opportunities within a particular function. At a more advanced level, they map out permanent and project-based opportunities laterally across the organisation based on skills requirements.

More evolved, pan-organisational career paths will show how employees can use their existing skills to change disciplines, by moving laterally between functions, and where an employee can move up and across an organisation through a cross-functional promotion.

These more varied career paths are particularly important as employees move away from wanting to progress through a traditional career path and instead are keen to navigate laterally and vertically, through a more complex web of opportunities, skill enhancements and role transitions.

What does a good career path look like?

Well-defined career paths tell employees exactly what the demands and requirements of each role are, so they are clear about what each job involves and what they must do to progress form one job to the next.

Each role in a career path needs a clear outline of the role showing the scope, responsibilities and requirements (knowledge, skills, competencies).

The career paths should make use of job levelling to show how different roles relate to one another in terms of level of responsibility and requirements. It should be clear where the similarities are between roles but also what the key differences are and what training and development is available for people wanting to progress into each role.

What prevents organisations developing career paths?

One of the main factors that prevents the development of career paths is the state of an organisation’s job structure, also known as a job architecture.

Many organisations exist as a long list of job titles and associated job codes that have been added to organically as the organisation has grown, changed, merged or acquired. Without proper governance or oversight, there is often a resulting state of chaos – hundreds of job titles, many just slight variations of each other, job levels all over the place and inconsistencies in salary ranges across roles, business areas and regions.

Job descriptions can be equally chaotic with different formats and inconsistent information making it challenging to clearly articulate the differences in one job to another.

There are many impacts on career paths of this chaos:

  • Job titles become meaningless and have little bearing on job content – inaccurate job titles can lead to incorrect assumptions about what the role actually is

  • It can be difficult for employees to understand what levels jobs are at and what the differences are between jobs at different levels

  • It can be difficult to find out the skills and capabilities required for roles as there is no standardisation in how skills and capabilities are talked about on job descriptions

Sometimes basic career paths can be defined without a job architecture in place, but these will remain within individual job functions and won’t give a clear picture to those looking for a wider range of opportunities.

How does a job architecture help with career paths?

A job architecture forms the building blocks of an organisation. It provides a framework for defining and aligning jobs within an organisation based on the work performed.
A well-designed job architecture can play a crucial role in defining career paths around the whole organisation by:

  • Providing clarity on job roles

A central advantage of implementing a job architecture is to provide clarity regarding job roles.

Through the establishment of well-defined responsibilities and skills for each position, organisations can start to see where there are similarities in the skills profiles of different roles in different teams.This highlights possibilities for lateral moves between teams and enables the development of cross-functional career paths

  • Organising roles by job families or capability groups

Josh Bersin discusses the benefits of using a job architecture to organise roles into “Guilds” or “Professional Groups”. These link roles together with similar skills requirements.

Each group is owned by a capability leader who is responsible for keeping track of the skills and technologies that people in the group need and making sure that people in the group are aware of wider career options that utilise their skills.

Once you have mapped job titles, skills and careers paths within professional disciplines it is much easier to look laterally and develop cross-functional career paths.

  • Skills development

Job architectures highlight the skills required for each role, enabling employees to identify areas for growth. This information can be highlighted in career paths and used to guide training and development efforts, ensuring employees are equipped with the skills necessary for career progression.

  • Ownership for career development

A Job architecture empowers employees to take ownership of their career development. Instead of relying solely on their managers to provide guidance, individuals can proactively assess their current skills and qualifications against career paths and the requirements of their desired roles.

  • Organisational Flexibility and Adaptability

As new roles emerge and existing ones evolve, organisations can easily update their job architectures to reflect these changes. This agility allows career paths to stay up-to-date and relevant.

If you’d like to learn more about Job Architecture and how it can benefit your organisation, why not register for one of our webinars.

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RoleMapper equips HR and Reward leaders with the fundamental building blocks of any workforce strategy. Our AI-powered platform enables organisations to clean, update and manage their job architecture and job data, as well as automate and connect the creation, editing and management of job documents, including job profiles and job descriptions.

We provide actionable intelligence, creating, shaping and enriching an organisation’s culture and driving long-term business success.