The Benefits of Line-of-Sight Career Pathing

David Barrett

It’s no secret that it’s been a tough season for the automotive industry. At Cascade Engineering, a medium-sized manufacturer of plastic injection molded products for the automotive and waste handling industries and commercial products, we focus on employee retention. While we have been flat in terms of company growth over the past several years and continue to struggle with tough economic conditions in Michigan, our turnover remains low.Career pathing, the process for identifying job growth opportunities within the organizational structure, has been integral in talent retention. Career pathing includes proper leaps in skills, education and experience, building to achieve growth and career goals.

Although we no longer can offer employees job security, we have instated career pathing to provide opportunity for skill development, thus increasing the value of the employee in this labor market. Our career pathing opportunities have been integral in retaining key talent.Many of our most innovative programs, including Welfare-to-Career, Work Ramping Orientation, Pay for Contribution, Business Process Optimization, Sustainability and our Talent Management program, have evolved as the result of an identified need. In some cases the stimulation was a significant emotional event.Line of sight occurs when employees can clearly see a path for their career advancement. Cascade Engineering created a line-of-sight career path for every employee in the organization and the associated benefits. In 1994 we had a precipitating event that started Cascade Engineering down the path of designing a new compensation program for our core production operators, which, for the majority of our workforce, is the initial role. The program that evolved from the redesign is called Pay for Contribution. Every functional and professional position has a career ladder in the Pay for Contribution program, available to all employees, which describes how and at which level a person enters into a career. Each ladder generally has four levels of advancement and outlines the education, skills and experience needed at each level. This allows employees to see what they need to work on in order to move to the next level in a particular career.

Each level has a progression audit to verify the employee meets all the requirements. By passing specific tests in the continuous learning process, the employee is rewarded by moving up a level. If they pass classes, on-the-job training requirements and the progression audit they can move forward on their path. This may require a change of shift or building, but it is their choice. An integrity audit is used to make sure people are doing what they are being paid to do. As shown after Level D there are career ladders that continue the line-of-sight career pathing process. In addition, Cascade Engineering has many career development processes that employees partake in.

  • Assisted Career Planning process helps employees decide which career path may suit them best and uses an interest assessment.
  • Tuition Reimbursement—$2,000 a year for education.
  • Career Coaching Process—one-on-one coaching process to help employees determine what they want to do and how to get there.
  • Talent Management Process—involves competency assessments and career counseling as well as assigned development activities and mentoring by upper-level managers.
  • On-site educational opportunities.
  • Personal Effectiveness Assessments.
  • Performance Management Process.

What are the benefits? We look at two types of benefits: bottom-line and collateral. Bottom-Line Benefits:

  • Highly skilled workforce—based on comparing our "work keys" results with the National Career Readiness Certificate standards.
  • Ready pool of Front Line Leaders—we have not hired a Front Line Leader outside the company in over five years—less recruiting costs, more consistency of leadership.
  • Lower turnover—below the industry average in all three areas; affiliate, full-time equivalents, welfare-to-career.
  • Absenteeism below the industry standard.
  • 60 percent of all positions are filled internally—less recruiting expenses.
  • High applicant flow for open positions. Good candidate choices.
  • Safety incident rates significantly below the national average. Pay for Contribution heavily incorporates safety into every level.

Collateral Benefits:

  • Employer of choice—great place to work reputation.
  • Employee motivation and morale—based on employee opinion survey results.
  • Employee job satisfaction—based on employee opinion survey results.
  • Pay for Contribution—provides job enrichment and job enlargement, which are two theories of motivation.

First published on Human Resources IQ.