A career ladder is a formal process within an organization that allows employees to advance their careers to higher levels of salary, responsibility or authority. Once employees meet certain criteria, they are eligible to move into higher-level roles.
Examples of jobs that might have career ladders or paths include those in administration, communications, customer service, education, retail, law enforcement, and many other specialties. In mid-size and large government organizations, these positions are found in quantities significant enough to merit consideration of establishing career ladders.
Career ladders cannot just benefit employees. Employers need to reap some benefits as well. Here are some of the ways career ladders benefit employing organizations.
Retain Staff Through Career Ladders
Career ladders contribute to staff retention. When employees experience the low times inherent in any job, they can look to the career ladder to see there is more money, responsibility or authority available in the near future provided employees meet the employer’s requirements for moving to the next rung of the career ladder.
Employees see the light at the end of the tunnel. It causes them to think long and hard about the pros and cons of taking a different job. If they decide to leave, they must brush up their resumes, complete job applications, go on interviews, learn a new job and assimilate into a new organizational culture. If they decide to stay, they know the job and organization, are in line for career advancement and know what they need to do to achieve the next step in their careers.
Almost all career ladders include some sort of continuing education or training component. In addition to accumulating years of experience and performing at an acceptable level, employees complete training classes to enhance their skills. Career ladder requirements provide an external stimulus for employees to attend job-related training. For the organization, the result is a well-trained workforce.
Show Your Staff They Are Valued
When organizations have career ladders in place, they show employees the organization values them. The career ladder is a formal mechanism whereby employees gain knowledge, skills, and abilities that make them more useful to the employer. Employees feel cared for since the organization is investing in them.
The organization equips employees to do their jobs better over time. Career ladders facilitate this in methodical ways. Each rung of the ladder has training requirements for moving to the next rung. The training prepares employees for the tasks, assignments, and projects they will work on once they reach the next level of the career ladder.
Since job performance is almost always a key factor in career ladder programs, employees are incentivized toward good performance. Not only do employees have to gain experience and complete training; they must also perform well in their current roles. It would make no sense for an organization to promote an employee further up a career ladder if the employee has not proven competent at lower levels. By requiring employees to perform satisfactorily to promote, organizations foster motivation in the workforce.
Attract Talented People Who Want to Develop
Some people want to do their jobs and go home. If they are meeting expectations, they expect not to be hassled by their supervisors. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this attitude. The world needs people to do their jobs, but these people are not suited to jobs that have career ladders.
Organizations tout their career ladders when recruiting job applicants in the hopes of getting new hires who do not mind starting at the bottom when they know there is a clear path to higher levels. These are people who thrive in career ladder positions. They want to develop themselves to move up the ladder. These new hires are happy to have a job starting at the bottom, but they do not intend to stay at the bottom any longer than is necessary.
Make Assignments to the Right People
Career ladders are tools managers can use when they make decisions about which employees are assigned which tasks. Employees higher up the career ladder can be given more complex and difficult assignments than employees at lower levels. Employees at higher levels have the knowledge, skills, abilities, and salaries that align with those assignments.
Managers can use assignments to help people at lower levels develop into employees like those at higher levels. As a mid-level employee gets close to attaining the highest career ladder step, a manager can assign that employee a project or task like those that employee will receive at higher levels. This shows the manager how the employee handles next-level assignments.
Higher-level employees can be used as mentors for lower-level employees. The lower-level employees can pick the brains of their more senior colleagues to gain insight on how to climb the ladder themselves. Of course, organizations must ensure designated mentors have the aptitudes and attitudes suitable for mentoring. Not every senior-level employee is cut out to be a mentor.