Jake Madsen
March 15, 2023
Reading time:
8 min

You’ve probably heard the term ‘pathway’ mentioned in the context of elite sport: British Cycling may have identified and placed an athlete on a talent pathway in preparation for the next Olympics, for example. These days, such pathways are increasingly being used in HR settings, as organisations strive to keep hold of their own high-performing talent by mapping out clear, compelling career paths for them to follow internally (and stay onboard in the process). And in such a competitive talent marketplace, companies are turning to a new wave of data-driven career pathway tools to support their talent retention efforts.

In the same way that athletes like Dame Sarah Storey (swimming to cycling) and Rebecca Romero (rowing to cycling) have switched Olympic sports completely, non-linear career paths are becoming ever more commonplace. LinkedIn’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report highlights that 93% of organisations worldwide are concerned about employee retention and internal workforce mobility is now the second-highest priority at C-suite level. So how exactly can these career pathway tools support this type of HR strategy in the new world of work?

Career pathways in context: Gen Z and the Great Reshuffle

In the wake of the pandemic and the loosening of ties to the traditional office, a new form of social contact has emerged between employers and employees.

The 2023 Randstad Global Talent Trends report reveals that 76% of HR leaders say talent experience has become more important to their organisations in the last 12 months. Likewise, the 2023 Workmonitor survey of 35,000 employees worldwide found that 77% of today’s workforce rank a company’s values and purpose (including sustainability, diversity and transparency) highly when it comes to choosing an employer.

In response, well-structured career pathways offer the following benefits to the business and its people:

For employers

  • Workforce redesign – talent retention can support wider organisational efforts to recalibrate the employee experience for new-normal working while promoting skills-based hiring 
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion – clear career pathways have been found to improve satisfaction and retention among diverse and underrepresented workers
  • Skills development – better internal mobility boosts retention, reduces attrition and churn, and builds in-house knowledge/skills

KEY STAT: After two years in post, employees have
a 75% likelihood of staying with the company if they have made an internal move, compared to only 56% for those who have not.

For employees

  • Workforce mobility – enable talent to understand the skills and experience required to move up in the company/industry 
  • Clear prospects – give talent reasons to believe in the future of your company/industry by transparently demonstrating their future prospects 
  • Professional empowerment – equip talent with the knowledge they need to make career decisions within your organisation/industry, whether it’s salary benchmarking or landing on the right career title

: Career pathways can help organisations address what LinkedIn calls “the internal mobility disconnect” – despite claiming to focus on mobilising employees, only 14% of employees say their employers encouraged them to build a career development plan.

Career pathways and talent retention: a working example

In 2022, infogr8 joined a cross-discipline contingent alongside Harvard Business School, the Schultz Family Foundation and Burning Glass Institute to develop the first
American Opportunity Index. This groundbreaking study sought to answer the question: Which of America’s largest companies are providing workers with the most opportunity?

The study revealed that at insurance broker Liberty Mutual,
more than 80% of managerial positions are filled by internal employees. The company has built itself on a philosophy of exposing employees to linear and tangential career pathways, encouraging growth, and fostering a culture where progression to the ranks of leadership from entry-level positions is common enough to seem expected.

“It comes down to providing an environment where everybody has the space to be successful, and the support and tools to grow their careers.”

— Shawn Tubman, head of talent acquisition at Liberty Mutual

For Liberty Mutual, the prospect of higher wages and vertical growth isn’t enough to retain talent, as competing organisations will offer similar benefits. One way Liberty Mutual does retain its talent is to expose employees to the full picture of opportunity within the organisation – something that career pathways enable. More specifically, career pathway mapping can help surface non-obvious opportunities that wouldn’t occur otherwise.

Career pathways can help fill the talent pipeline, too

Career pathway tools also bring added value to talent acquisition as organisations seek to attract the cream of the next generation. 

Say you’re a hotshot young developer, new to the job market and with ambitions of becoming a CTO one day. It’s likely to be the company that lays out the clearest pathway of progression up the career ladder that will ‘win’ your talent and your signature.

According to Randstad, 82% of talent leaders have seen an expansion in the role of talent acquisition to include career pathways and workforce mobility/development.

The benefits of career pathway tools for talent acquisition include:

  • Changing perceptions – by demonstrating the varied careers paths and growth opportunities within your organisation or industry 
  • Slowing attrition – by mapping out career goals and targets that can be achieved in your organisation or industry 
  • Capturing the best leads – by nurturing and converting a pool of prospective talent considering a career in your organisation


Our EdTech pod was set up to channel education and workforce data into empowering employees and employers as we head into the future of work. Working in partnership with Lightcast, we’ve already delivered pioneering career pathway tools for the likes of the Association of Finance Professionals and Cyberseek (for cybersecurity professionals).

Get in touch with Jake to find out more about a career pathway solution for your organisation.

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