Real business story

Empower your staff with motivating career paths

Few workers want to be confined to one role for the whole of their careers, so the ability to progress within a company is key if an employer wants to both attract new recruits and keep long-standing members of staff.
Craig Rutherford

Investing in staff progression can seem counterintuitive, being both costly and, in some ways, likely to lead some employees to leave a company in search of further challenges.

However, there are also numerous benefits to empowering staff with a clear and attainable career path as these businesses prove.

Growth of business comes from growth of individuals

At car finance broker Refused Car Finance, creating a clear career path for employees has been key for the company’s growth.

“I believe that, if your staff have the aptitude and desire to learn, you need to fill them with knowledge and offer plenty of training opportunities,” said Craig Rutherford, the firm’s managing director.

As a result, Craig has laid out clear and achievable goals for individual members of staff to help them reach the next step in their career.

“Each role has its own pay scale, career expectations and job specification, so it’s clear what’s expected and what skills they’ll need at each level. We inform employees about the expected pay levels as they develop, and provide help and information about how they can progress up the ladder,” Craig explained.

“The structure doesn’t have a time limit, so every member of the marketing team can progress at their own pace. We’ve also set aside a full marketing training budget, so our staff can reach their full potential and never settle in their professional life.”

Employees, he added, now know what core skills they need at each stage to progress higher. “Staff are motivated, better skilled and they feel like you genuinely care about them.”

“Each role has its own pay scale, career expectations and job specification, so it’s clear what’s expected and what skills they’ll need at each level.”

Craig Rutherford, managing director, Refused Car Finance

Making a Catch-22 work for you

Craig recognises the potential catch in placing so much emphasis on employee progression, from the cost through to the increased likelihood of a member of staff leaving, but he insists that developing a career path is worth it.

“Some SMEs might shirk at the cost of training, but you get it back in terms of performance. If your training costs double, then expect your bottom line to double as well with improved productivity,” he said of the costs associated with staff training.

Responding to the issue of staff leaving after receiving training, he explained: “If the time comes, I hope they’ll turn it down because we can meet their working and salary demands. If you make the working culture personable too, then that’s an additional reason to stay.”

Craig isn’t the only manager to see that mapping out a career path has helped with staff retention, despite concerns that it could increase staff turnover.

“We have three-year progression plans for staff which outline the levels they can work up to and the subsequent pay rises they’ll see. We make it clear how their duties and responsibilities will change,” said Adam Ewert, CEO of luggage delivery service Send My Bag.

Starting from interview stage, employees are made aware of the career paths they can achieve with hard work, which is then recognised by the company in terms of promotions. “All of our current senior management team came from within the business,” Ewert explained. “Some started on the bottom rung.”

Ewert reported that the transparency around career plans and the training required to progress has been so successful that the company has not had to replace a leaving employee in over two years, adding that only one employee has left in that time.

Derek Eassey, VP of Brandwatch, agrees that the pros of laying out a career path and helping staff achieve their goals far outweigh the cons. “Retaining top talent is important for our business,” he said, “and a positive benefit of internal development and training programs is that it improves employee retention rates of our best talent.”

“If we are not giving our employees an opportunity to innovate and do more, they are more likely to look elsewhere in this fast and everchanging job market.”

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  • location: North East (England)
  • business size: 1-9 People
  • business type: Professional services, finance & banking

Top three takeaways

Make sure a career path is broken down into attainable steps with a clear roadmap

Match an attainable career path with a good working culture to maximise your chances of retaining staff

Investing in staff progression will boost your company’s productivity