Typically a career involves a growth path which takes an individual to a higher position in the organizational hierarchy over a certain period of time. It is called the career ladder or the career path. Most of the organisations map out various steps in the lifetime of an organisation in advance. This is done to proactively assess various job movements, vertical and lateral or cross functional moves.
Career ladders are part of the information services which in turn is a component of the career development systems. It is a part of the career management process. According to one survey conducted among 182 of the fortune 500 firms, career ladders or career path was considered as one of the effective tools of retention, work motivation and having the communication.
The process of chalking the career path is beneficial to both the employees and the organisation. From the perspective of the organisation, they are able to preempt future job opportunities for the employees and for answering employee queries about their career progression. Lots of organisations group jobs by job families. General Motors for instance employs one such strategy. They group marketing, HR, Engineering and production etc to draft a picture of future prospects for the employee in each group.
For an employee the career path or the ladder helps him set targets for himself throughout his career; evaluate himself continually and develop new skills required at the time of transition from one position to a higher. The career path carries the time line, the intermediate goals and the skills and competencies or the qualifications. It thus serves as a guide map. For example the career path in a sales department may look like:
Executive Business Development ⇒ Senior Executive Business Development ⇒ Assistant Manager ⇒ Deputy Manager ⇒ Manager ⇒ Area Sales Manager ⇒ Senior Manager ⇒ Deputy General Manager ⇒ General Manager ⇒ Vice President and so forth.
At each level an employee may be required to spend a certain amount of time and give a certain level of productivity. Unless the individual performs brilliantly the time frame is not compromised upon. In a research survey it was found out that, those organisation who picked up very young professionals from top business schools and escalated them to senior positions failed miserably despite their rich skills and qualifications! It is thus necessary to spend certain time at each level, which prepares you for the next.
Employees who outperform others are placed on fast track development tracks where they are provided training inputs so that they are able to move up the ladder and assume leadership positions soon. For such cases multiple or dual career paths have come up in the recent years! This is especially true for scientists and engineers who lacked managerial skills and were regarded as misfits for leadership or managerial positions, not anymore. Nowadays organisations have dual career paths so that a person in a technical position can move up through any of the desired paths.
It therefore appears that career paths and ladders are good contributors to the career development system within organisations. Apart from the above mentioned benefits they also act as agents of motivation by helping the employees remain focused.