If You Build It, They Will Stay: Learning Pathways Over Lateral Attrition

By Jenna McCoy

February 3, 2022
6 min read

Ways to Close Your Team’s Skill Gaps While Retaining Your Top Talent

You have a great team. They work well together, get things done on time, and know how to keep you competitive in the market. The last thing you want is for your people to leave your department because they don’t feel challenged or feel as though they don’t have opportunities to advance under your leadership. But top talent will inherently seek more... and that’s a good thing. The question is, how do you keep your high potentials on your team and provide opportunities for growth and recognition? Traditionally, lateral career moves between departments were the way many professionals built their resumes and gained experience across a wider range of business functions. It was often believed that this was the only way one could advance within the organization, but this emphasis on checking boxes rather than critical skill development has left employees and leaders at a loss. Before your people department hop, or leave the organization completely, consider a strategic learning pathway solution instead.

Traditional Lateral Career Moves

Lateral career moves, sometimes referred to as sideways career moves, often involve staying at the same position level and pay rate while moving to another department of the company or a to a different company altogether. Often, seeking to fill professional development gaps, individuals resort to this type of move simply to obtain skills they’re not gaining in their current role. This lack of skill development is impeding their opportunity for advancement, leading them to look elsewhere. In the past, and for some companies today, the way to build your career was to do three- to four-year stints across multiple teams.

While these types of moves can help keep people engaged by learning about new departments, styles of working, exposure to new processes, and visibility across the company, I think we can agree, this methodology for development is outdated in today’s competitive and rapid moving talent and innovation landscape.

Frankly, employees and employers alike do not have time for this.

In today’s talent-driven market, your team is less likely to be satisfied with completing stretch assignments and lateral moves to check boxes when opportunities for advancement exist just outside the door. As a leader, the risk of attrition is too great, and we must find alternative ways for your team to build skills quickly and apply them immediately within their current role.

The Alternative…Learning Pathways

While they may take many different shapes, learning pathways are educational and developmental experiences tied to strategic planning outcomes and succession planning. Their core purpose is to ensure your team is armed with the elevated skills to meet and exceed your business goals. The long-term benefit is significant as this can offer team members the opportunity to efficiently learn the fundamentals of a new skill while retaining top talent. Learning pathways can vary in length, offer myriad different experiences to help the individual develop, and combine many of the benefits to traditional lateral movement, such as cross-functional visibility, without the risk of losing the person. Another promising use for learning pathways can be part of the onboarding process for a new role, to help ramp up skills to be successful. In any case, learning pathways should be cultivated with planning that aligns to the needs of the individual, role, team and industry trends. The skills often obtained through learning pathways cannot be fully realized strictly leveraging self-guided, traditional packaged training.

Rather than wait for your team to seek out their own development opportunities through lateral movement, stretch assignments, or enticing recruiters, leaders should create succession plans that involve curated learning pathways, specific to the individuals on the team. The plan and pathway combined is that individual’s roadmap to the skills they need to help them advance. The collection of pathways is the team’s map for development aligned with strategic outcomes and goals for the organization.

Benefits to Learning Pathways

Beyond upskilling your team and potentially positioning yourself more competitively in the market, learning pathways can provide several more perks for you and your organization.

  • Retaining more high potentials. 

    When team members feel like their company is invested in their growth, they are more likely to stick around for the long term.

  • Achieving your goals. 

    Achieving your goals. If you notice a gap in your team’s skills, providing the opportunity for them to close those gaps can help you organize and eventually realize your short- and long-term goals.

  • Strengthening your team. 

    Getting your colleagues engaged in a new development experience together can translate into a better experience for your team’s morale and collaborative productivity overall.

Your team can benefit from learning pathways too. .

  • Empowering individuals. 

    When professionals feel like they are in control of their career and they have a path to follow, they can feel more invested in and confident about their future.

  • Creating a sense of value. 

    Individuals who feel appreciated tend to invest more time in an organization. Providing the opportunity for more knowledge and experience can foster a feeling of value and relevance in the workplace.

  • Acquiring lifelong skills. 

    The opportunity to develop within a role, rather than starting over with a new opportunity, can create an experience rich with perspective, higher visibility within the organization, and skills that can be leveraged into expertise.

How to Build a Learning Pathway

Start with the end in mind. As Franklin Covey famously taught us, we must look down the road to the ideal end state – what do your strategic outcomes look like this year? What about the next? From there, we can begin mapping skills to strategy and developing tailored development solutions to help your team stay current and advance your objectives in real time.

When it comes to customization and implementation, getting feedback from your team is a great way to put this process into motion. Your business, no matter the sector, will have its own goals, objectives, and restrictions. These will influence the entire course of your learning pathway.

Your program will be unique to you, your goals, and your talent. It will evolve naturally as your company and team grows and changes, becoming more refined over time. Using the steps below as a guide, you can begin building your learning pathway now.

  1. Research in-demand skills in your industry.

  2. Analyze your company’s needs or skills gaps.

  3. Identify your team’s learning styles.

  4. Connect with a learning provider, like DeVryWorks, that can help you build your learning pathway. These development programs are not a one-size-fits all solution and our consultants can help uncover a path to align with your strategy.

Create a Learning Pathway to Close the Skill Gap

When you provide opportunities for your team to develop their professional skills, you can create an environment that makes your team feel valued and empowered. With the right learning path that focuses on upskilling or reskilling, your team can acquire the work-ready skills they need, to apply to their role today.

What skills does your team need to build in the next 6-months, 12-months, and longer? Let’s connect and start mapping these skills to your succession and strategic planning.

About Jenna McCoy

Senior Manager of Sales Enablement, DeVryWorks

Jenna McCoy provides strategic leadership over the DeVryWorks commercial partnership process, upskilling of the DeVryWorks strategic account management team and supports sales technology innovation. In addition, she leads development of the customer buying journey by collaborating with product, marketing, sales and service to evolve the corporate partnership process based on partner needs.

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