The Importance of Career Path Planning In Retail

The Importance Of Career Path Planning in Retail

“44% of employees say if they knew their career path with their current employer they would stay longer, without a doubt.” [Source: Mercer]


I recently published an article on the Succession Planning Process in retail. How it is an invaluable tool that can help develop internal talent to fill critical roles in retail and keep pace with the growth and evolution of our industry.

In retail we are frequently challenged for time and strangely, some of the most important actions for our business are put on the back burner in lieu of less important tasking. Formal training and development programs, performance development plans, and growth strategies are a few of these things that seem to fall by the wayside far too often. Since most retailers are in Performance Appraisal mode at this point and, hopefully, have a strong process in place for succession planning, the next step in this process is setting up training and development programs/agendas to support initiatives that help the employees to reach the next level of their careers through a deliberate focus on training, mentoring, self-directed learning, and through stretch assignments. This is also a great time to create a unique and unmatched employee value proposition to brand yourself as a talent destination in the retail industry.

According to Mercer,“One-third (32%) of employees consider their employment to be a job, not a career. Moreover, more than three-quarters (78%) of employees report they would stay with their current employer if they knew their career path

Some additional important statistics:

More than half (51%) of employees report they receive “no input” or “input only once in a while” from superiors on how to perform better in their roles.

When asked if their company makes it easy and transparent to understand opportunities for advancement within the organization, 26% report “not at all” or “hardly ever” and a another 27% say “only from time to time.” – That’s 53%!

According to the Manpower Group 2015 Manpower Shortage Survey:

-Globally, 38% of employers are having difficulty filling jobs [up 2% from 2014]

-#6 on the list of ‘Hardest Jobs To Fill’ is Management/Executive

-Top 5 Key Reasons for Difficulty Filling Jobs
1. Lack of Available Applicants/No applicants
2. Lack of Hard Skills
3. Lack of Experience
4. Lack of Soft Skills 
5. Inadequate Compensation

Even with having this information in our possession:

-More than 1 in 5 employers is not pursuing any strategies to address talent shortages

-Only 1 in 5 employers is providing additional training and development to existing staff

-Only 1 in 10 employers is willing to look into new talent pools

According to Bersin By Deloitte’s, 2015 Talent Acquisition Factbook it was found that it takes companies an average of 52 days to fill open positions. Instead of continuing to waste nearly two months of resources trying to find the perfect candidate, it behooves retail organizations to start investing in ways to create the perfect candidate out of the talent you already have.

Being able to deliver training and development programs and opportunities to your employees will set them up with the resources to up-skill to their desired career level, which will help the retail organization grow and keep pace with business evolution. Setting a clear path for them will help the retail organization ensure that we have future talent that is capable and competent, in both hard and soft skills, of meeting the requirements of open positions internally – more often than not.

This morning I read a post TLNT, by Mel Kleiman, that shared this amazing insight:

“Consider an employee who is going to work 2,000 hours for you this year. It’s not unusual for an organization to spend only 10 or 20 hours training this person – which means about 1 percent of their annual workload. How much training would it take for this person to be 10 percent better at her job?

Here’s how much: If you invest 100 hours (!) it’ll pay for itself in just six months. There aren’t many investments an organization can make that double in value in a year.”

How To Establish Your Retail Organization’s Commitment to Career Path Planning

  1. Create/Revise/Reinvent Formal & Detailed Position Profiles/Job Descriptions For All Critical Roles
    Having a thorough and accurate job description for all business critical roles, including both hard and soft skills, will help determine what competencies, behaviors, and qualities that candidates need to possess each position in your business. You can then measure your internal candidates qualifications, who have the desire to achieve that role and create a career development program specifically to up-skill their areas of opportunity.

  2. Offer learning opportunities in the style that suits each individual in the organization
    According to Pluralsight, based on empirical research, the 70:20:10 framework argues that improving workplace performance happens through three kinds of activity:
    • 70% is experiential learning – learning and developing through day-to-day tasks, challenges and practices.
    • 20% is social learning – learning and developing with and through others.
    • 10% is formal learning – learning and developing through structured modules, courses and programs.

And according to Jane Hart, a leader on workplace learning, identifies six ways in which modern learners prefer to learn, in contrast to traditional training practices, summarized here:

Autonomy: Modern learners choose what they want to learn as well as when and how they want to learn it.
Small and short: Modern learners tend to make use of short, bite-sized pieces of content – both instructional and informational (that perhaps take 15-20 minutes to consume) – as well as have brief interactions with others.
Continuous: For modern learners, learning is a continuous process, a constant drip-feed
On demand: When faced with a learning or performance problem, modern learners look for quick and easy solutions by searching themselves for an answer or ask their Personal Learning Network to recommend a resource.
Social: Modern learners are highly social. They learn with, or alongside, others and from others in terms of resources, ideas, experiences and thinking that have been shared.
Anywhere, anytime, on any device: Learning is happening all the time, whether consciously or unconsciously, intentional or accidental. It may happen face to face, on a laptop, tablet or smartphone.

3. Create, Encourage, and Support a Mentoring Program


Allowing time and payroll for this on a monthly basis to encourage your team members to partner and shadow leaders [for a few hours] 1-level ahead of them in various positions will help internal candidates learn about the roles and responsibilities of the job. This will allow for great questions and realistic answers they seek to truly understand the next level of career.

4. Talk About It…Often

During your quarterly stay interview process, make sure you have time built in to discuss career path planning and next steps in development with your employees so that they understand your interest in their growth and their future and it’s importance to you and the organization. Have interim touch-bases with your employees to see how they are doing and to ensure that you are keeping pace with their learning [and so they understand it is a priority].

5. Stick To A Schedule [Make it Happen]


As mentioned earlier, there are lots of other tasks in retail that are secondary in importance. It will benefit retail organizations to create a schedule and stick to it as it relates to career development conversations, planning, and check-ins. After a couple quarters of this process – it will become second nature, the conversations will become a part of daily dialog, and development/learning will be an ingrained part of the culture.

Creating a culture and a process that supports the talent growth of your team will absolutely establish that yours is an organization that value their employees. This, in turn, will improve retention, productivity, engagement, profit, and control costs associated with recruiting and hiring. It will give your employees a “why” for a lot of questions that run through their minds each day. Again, it will make your business stronger and by making it part of the culture you are making it an important part of your brand image.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail and 18 year retailer. I am a passionate and creative leader and coach committed to inspiring thought, action, truth-telling, solution-seeking, and dialog about how to maximize talent through identifying and creating a process around critical success factors, workplace culture, signature leadership practices, productivity, profitability, alignment of employees and company vision & values, and workplace happiness inside all retail organizations. I help create healthy, vibrant, high-performing, and highly-productive organizations that are talent magnets and focused on delivering the highest level of customer experience that will differentiate them from competition and result in long-term growth and sustainability.

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