Career Path Clarity, The Express Lane to Happier Employees

Career Path Clarity, The Express Lane to Happier Employees

Transparency at work is a corporate culture characteristic that employees increasingly crave – especially younger workers. One area that companies could shine a brighter light on is career pathing. 

In our 2016 research study of the workforce, four in ten employees indicated that their company lacks transparency when it comes to the potential career path for their position. Over half of employees described career paths that were either “not too defined” or “not defined at all.” What's more, this ambiguity is the fourth most cited source of on-the-job stress. 

The research findings underscore how a strategic approach to employee career pathing, supported by appropriate functional training and professional development, can help attract, engage and retain the best talent.


Employees with a well defined career path are more than twice as unlikely to be planning a job change in the near future. This is probably due to the fact that they not only understand the possibilities on their horizon, but they’re also liable to have access to professional development, like formal coaching. Our study finds that most of the clear-pathed are trained in advance for the next role on their journey, and many feel like they are continuously growing professionally. Since The Great Recession, our research has indicated that workers overall are particularly interested in keeping their skills in top shape, and proactively seek out ways to improve. Clear paths, along with opportunities for growth and development, rank among the top reasons employees leave for greener pastures. Companies who are committed to improving career path clarity and employee development will see improvement in both talent attraction and retention. 


After a better salary, participants in our survey said that having a better grasp on their career path would most improve their engagement at work (and, the younger the employee, the greater the impact). Just over three in five employees who are extremely engaged revealed that they had a ‘somewhat clearly’ or ‘very clearly’ defined career path. Moreover, employees with a defined view consider their company to be much more transparent overall, but especially in areas related to their career path and development: 

• Transparency of requirements for a promotion

• Transparency of potential career path for current position

• Transparency of salary range 

Career path clarity also has a halo eect when it comes to the way employees view their company. Clear-path workers are more apt to believe that their company cares about their well being, and are much less prone to feeling burnt out most days. They are also among the most enthusiastic when it comes to company culture matching their expectations. And when employees’ feelings around engagement, being cared for, and clicking with culture rise, our study finds that their likelihood to leave the company for another drops markedly.  


Our findings on career pathing resemble the proverbial glass – 52% of those surveyed see it half empty, while the rest see if half full. For the fortunate (and happier) 48% with a clear idea of where their career is headed, their companies are taking a variety of steps to help them navigate their career journey. Half of these employees reported having well defined core competencies and behavior expectations for roles on their path, as well as profiles that outline the specifics of each position. Some reported how companies are tailoring training and development programs, while others are charting career roadmaps for employees. 

For companies looking to enhance the employment experience, improving the approach to career path, professional development and transparent communication can go a long way. If employees like what they see ahead, they will stay - happily.