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June 23rd, 2023 · 3 min read

How learning pathways drive L&D results forward

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What is a learning pathway?

Benefits for employees

  • Provide clarity and control: Learners gain an understanding of exactly what L&D milestones they need to hit along the path in order to achieve their desired career outcome. Additionally, with learning pathways, employees are empowered to take the reigns and have more control over their own development.
  • Simplify an often arduous process: Learning can feel like a large task that’s daunting or overwhelming. A learning pathway breaks it down into smaller, more achievable stepping stones that keep employees motivated by providing a continual sense of accomplishment and progress.
  • Ensure accountability: Pathways can be used to track progress and ensure accountability for both employees and managers.

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Benefits for employers

  • Identify high-potential talent: Working with employees to build learning pathways is one effective way to identify high potential (HiPo) talent, both in the creation phase as well as the subsequent progress towards their end goals. An employee who understands the steps they need to take and do so consistently may be marked as a HiPo.
  • Enable workforce and succession planning: Having easier means to identify your top talent also make constructing and feeding a leadership or other high-needs role pipeline simple. L&D leaders can work with HiPo employees to create learning pathways that prepare potential successors. By ensuring a smooth transition and maintaining continuity, companies can minimize disruptions, while maintaining organizational stability and growth.
  • Drive L&D engagement: Using learning pathways to illustrate a clear road to better rewards is a great way to get more employees engaged with your L&D programs. Employees are much more likely to engage with L&D when options, such as learning pathways, are simplified for them and they can easily see tangible outcomes.
  • Upskill and reskill to fill gaps: Leveraged on a continual basis, a learning pathway can fuel internal mobility by keeping an employee ahead of their own skills and competencies. However, it’s not just about promoting upward mobility. Learning pathways can also help employees make lateral moves into positions that feel more interesting or are better suited to their competencies.

The building blocks of an employee learning pathway

  • Timeline: Establish an estimated timeline for completion. This can be tentative but it’s ideal to set deadlines for key milestones and take into account that some learning takes longer than others.
  • Learning options: Lay out step-by-step exactly what’s required for an employee to gain the education needed for specific roles within your company. This involves curating the right mix of learning opportunities that can range from training, skills courses, professional certificates and high-school completion, to earning associate, bachelor’s and graduate degree programs.
  • Other development opportunities: Make sure to arm your learners with the knowledge of additional opportunities for learning. These can include mentorships, stretch projects, company activities that support innovation (such as hackathons, etc.) or attending industry events.
  • Flexibility: Learning is unique to the individual, thus pathways should be built to be flexible and able to evolve to fit individual needs. For example, two individuals in the same current position with the same goal could have different learning paths based on their backgrounds or levels of experience. There will be overlap, but there will also likely be some key differences.
  • Goal or outcome: The importance of having a clear objective cannot be understated. By providing direction, a goal guides actions and enables progress toward meaningful outcomes. At the same time, be clear that you’re not guaranteeing that an employee will achieve their desired career outcome — such as, if you do X, you will get promoted. It’s simply a recommendation of what will help you gain the skills needed for the next level.

Supercharge L&D results by investing in learning pathways

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