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Facing the Challenge of Career Pathing in IT Organisations

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Career2Most organisations today are facing the challenge of how to implement Career Pathing in their IT organisation.  With flattened structures that have taken place over the past couple of decades, there seem to be fewer opportunities to be able to implement a cohesive and effective career path in the organisation.

A Career Path is the progression of jobs in specific occupational fields, ranked from highest to lowest, and encompasses varied forms of career progression, including the traditional vertical career ladders, dual career, and spiral career pathing.

Employees usually feel more engaged when they believe that their employer is concerned about their growth and provides avenues to reach individual career goals while fulfilling the company’s mission.  A Career Path provides employees with an ongoing mechanism to enhance their skills and knowledge that can lead to mastery of their current jobs as well as promotions and transfers to new or different positions.

Implementing career paths can have a direct impact on the entire organization by improving morale, career satisfaction, motivation, productivity, and responsiveness in meeting departmental and organizational objectives.

Many factors influence the need for an organization to embrace formal career paths and career ladders, including:

  • Inability to find, recruit and place the right people in the right jobs,
  • Employee disengagement,
  • Employee demands for greater workplace flexibility,
  • Lack of diversity at the top,
  • A multigenerational workforce,
  • Limited opportunity for advancement in flatter or smaller organizations,
  • Organizational culture change.

Dual Career Paths

A Dual Career Path is a career development plan that allows upward mobility for employees without requiring that they be placed into supervisory or managerial positions.  This type of program has typically served as a way to advance employees who may have particular technical skills or education but who are not interested or suited to management.

The advantages of Dual Career Paths are:

  • They offer employees a career path in lieu of traditional promotions to supervisory or managerial positions,
  • They can potentially reduce turnover among valued staff by providing expanded career opportunities and pay raises,
  • If well managed, this type of program can encourage employees to continually develop their skills and enhance their value to the organization.

Dual Career Paths are more common in scientific, medical, information technology and engineering fields, or in fields that typically exhibit one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Substantial technical or professional training and expertise beyond the basic level,
  • Rapid innovation,
  • Credentials or licenses for employment.

To be effective, a dual career ladder program must be well managed, as the program can become a “dumping ground” for lower-performing managers.  Additionally, there may be resentment from employees not chosen for the program or from managers who feel the dual career employees are receiving similar pay as managers without the added burdens of supervising staff.

Spiral Career Pathing

Spiral Career Pathing is a less “traditional” way of defining a career path, although it probably has been used unofficially for a number of years.  From the Spiral perspective, a Spiral Career Path means progressively broadening one’s knowledge, skills and talents over time without necessarily moving up the organisation hierarchy.  As a pattern of movement, the Spiral career usually begins with an individual making a choice to start his or her career in a particular field, but then making periodic moves into new fields and types of work.

As one moves from field to field, there may be little or no upward movement on a career ladder.  Instead, the key consideration is the new learning that one obtains by moving into a new type of work.  In formal Spiral Career Pathing the movements are not random – they have a definite pattern.  An appropriate new field of work, from a Spiral perspective, has two characteristics:

  • It requires use of previously acquired skills or knowledge (so it is related in some important ways to a prior field in which the person has experience), and
  • It opens the door to opportunities to develop entirely new knowledge and skills.

This is why we chose the word “spiral” to describe this career pattern. The career involves a spiralling outward from some central core of competencies.


A dual career path is an actual structure, based on the organisation structure, but it does not need to be identical to the organisation structure.  Spiral career pathing is a method of moving through a career path.  As such, they can be used together.  An employee can “spiral” within a “dual” career path framework.

Career Paths are essential for organisation today as they can be used to “grow one’s own timber” as well as provide the needed growth and development that employees today are looking for.

At TalentAlign we work with our clients to develop a method of career pathing that suits their specific requirements while, at the same time, providing a method of developing and retaining their key skills.  Contact us for more information on how to build an effective IT Career Path for your organisation.