Prepare for the Future of Work: The shift from career paths to career experiences
Jason Lauritsen

By: Jason Lauritsen on November 8th, 2018

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Prepare for the Future of Work: The shift from career paths to career experiences

Digital Transformation

Est. Read Time: 3 min.

This is the fifth post of my series about preparing your organization for the future of work. In each post, we look at a data-based trend that is or will be disruptive to work as we know it. In the last post, we explored how the increase in mobile technology is impacting work. Today, we dig into how our processes for career pathing and development are being disrupted.  

Future of Work trend #5: Career experiences are replacing career paths

There was a time when you could master a set of skills and make an entire career out of it. As you gained more experience and tenure in the organization, you’d move up and make more money. Eventually, you may have to take on a management role if you wanted continued salary growth. Finally, after several decades, you’d collect a nice watch and ride off into your retirement.

Career paths were linear. Advancing in your career was very much like climbing a ladder. Only one way up. And if you decided to get off your ladder and change careers, you typically had to find another ladder and start from the bottom.

No more.

Technology is advancing so quickly and changing how we work so dramatically, the very notion of a career path has shifted both on the employer and employee side of the equation. According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends Report for 2018:

  • 61% of survey respondents said that they are “actively redesigning jobs around artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and new business models”

  • 42% believe that automation will have a major impact on job roles within their organization within the next two years.

This is likely why “Building the 21st Century Career” ended up as the third most important trend for employers in this year’s report.


Two millennials sitting at desk working on career pathing

On the employee side, the younger third of the workforce is very tuned-in to this trend. A 2016 Manpower survey of 19,000 millennial workers globally shows this. Of those surveyed:

  • 93% want “lifelong learning and are willing to spend their own time and/or money on further training”

  • 4 out of 5 said that the opportunity to learn new skills is a top factor when considering a new job

  • And 22% of millennials surveyed intend to take an extended break from work to gain new skills and qualifications

The authors of the Manpower report describe what Millennials view the “career ladder” as being replaced by “career waves.”

What does this disruption to career development processes
mean for organizations?

The landscape of business is changing so rapidly that most of our traditional approaches to career pathing and development are now obsolete. Linear career paths based on mastery of a narrow set of skills through training and certification programs won’t work when the skills you used last month might be different than those needed in the next.

To keep up and adapt when it’s hard to know for sure what skills will be needed in a year, we have to fundamentally rethink how we support employees in gaining new knowledge and skills. Learning through experience on the job must, by necessity, become the new norm for how career development happens.

Fortunately, this is exactly the kind of learning that your employees are demanding.

How can we prepare for the future of work now?

The demand to skill up and re-skill your workforce is going to accelerate as technology continues to disrupt business and jobs. To meet these needs will require some major changes in how we approach career development and skill building. Here are some ideas for how to start building a new approach:


  1. Create career experiences to fuel development.

    In the past, you often had to move jobs to get hands-on experiences in a new discipline. This is too slow and inefficient today. Instead, think about how you can create experiences where employees can step into other roles on a temporary or part-time basis. If you need to cultivate skills in data science, for example, consider creating an apprenticeship program where employees can apply to spend one day a week doing and learning the work. Organizing work into temporary project teams is another great way to create development experiences. As employees rotate from one project to another, they can gain exposure to new skills and knowledge about the business.

    At a minimum, ensure that employees have easy access to view all available career and development opportunities within the organization so when they feel the desire for development or change, they don’t have to leave the organization to find them.

  2. Red sketch of a laptop for on-demand HR infoShift training online.

    Training is important, but the traditional classroom-style approach needs to be replaced by on-demand videos and resources. In our personal lives, when we need to learn how to do something or solve a problem, we first turn to the internet. Often, a Google search leads to help forums or websites with instructions and tips from others like us. Increasingly, we turn to YouTube to find a video that will walk us through how to do a new skill. Video is incredibly powerful because it’s on demand and can be paused, rewound and watched many times over.

  3. Invest in coaching skills.

    Learning through experience comes with a lot of failures and frustration. Even when we can turn to on-demand resources for help, it can be challenging to learn a new skill on the fly. Having the support of a coach to guide and encourage you through it is important to ensuring success. Coaching is a skill set that needs to be learned and developed. Training managers in coaching skills and mindsets is a great place to start. Don’t assume that your managers know how to coach. They likely do not.  

Change is the new constant. And the pace of change only continues to increase. As employers, we must retool and become more agile in how we provide development to our people. Their ability to perform depends on it. And, the trends suggest that they will move on if you don’t.

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About Jason Lauritsen

Jason Lauritsen is a keynote speaker, author, and consultant. He is an employee engagement and workplace culture expert who will challenge you to think differently. A former corporate Human Resources executive, Jason has dedicated his career to helping leaders build organizations that are good for both people and profits. Most recently, he led the research team for Quantum Workplace’s Best Places to Work program where he has studied the employee experience at thousands of companies to understand what the best workplaces in the world do differently than the rest. Jason is the co-author of the book, Social Gravity: Harnessing the Natural Laws of Relationships, and author of his new book, Unlocking High Performance, to be published by Kogan Page in October 2018.