Consilio Advanced Learning Institute

Struggling to Hire and Retain Top Talent? Consider An Employee Career Mapping Program


The current struggle to hire and retain talent is real, but soft perks like a “career mapping” program can be effective ways to retain current employees and attract top talent

The current struggle to hire and retain talent is real, and as employee demands skyrocket, many hiring partners and general counsel find they don’t have the budget to match the salaries offered by competitors in their markets.  The good news is that many of today’s job seekers recognize the value of intangible benefits, and these soft perks can be effective, low or no-cost ways to help retain current employees and attract top talent.

Managing attorneys looking to add a no-cost tool to assist with hiring and retention may want to consider rolling out a “career mapping” program for employees.  Career mapping is a benefit appreciated by many attorneys who are actively looking for a new opportunity because lawyers are often driven to change roles when they don’t feel there are opportunities to advance their career with their current employer.  Also, when evaluating job offers, many attorneys closely scrutinize the opportunities for career advancement that the new role can provide to them.

Career Mapping

Career mapping is the process of putting together a written plan for an employee to become well-positioned to achieve the desired end-goal for their career.  For many attorneys, their end goal is to become equity partner at a law firm or to become general counsel of a public company.  For those attorneys who are just starting out in their careers, while their end-goal may not be achievable for decades, helping them put a long-term plan in place can go a long way towards showing you are invested in their career and supportive of their long-term career development, which can be a valuable hiring and retention tool.

If your company doesn’t yet have a career mapping plan in place for employees, your HR team or Professional Development Department may be able to help implement a program.  The initial step will be to sit down with each employee and put together a written plan, and then to schedule periodic check-ins (ideally every 6-12 months) to figure out if the employee is still on track, and whether any adjustments are warranted.

Key Steps

When establishing a career mapping program, consider incorporating the following steps:

  • Determine the long-term goal. To establish a career map, you will need to know both your starting point and the desired final destination.  To determine the end point, ask each employee a set of questions to get them thinking about what they want to be doing in their last job before retirement.  Make sure the destination is specific (e., General Counsel of a publicly-traded company, or equity partner at an AmLaw 100 firm, or an individual contributor with a good work-life balance).
  • Identify the stepping stones. A young attorney will likely need to have several different roles before reaching their desired destination; for instance, an attorney who wishes to be an equity partner at a law firm will likely first need to become a non-equity partner, and an attorney who wishes to become general counsel of a public company will likely first need to be a deputy or associate general counsel at a public company.
  • Identify the key areas of experience and milestones needed to reach each stepping stone. List each of the skills required for the attorney to reach each stepping stone in the path to their final career goal.  To help, you can speak with employees who are already doing the jobs that fall within the career map, or look at job postings with descriptions for the roles the employee will need to hit en route to their final career destination.  Be sure to focus not only on the technical skills needed, but also the soft skills.  Also, include a timeline for when each milestone should be reached to ensure the attorney is on path to meet their career goal within their desired timeframe.
  • Asses current skills and areas of knowledge and experience, and identify gaps. Once you’ve established the skills and experience needed to reach each stepping stone, the next step is to identify gaps.  To do this, you may want to evaluate the employee’s skills and experience to see what the employee needs to gain to be able to reach each stepping stone.  During this step, consider including an evaluation of soft skills, as many jobs require skills such as mindfulness, adaptability, empathy, and emotional intelligence.  By identifying gaps, the employee will learn exactly what skills they need to develop in order to stay on track.
  • Identify potential ways to fill in the gaps. This step is aimed at figuring out how the employee can develop the skills needed to reach each of the stepping stones required to achieve their desired end result.  Unless you are working with a senior employee, there will likely be a number of steps in your plan.  Hopefully you can create opportunities for the employee to make all of the intermittent moves and remain with your organization.
    • If you don’t have the ability to do this within your department, you may want to consider orchestrating a temporary opportunity for the employee to move to another department to attain the skills and/or experience needed to allow them to advance to the next step. While it can be a big loss to have a valuable member of your team move to another department, it’s better than losing them to another organization, and you may find that it is easier to bring them back to your department if they stay within your firm or company.
    • You may also want to consider volunteer opportunities your employee can take on outside of your company as a way to fill in gaps; for example, board room experience can be obtained through volunteer opportunities at non-profits; leadership skills can be acquired through roles with industry organizations, State Bar committees, and school alumni chapters; and pro bono work can provide a means for an employee to tackle a new area of law.
  • Create a customized career map. In this stage of the process, you will describe the specific positions the employee should aim to move to as their career progresses.  I recommend including timeframes to be sure the plan stays on track.  The timelines should be realistic based on your understanding of how often opportunities will arise within your organization, but also be sure the timeline allows the employee an opportunity to reach their end-goal well before their desired retirement age.
  • Put a plan in place to monitor progress and evaluate whether any changes are warranted. Periodic, regularly scheduled meetings with employees are a great way to monitor any changes in the employee’s desired career plan that may warrant a change in the career map.  It also can be helpful to reevaluate the types of experience required for the employee to reach their end goal, because over time there may be changes in the skillsets the employee will need to obtain to remain on track.  Periodic meetings can also be a good time to monitor your employee’s progress to ensure the timelines are being met
  • Seek anonymous feedback from employees. As your career mapping program matures, it would be helpful to get feedback from your employees about the program, and areas they see for improvement.  By allowing your program to evolve to meet your employees’ needs, you can be sure it remains a valuable tool for hiring and retention.

Leveraging Your Program

Once you have a career mapping program in place, be sure you utilize it to help attract top talent.  There are a number of ways you can do this, including: by promoting your company’s career mapping program as a benefit in job postings, by assembling case-studies and examples to present to candidates along with other components of their job offer, by asking your current employees to talk about the career mapping process and how it’s helped them when interviewing potential new members of your team and posting on websites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn, and by working with your marketing department to promote success stories on social media.

The career mapping process takes a lot of time, but it can be a valuable hiring and retention tool.  And when you consider the amount of time it takes to hire and train new employees, you may realize that the time spent helping your employees create a career map will be a good investment.  If the career mapping tool allows you to retain one employee every year, and to have the strongest candidate accept your offer every time you hire a new team member, you’re probably going to end up saving time and money in the long run because of your investment in a career mapping program.

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