October 11, 2022

Career Progression Frameworks: What Are They and Why Should You Have One? (+ Free Template)

Melissa Malec

If this is your first time looking to implement a career progression framework, it’s normal to feel a little lost or unsure of how to convince your leadership team of its benefits. 

You may also be asking yourself: 

💭 What exactly is a career progression framework? 

💭 Why are they a must-have for all People teams? 

💭 Where do I begin?

The good news is you don’t have to navigate these questions alone. 

We’re here to walk you through all there is to know about a career progression framework, including why it’s worth having and how you can save yourself the trouble of building one from scratch. 

Firstly, What Is a Career Progression Framework?

Whether you know them as career development or growth frameworks, a career progression framework outlines what is expected of employees in their current role and what paths there are for internal progression, both lateral, vertical and ‘squiggly’.

They’re designed to support people managers, improve onboarding and help companies build the teams they need to grow as a business. 

On a basic level, a career progression framework:

💪 Clearly defines the different levels, roles and responsibilities within a company

📈 Demonstrates the potential for internal mobility 

⭐ Outlines the core capabilities needed for every role, at every level 

🔁 Indicates the change needed at each phase (or level) of career development 

Career frameworks also show what technical expertise or knowledge is required for each role and provide salary bandings for each level.

Because they define capability expectations for each level in the business, your progression framework can show employees what capabilities they need to move into a new role within the business.

Why Do Companies Need a Career Progression Framework?

From recruitment and onboarding to growth and retention, a career progression framework underpins your company’s entire employee journey.

This is because they provide your people with clarity over what career opportunities are available at your organisation, and what their role’s performance expectations are. 

The above example gives you a better idea of the strategic skills you need to develop to reach your dream job, as well as what’s required of you—now and in the future. 

Many people aren’t motivated to progress or feel engaged in their work unless they know what direction they need to head in. 

With better role clarity, research shows that employees’ work performance increases by 25% and that they’re 53% more efficient. 

So it’s safe to say that if your people know what is expected of them, they’ll be far more motivated and likely to meet their performance goals and progress in their careers. Ultimately, they’re more empowered to drive your business forward.

What Are the Core Benefits of Implementing a Career Progression Framework?

Now that you have a better idea of what career frameworks are, let’s take a closer look at the value they can offer at each stage of the employee journey. 

It Helps Establish a Strategic Recruitment Process

Think of career frameworks like blueprints for all of the roles that exist across your organisation. 

They break down each position’s core expectations and technical requirements, allowing you and your people managers to better understand exactly what is needed for each role and expediting the hiring process. 

Hiring managers will be able to write better job adverts because the career progression framework would have already outlined the expectations of the role they’re hiring for.

And well written job adverts help prospective candidates to see if the role is a good fit for them before they invest their time in the application process. 

And of course when interviewing, teams can make the right hiring decisions faster because they know exactly what they’re measuring candidates against.

Salary Benchmarking

When introducing a career progression framework, you’ll need to collect market data to build salary bands for each level and department. 

Your salary bands will then be included in the framework so that pay is transparent across the business. When it comes time to review compensation or promote someone, you can rely on those bands and role capabilities to eliminate any potential for bias. 

Plus, knowing what salary bandings you have allows you to make informed decisions on workforce and budget planning. It really is a win for everyone.

Career Frameworks Support a Structured Onboarding

We’ve all been the newbie at some point, so we know just how daunting it can be. 

Not only are you starting to build relationships with your colleagues but it takes time to get to grips with: 

👀 Your role responsibilities

🏆 Performance expectations 

💪 The goals that need to be reached at the end of a probation period

During the onboarding process, managers can show their new joiner the company’s career progression framework and give clarity over what’s expected of them in the role, what the probation period looks like and how performance will be measured.  

Not only does this align expectations early on, but it helps put the new hire at ease because there’s no confusion about what they should be doing or the standards they need to meet.  

If for some reason the new joiner is underperforming and its a capabilities issue, their line manager can refer back to the framework to discuss which areas they need to develop. 

A career framework also shows them that their manager is intentionally focused on their growth from day one which is an important part of your people strategy to engage and retain your people.

It Helps You Manage and Reward Performance 

As we’ve seen in this article, one of the main benefits of a career progression framework is that it lays out performance expectations. 

It shows your people what they need to do to be high-performing employees, and clarifies what the expectations are at the next level so that they can stretch and lean into it. 

And when your managers know what is expected of their teams, they can identify when their direct reports are performing above the framework’s expectations. 

This helps businesses make more informed and transparent decisions about reward cycles and communicates what people need to do to be promoted or receive a salary increase. 

You’ll also be able to use the language in the framework to contextualise and explain why direct reports qualify for performance bonuses or other benefits. 

Progression Frameworks Promote Career Growth 

Career progression frameworks are also a lot like compasses—they show your people: 

🌄 Which direction their careers are headed in

💫 Where they are in relation to their ideal position

It’s also worth noting that the best frameworks include two paths for growth. One is a management track, the other an individual contributors track. 

While giving your people measurable goals to work towards, career frameworks also help indicate whether direct reports have outgrown their current role.

This is useful information for a manager who will need to encourage their people to develop individual skills for their career growth. 

This may mean helping them find upskilling resources so that they can be better prepared for internal mobility opportunities or an entirely new career path. That’s where curation-based L&D can come in handy.

Once you know which skills your people want to develop, you can use a Performance Enablement Platform like Learnerbly to action your company’s career framework.

Succession Planning

Another benefit of using career progression frameworks is that they help People professionals and leaders with their company’s succession planning. 

Once you’ve outline the current roles and skill sets in your organisation, you’ll have a better idea of what gaps you’ll need to fill based on the performance or capabilities of the people who might leave. 

This is useful because it allows you to see whether you’ll have to make an external hire to fill those positions, or if those skill sets can be developed in your current team members. 

With a progression framework, you can also work with your people from early on in their careers to help them reach more senior positions or move laterally within the business when there isn’t a direct path up. 

This is great because you’ll show your people that you’re invested in their personal development, as well as retain your high performers and in-house experts. 

Career Frameworks Promote Employee Retention 

One of the main reasons people leave their jobs is because they feel like they have better chances of career growth elsewhere. 

Having a career progression framework in place shows your people that you’re committed to their development and keeping them engaged in their work. 

This is because they help current employees visualise their future and what steps they need to take to progress within your company.

When people work in environments that value and prioritise their growth, they’re far more likely to stick around. 

Don’t believe us? 59% of UK employees that have left their jobs would have stayed if the company provided more training and development opportunities. 

If retention is something you’re worried about, check out our download on retaining people in times of economic crisis here.

Where Can I Find a Career Progression Framework Template?

Implementing a career progression framework is one of the best things you can do for your company’s employee journey. This is because they can: 

⭐ Help you establish a high-performing culture

⭐ Promote a more strategic recruitment and onboarding process

⭐ Outline clear growth paths for your people

⭐ Enable you to create transparent salary bands 

But creating an effective career progression framework is a major project and can take even the best People teams months to complete. 

Luckily, we’ve done all the hard work for you. 

Our career framework template has been inspired and adapted from the work of JooBee Yeow via Learngility. In our free download, you’ll receive: 

👀 Access to a ready-to-use career framework template

📚 A library of supporting documents and resources to set you up for success 

💡 A leadership info deck showing our process of developing this from start to finish

Once you’ve seen the positive impact our career progression framework can have on your people, you’ll want to know how to successfully launch it in your own business. 

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