Why is diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) so difficult for organizations to achieve? Gartner notes that almost all HR executives (nearly 90%) admit their company hasn’t done enough to increase representation. Gartner also recommends creating “career frameworks” or “career paths” that help advance “underrepresented talent to increase diversity among leadership benches.” But diversity and especially fairness needs to increase in all roles, across all levels of organizations. Here are the pros and cons of creating career frameworks as part of your DEI program.

What is a career framework?

Instead of employees accepting a role and sitting in that role with little or no progression for five to ten years (or even one year), then career frameworks give employees clear goals to work towards in an organization. It addresses the questions many employees want to understand: “How do I progress?” “How do I get a promotion?” “How do I increase my salary?” “How can I become invaluable to the company?” “How do I showcase and utilize the skills I have?”

Career frameworks (or a career pathing framework) is a roadmap that shows employees where they sit in the organization and where they can advance if they choose to. It demonstrates where their job family belongs and which competencies and skills they need to master to move to a more senior role. 

Why are career frameworks important for DEI programs?

Many organizations try to increase diversity potential through mentoring programs but this semi-informal way to promotions leaves too much room for bias. The onus is placed on the mentor and the mentee to get results in a system that has no clear boundaries. These types of programs can work but only in conjunction with clearly defined parameters.

Career frameworks create objectivity so that employees in underrepresented groups can overcome the barriers that typically hinder success and professional development.

As an example, women generally earn less than men even when they have the same skill level. People with disabilities have fewer callbacks than those without. Further, gay and transgender employees face high rates of bullying and discrimination at work and are more likely to quit their jobs because of it. Black employees are often subject to unfavorable performance reviews because of bias and they’re overrepresented in low-wage occupations. How do you create a workplace that makes these underrepresented groups not only feel included and safe in the workplace but actually included and represented?

When creating a career framework, you need to think of ways to reduce these biases – by consulting these underrepresented groups as well to come up with solutions. The idea is to create fair, clear, and achievable career growth frameworks so that every employee has an equal opportunity to grow their skillset and succeed in your company.

What are the pros of career pathing frameworks?

The pros of career pathing frameworks are to increase diversity and representation in multiple roles in your organization. Why do you want to increase diversity? Well, simply because diverse companies outperform non-diverse ones and also because it’s the “right thing to do.” Companies fifty years ago that didn’t hire women, as a small example, were behind the times and would be seen as dinosaurs today and if you want longevity, you need to keep up with the times. 

Career frameworks help all employees at companies. It doesn’t just reward the employees that usually get promoted; it levels the playing field when done well and when bias is eliminated for all employees to succeed. When the playing field is leveled, you get the best employee for the role, the person who will outshine all others instead of just the candidate who would typically be in front of your nose!

There are a multitude of reasons that career frameworks are a must-have but another reason is retention will increase as employees feel that they are treated and compensated fairly. Salary transparency, set pay scales, and set growth pathways help employees know that tall, white, confident Mark in engineering who has an Ivy League education and five years of experience is being paid the same as petite, Latinx Mary whose skills and experience outperform his but who didn’t go to the same university.

Employees won’t feel shortchanged and disgruntled for working for an organization that doesn’t value them enough to treat them fairly. When employees feel valued and included, they stay longer. You’ll see your retention rates increase.

Finally, workforce planning can be better enabled when you understand the roles you have, where employees might potentially move to fill gaps, and who you’ll need to hire to replace them. Workforce planning can further help with retention and keeping your workforce happy. Plus, when you know and understand the roles in the company, you’ll have an overview of which roles are no longer needed or have evolved to meet the company’s changing needs.

So, the pros of career frameworks are increasing diversity and representation, increasing retention, increasing goodwill, increasing and leveling opportunities for all employees to succeed, enabling effective workforce planning, and being competitive and more successful in the market.

What are the cons of career pathing frameworks?

Some argue that career pathing can sometimes force employees to get promoted when they don’t want a promotion, where they are happy where they are; however, line managers need to understand what employees want and where they want to go with their careers to accommodate what they want in their role. There will always be that employee who simply wants to stay in their role but maybe take on more responsibilities for salary increases each year and then there will be that employee who wants to climb the ladder as fast as possible. Further, that employee who once wanted to climb to the top may have a change in circumstances – they may have a child and their priorities shift – and they may change their mind down the line and that’s okay too! 

The only con of career frameworks is that they shouldn’t be approached as every employee must follow the same career framework in the exact same way; they shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all and they should be worked out with each department and each employee to be a guideline that creates more fair opportunities for all.

How do I get started?

As a starting point, first, you’ll want to define job families and create consistent definitions of job levels. Will you, for example, have traditional job levels (junior > mid-level > senior > team lead > head > director > VP) or do you want a flatter structure? Keep in mind that some employees will be happy with a title change, others will be unhappy if they’re simply doing the same job role with a new title added. Do your “levels” offer career advancement and growth or is it merely lip service?

Second, you want to clarify the skills and knowledge required for each role. What are the job-specific competencies you’d like employees to achieve and what are the typical timescales for mastery? And what compensation bands do you want to set for each knowledge level?

Third, offer employees career management tools – some use talent profiles to showcase individual knowledge and experience. You can also help employees connect with each other for development opportunities and provide learning and development (L&D) programs.

How do I ensure I have a solid DEI program?

For more about DEI programs, we have a page dedicated to DEI content here. Read further so you can create an effective program for your organization, whether you’re starting a program or improving an existing program, it’s vital for company growth to create a program that works both for your organization and the people in it.

How can metrics help in creating career frameworks?

Employee Cycle’s dashboard has specific HR metrics to support DEI which will save you time, money, and turnover. You can look at HR metrics for veteran status, disability status, age, average tenure, promotion rate, representation in leadership, and much more. Metrics will help you understand where your DEI program currently is so you can start understanding the demographics in your job families so that you can create a more inclusive workplace when developing career frameworks.

HR professional using the Employee Cycle HR dashboard while haing coffee at her desk
People manager gleans insights using her Employee Cycle Diversity Dashboard

Get in touch with us and schedule a free demo today so you can understand how metrics can form part of any successful DEI program.