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Herman Trend Alert: The Power Of Career Pathing

For decades now, wise Human Resource leaders have understood the value of career pathing.


Herman Trend Alerts are written by Joyce Gioia, a strategic business futurist, Certified Management Consultant, author, and professional speaker. Archived editions are posted at

For decades now, wise Human Resource leaders have understood the value of career pathing. I remember speaking about it in my seminars in Southeast Asia for IPA in the late 1990s. Then, recently, I had a great conversation with soon-to-be-again Employer of Choice® Len Carter, CHRO of FHN Healthcare in Freeport. Illinois. Behind him on a White Board was FHN’s impressive Career Pathways Program. Later, to get the details I spoke with Ramona Thompson, the health system’s Director of HR and Professional Development. But first, a little history. . .

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Probably the Best Recruiting Platform … Ever
Back in 2003, Federated Department Stores had a very impressive recruiting website called “” I was so captivated, I wrote a whole Herman Trend Alert about it, titled “Job or Career.” The store chain’s website emphasized that they were looking for people seeking careers, not just jobs. The website had video testimonials of their happy and loyal employees who had climbed Federated’s corporate ladder. (Using videos at that time was really a leading-edge strategy.) The site primarily targeted college students and recent graduates contemplating how they might pursue careers in retail and featured a wide range of career paths. (By the way, if you click on in that Alert today, you will arrive at Macy’s Career Timeline on the Macy’s College site. While very effective, this site is not nearly as engaging as the previous iteration.)

A Sign of Things to Come?
At that time, my late partner, Roger Herman and I believed that companies would evolve to understand the value of recruiting long-term employees and that demonstrating career pathing within their organization would be a definite win for the company. This kind of long-term engagement is clearly bucking the trend of Millennials and Gen Z staying with one employer for only a few years. In spite of that fact, the most successful and well-respected employers have attempted to create these valuable career paths to hold onto their talent … including FHN Healthcare.


FHN’s Career Pathways Program
Carter and his team have left no stone unturned in mapping their entire career ecosystem. The Career Pathways Program, an integral and important part of their recruiting process, starts with 14 clinical and non-clinical positions, including seven different kinds of techs from IT to Patient Care to Emergency Department and Cardiovascular, these front-line positions are mostly patient-facing.

A Role Model for Doing Training Right
According to Thompson, the Career Pathways Program was developed to attract and retain talent and allow people to grow without feeling stagnant. In addition, FHN offers leadership development programs for different levels of leadership. FHN has their Leadership Discovery Program for those in non-leadership positions and are interested in leadership. Leadership Discovery allows them the opportunity to learn the rewards and challenges of leadership. Participants even get to shadow leaders and this learning experience definitively helps employees make the decision about whether they want to be leaders. There is also the Lead to Achieve program for front line leaders that allows them to learn how to be effective leaders in a non-threatening environment and continue to build their leadership toolboxes. The third leadership development program that FHN offers is their Leadership Academy program which is designed for the Director level and above and provides various continuing education opportunities. FHN promotes continues learning and offers an Education Assistance Program to support FHN staff and leaders as they continue to develop.


Some Example of How Career Pathways Can Work
The heath system recruits Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs). Those employees are encouraged to study for their Associate Degrees in Nursing (ADN). Once they have their ADNs, then they are supported to study for their Bachelor Science in Nursing (BSNs). Moreover, the nurses are offered additional certification preparatory courses for specialties, like operating room, emergency department, or critical care. On the office practice side, with Certified Medical Assistants (CMAs), the health system offers paid apprenticeships giving them hands-on experience working in medical offices. At the end of the apprenticeships, recruits are ready to be 100 percent productive.

Cross Training Creates a More Flexible Workforce
I have always promoted cross training to my clients. It is a win-win-win proposition. The employees win because they feel good that they have additional skills; the organization has a more flexible workforce. And if needed, FHN helps people get the additional needed certifications, while they are on the job.

Clearly, having Career Pathing as a tool in recruiting makes a lot of sense and FHN’s Career Pathways delivers an excellent return on investment in their low employee turnover and long employee tenure. Other employers would do well think about how career pathing could be a part of their recruitment processes as well. As the employment market heats up, using all of the tools in the HR toolbox will be critical to success.


© Copyright 1998-2020 by The Herman Group, Inc. — reproduction for publication is encouraged, with the following attribution: From “The Herman Trend Alert,” by Joyce Gioia, Strategic Business Futurist. 336-210-3548 or To sign up, visit The Herman Trend Alert is a trademark of The Herman Group, Inc.” 



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