The Need for Learning Pathways in the Workplace (and How to Build Them)

With current and projected global workforce shortages, most companies view employee retention and internal mobility as priorities. New hires cannot always meet the rapidly changing needs of employers, making learning pathways for upskilling an ideal path forward. 

Nurturing human capital with learning pathways is a scalable solution, as it helps companies reach their full potential. For individual employees, there are also benefits to developing learning pathways, including career advancement and development.

Employee retention rests on employee job satisfaction, which companies can bolster with opportunities to master new skills. For employees, continuous learning can lead to greater fulfillment and enjoyment. 

Organizations now face the interlocking need to close skills gaps through fast-shifting technological adoption worldwide, all while retaining their current talent. According to McKinsey & Company, 87% of companies worldwide have skills gaps or expect to within five years. This is a critical weakness that intensive learning pathways can address. 

Let’s explore what learning pathways entail and the importance of creating pathways for yourself, your team, or your organization.

What Are Learning Pathways?

In educational contexts, learning pathways can encompass a set of courses or modules that help learners progress toward a larger goal. Imagine a roadmap, where each stop leads to the next step in an educational journey. As an example, consider an undergraduate student who starts on a pathway by taking foundational classes and then more advanced courses. All the while, they move toward the goal of earning their bachelor’s degree. Workplace pathways may typically be shorter and more focused in comparison, but the idea of an educational journey is the same.

Learning pathway:
A set of courses and/or modules allowing employees to progressively build skills and reach a defined goal

A learning pathway definition for the workplace can incorporate multiple milestones, providing a map for classes, micro-learning modules, and/or on-the-job training to help employees develop skills and advance professionally. 

While you may have educational modules available to upskill your workforce, learning pathways will help employees and management connect all of the individual elements into a cohesive achievement. Your learning pathways can have milestone markers to give employees a sense of accomplishment as they progress. Employers and employees may track this progress formally–for example, using software or technology devoted to building out pathways–or more informally, depending on the organization’s goals.

Benefits of Learning Pathways at Work

For Employers

  • Increase employee engagement and retention
  • Fill open company roles with internal talent
  • Close skills gaps in a fast-changing workplace

For Employees

  • Advance within your organization
  • Get greater fulfillment and enjoyment at work
  • Stay up to date on evolving industry skills

 

Learning Pathways Examples

What are learning pathway examples to help you get started? We can share some thoughts for inspiration, but don’t let them limit your own ideation. You may create learning pathways molded to your own or your business’ needs that no one outside your organization could even imagine.

Learning Pathway Example #1: Data Analytics for Managers

  1. Goals: Skill-building and digital literacy, with a possibility for internal mobility
  2. Emeritus Courses
    1. Financial Analytics: Forecasting, Modeling, and Optimization
    2. Marketing Analytics
    3. Strategy and Business Analytics
  3. Project Experiences with Company Mentor
    1. Applied financial analysis
    2. Applied marketing or customer analysis
    3. Applied strategic plan

Graphic showing an example of a learning pathway in the workplace

Learning Pathway Example #2: Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

  1. Goals: Skill-building, digital capability within teams, internal mobility
  2. Courses
    1. Machine Learning Fundamentals and Algorithms
    2. Designing and Building AI Products and Services
    3. Artificial Intelligence: Business Strategies and Applications
  3. Project Experiences with Company Mentor
    1. AI application proposal for team
    2. Machine learning application proposal
    3. Implementation of AI or ML proposal

In the above examples, the milestones include completing classes and applied projects. A milestone for promotion to a higher-level position can be individualized based on current seniority and departmental needs. 

Customizing Learning Pathways

Some learning pathways may require the involvement of multiple departments within your organization. Then, the pathways can branch out into specialties appropriate to the specific role or end goal. 

For example, if you’re a team leader, you may have a group of employees who start with introductory coding courses to become more productive and fluent in a digital environment. Some may branch off toward more intensive technical courses and software development. Others might pursue graphic design and digital marketing. The basic coding can apply to either specialty or lead to other career directions.

Learning pathways can facilitate internal mobility, helping learners progress toward more rewarding and advanced positions while retaining their talent and knowledge. This can improve individual morale while fostering a positive culture of learning and growth. It’s a win for the employee and the employer.

Developing Learning Pathways in the Workplace

To develop learning pathways either for your workforce or yourself, start by identifying your framework for each track. A learning pathway can include:

  • A destination or goal
  • Milestones to mark progress
  • Multiple content modalities to support different learning styles
  • Assessments or feedback
  • Social learning
  • Mentorship or coaching opportunities
  • Opportunities to directly apply learning

Graphic listing out the components of a learning pathway

Then, identify the skills gaps or positions in your organization that need to be filled. Focus on achievable goals that will help you or your employees advance while also fulfilling company needs. You can include courses, micro-learning modules, outside certification exams (if appropriate), and mentorship experiences on the learning pathway. 

Also, you may include internship experiences that put you or one of your employees on the path to a new position. This would entail spending some time working with another department or a specialist to gain on-the-job experience. Workplace learning pathways can take advantage of practical applications of knowledge to deepen learning and more meaningfully impact trainees.

Consider creating learning pathways that are flexible and give learners options within tracks. For example, you may start employees out in one fundamental area of competency, then allow the pathways to diverge based on the experience and affinity a particular learner has for the subject matter at hand. Flexibility will enable you to upskill for essential competencies related to digital transformation while also shuttling learners into necessary pathways for specialization within your workplace.

Addressing Urgent Needs

Gartner HR Research found that 58% of the workforce will need new skills to succeed in their jobs. 

At Emeritus, we can help you build learning pathways using our courses as part of your or your employees’ skill-building journey. You can schedule a meeting with the Emeritus Enterprise team to learn more about partnering with us to upskill and reskill employees in your organization. Or, for individual enrollment options, view our online courses in industries ranging from data science to digital marketing.

From a business standpoint, creating flexible yet defined learning pathways can lead to increased retention, improve employee satisfaction, and close skills gaps. This directly impacts the productivity and profitability of your organization. By developing workplace learning pathways, you can help companies or yourself meet the challenges of today’s business climate. 

By Julia Tell


You can learn more about Emeritus Enterprise and how you can partner with us to integrate Emeritus courses into employee learning pathways. The available courses, which are also open for individual enrollment, can be adapted to meet your team’s needs.

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