Career Ladders are the Key to More Motivated Employees — Everything You Need to Know About Making 1

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AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger
July 14, 2024 at 4:40PM UTC

Knowing that there is something greater for which to strive can help motivate employees to do more, be more, and achieve more. Especially if there are major benefits in it for them. After all, people tend to perform better when they're going after something they want — like a promotion, a title change or a pay increase. Why wouldn't they?

A career ladder, therefore, can help get employees encouraged to do their jobs well and keep moving on up in the workplace. Here is everything you need to know about what a career ladder is, what the purpose of helping employees plan their own career ladders is, the benefits of career ladders and the only times when career ladders don't make a whole lot of sense.

Let's dive in. 

What is a career ladder?

A career ladder is a formal process that employers can put in place in their organizations. These processes allow employees to advance in their careers to achieve higher and higher levels — and whether those levels are defined by salary, role, responsibilities, title, etc. is up to the employer. Once an employee meets a certain set criteria, they are eligible to move into the next level.
The career ladder typically has three basic preconditions:
  1. The company (or department) must have a legitimate need for advanced work.
  2. The target goal must be accessible.
  3. The employee must actually be interested in the higher-level work and willing and able to do it successfully.

A career ladder can be a great incentive for employees — especially for those who have big goals for themselves and for those who are not necessarily satisfied in their current roles. Knowing that there is more for them out there so long as they put in the work can help to motivate them to work hard for what they want.

What is the purpose of helping employees plan a career ladder?

There are countless reasons to help employees plan their own career ladders. Ultimately, people create career ladders in order to have some sort of direction. For many people, it's easier to work hard when you have a "why." When you have an incentive for working hard, you can justify all of the time and effort you are putting in.

7 benefits of career ladders

Here are seven benefits of career ladders that all employers should know in order to help their employees achieve greater success.

1. You will have a well-trained workforce.

Most career ladders include some sort of education or training component in order to help the employee actually advance their skills and, subsequently, their position in the workplace. And the more you train your staff, the better trained they'll all be as a team. Offering educational programs and career-advancement trainings is crucial for career development. And it benefits both employees and employers because the whole company moves forward together.

2. You will retain more talent.

A whole wealth of studies show that, when people feel valued and motivated at work, they enjoy it more. It's basic human behavior and makes total sense if you really think about it. Who wouldn't want to stick around at a company that values them and helps them to continuously become better versions of themselves? They can see the light at the end of the tunnel and the future at their fingertips. When they know that they are in line for career advancement and don't have to job hop to get to where they want, it's typically a much easier decision to stay put and keep churning and burning with the skills and the people they already have and know.

3. You will attract more talent.

Not only will employers retain more talent, but they'll also attract more talent. People are attracted to what they know will benefit them. And if they know that they can have a legitimate future at the company, they'll be more inclined to join the team. After all, who would join a company if they thought that they'd be stuck and have to learn to be complacent in the same role forever — or at least until they leave to find something better? If prospective employees know that there are opportunities for them to learn and grow and actually advance their careers (and, yes, make more money!) down the line, these are huge incentives.

4. Your employees will face less burn out.

Research shows time and time again that, when people enjoy what they do, they feel less burnt out doing it. Passion really fuels fire under people. And one way to get them passionate about what they are doing is by incentivizing their time and efforts. If they know that what they're working so hard on is going to pay off in the end, they'll feel more inclined to do it (and do it well). They'll care more about it. Plus, if they feel valued at work and supported with the tools and resources they need to actually do their jobs well, they'll also be less likely to burn themselves out trying to figure it all out on their own.

5. Your employees will feel more satisfied (and perform better because of it).

Happy employees perform better, point blank and period. When people feel more satisfied at work, they perform better. It's because they care. It's basic science. If you love something, you just want to do it well. Because you're doing it for yourself, too, not just the company. And it's a whole lot easier to love the work you do when you can actually see how it benefits you on a personal level. If employees know that the work their doing is going to lead to something greater for their futures, both in the short- and longterm, it may be easier to get on board with it all.

6. Your employees will be aligned with common goals toward a shared vision.

When everyone has their own person goals that pertain to moving up in the company, they're all working together toward a shared goal, too. And because employers work with employees to create their career ladders, they have control in making sure that these career ladders advance everyone together.

7. You will have a more positive company culture, overall.

Since employers work directly with their employees on building career ladders for them personally, it eliminates toxic competition in the workplace. After all, employees are really only competing with themselves to be better versions of themselves and to beat their own performances. 

When wouldn’t you create a career ladder?

While career ladders can be great, there are some instances in which they don't make so much sense. Here are three times that you wouldn't want to build a career ladder for your employees.

1. There is no need for the advanced work.

If your company does not actually need the advanced work, it does not make a whole lot of sense to motivate someone to do something that's unnecessary. If you can't hold up your end of the bargain and, instead, are offering up empty promises of big returns, it's best that you don't do it. Filling people with false hope isn't going to help the company; it'll only build distrust and hurt the company culture in the end.

2. Your employee is not a full-time or longterm worker.

If your employee is not working full-time with you, or if they are on a short-term contract, it may not make sense to build a career ladder for them. Unless there is an opportunity for them to work full-time or longterm in the future, do not make promises that you cannot keep. Let them do the job for which they were hired, and leave it as transparent as that.

3. Your employee is not passionate about the work.

If your employee is not passionate about the work that lies ahead, they are not going to feel motivated to get there with or without the career ladder. The employee needs to care about achieving the goals you set out for them. Otherwise, they'll be perfectly content in their current role, or leave to find something about which they are passionate!


AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at by night.

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