Michael Parks knows it's hard to grow a company if your employees don't grow, too. So Parks, CEO of the Revere Group, a $33 million technology consulting firm in Chicago, has had in place what he calls a "career-pathing" program almost since he started the business, six years ago.

At the beginning of the year, each Revere Group employee sits down with a company-assigned mentor to develop an individual annual growth plan. That plan typically details how the employee will spend his or her required two weeks of training, as well as what progress he or she needs to make to receive a promotion or change jobs. Employees receive quarterly updates on their progress and have periodic check-ins with their mentors.

Parks says the program is great for retention. He selects mentors not by titles or tenure but by their people skills and their knowledge of both the company and the industry. After a bit of experimentation, Parks learned that assigning a manager to mentor the employees who report to him or her didn't work. "It's a natural conflict," he says. "If I'm your manager and you want to make a change, how do you tell me that you really don't want to work in my area?"