Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Why Lateral Career Movement Can Be a Great Thing


What Is Lateral Career Movement?

If you’re in the same pay grade and making a lateral move next door, it’s obviously a much different move than going up or down to a different pay grade but remaining in the same kind of function and using the same kinds of skills. For example, if you’re in Sales or Marketing and taking a move into HR, that’s quite a lateral career move.

And making lateral career moves can be quite challenging in many organizations, because it’s usually that there’s no way for people to discover or make themselves aware of opportunities to move laterally.

This obviously precludes opportunities for cross-training and crosspollination within the organization – and has been previously discussed, also cuts off opportunities for employees to develop new skills, become more innovate, and have different approaches to problem solving. 

So the question is: When it becomes more about career shifting (lateral career movement) as opposed to skill utilization (vertical career movement), how open are organizations to cross-training?

Lateral Career Movement and Organizational Transparency

The solution for opening up the ability for employees to make lateral career moves, or even vertical-lateral career moves, basically comes down to creating more organizational transparency, which I’ve talked about previously.

But part of the problem with all of this from a manager’s standpoint is “Are you making promises to people that you can’t keep?” and “Is it that there really is only one job here that one person can do, and everyone else who wants it is out of luck?”

And I think our approach should be “Let’s be creative.”

Working with some of our clients we’ve talked about the Career Matrix, where people are really able to shift up and down and around. People creating their own careers, and being able to customize their careers has been a vision of leading organizations for some time. Putting together this framework and this organizational transparency, they’ve been able to evolve even further in their large-organization format – with varying degrees of success. Because then, as you can imagine, it becomes very complicated.

Alternatively, with job sharing, there are ways in which you can trade certain parts of your job with someone else. This could simply mean enrichment, or be an actual lateral move.

Why wouldn’t an organization allow that? Usually it’s because they can’t measure it, or because there are issues with how managers will hold people accountable, and how they’ll know who that employee now reports to. But I think in leading organizations we’re getting away from the idea of the manager-as-boss, and more into manager-as-coach and advisor, in helping employees to have the best performance and best opportunities in the organization that they possibly can.

To put it another way: it’s all part of the continual shift from the dictated workforce into a workforce that is free to think for themselves and be entrepreneurial.

Learn more about the benefits of enabling career development and a culture of internal career mobility

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