We used to think that success was achieved by moving up – up the corporate ladder, aiming for more senior roles at each move.

The way we work has changed though and the corporate ladder has been replaced by a corporate lattice and non-linear career paths. Often the path forwards is routed via a lateral move, careers today are built on unconventional trajectories.

There is a new ‘psychological contract’ between employer and employee and it emphasises employability, transferable skills and strategic ‘tours of duty’. This is enabled by better communication by the organisation on the skills required for the future and highlights how we can build skills through the enrichment of our role through lateral exploration.

Strategies for success

Organisations that develop and implement flexible strategies around career development and transformation will be at an advantage as they compete for top talent in a very competitive labour market. Employees welcome growth opportunities that enhance their employability.

10Eighty have long recommended that we need to build jobs with a human-centred approach, with personalised jobs tailored for the talent, rather than moulding a person to fit the role. In-house talent is a much better and more effective prospect, for the employer, than hiring an external candidate.

This is about creating an environment where it is easy to develop a career rather than moving on in order to grow. Seek to work on the skills that you use in your current role, or even something you are interested in either for your future career or for personal interest, as a way to steer your career planning and switch it up whenever you are ready.

Lateral moves

Career paths are increasingly personal to the individual who may work in a range of roles, functions, sectors and careers. The career ladder is no longer the dominant model as increasingly we see lateral moves and tours of duty as desirable in a world where the ‘career’ is a fluid and subjective concept.

There are many advantages in making a sideways move for employee and employer:

  • The sideways move affords exposure to a diverse range of functions, teams, and corporate dynamics. This encourages a robust skillset, the adaptability to tackle challenges from multiple angles and enhances your employability.
  • You gain a broader perspective in making a lateral move it helps build strategic thinking skills. Learning how different teams interact, how different divisions operate, it gives you the bigger picture.
  • You build relationships across teams and departments, which is invaluable. Lateral moves enable collaboration and afford a holistic understanding of how the organisation operates. It’s a bridging exercise between teams, enhancing communication and driving performance.
  • Lateral opportunities improve employability, it’s about more than pay – a career path that offers growth means you are valued, engaged and motivated

Job sculpting

We need to be employee centred. The workplace, as well as the job, has to be sculpted to suit the needs of employees and that involves a dynamic environment where organisations design career paths that engage and motivate their people. Employees are energised when they have clarity around the opportunities open to them and a leader who is concerned to coach and develop them.

The smart employee will welcome a lateral moves that offers a development opportunity because they recognise advantage in developing broader more diversified capabilities.

At 10Eighty we believe that:

  • on-the-job development opportunities, such as lateral moves, increase engagement by up to 30%
  • organisations who support more junior candidates to acquire the skills necessary to ‘step up’ reported 50% better overall recruitment metrics.

Developing a talent pipeline to meet future needs is crucial. Internal talent mobility will improve career agility, retention, and succession planning. Aim to design career paths that take account of expressed individual preference during workforce planning decisions and when deciding on lateral placements.

Risky business

If it seems unconventional and potentially problematic, take the advice of author Daniel Pink: as we age, we are most likely to regret what we don’t do. The lesson from career regrets,” he says, “is that we should have a slight bias for action . . . we should just try stuff and be less worried about the risk.”

Today a career is not defined by your job title, which is just about how you apply skills and knowledge. It’s interesting to consider that the future of work for a student today means 17 jobs across five different industries!

Most of us want to be more engaged at work; we want autonomy, recognition, growth and meaningful career paths but most of all we want to be encouraged to pursue collaboration, creativity, and versatility and to bring our ‘whole self’ to work.

Michael Moran

Michael is CEO and Founder of 10Eighty. He is passionate about helping people maximise their potential and believes everyone should have job satisfaction and a successful career. He helps organisations design jobs and career paths that maximise employee engagement. As an avid reader/commentator on the world of work and sport, he regularly draws parallels between the two. You could describe Michael as a budding author with “The Guide to Everlasting Employability” already under his belt, and technophile who’s created 2 career management apps to help people manage their careers.

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