Imagine a typical workplace scenario: Dave has had the same job for three years. Dave likes his company and is successful in his current role, but has recently found himself struggling to stay engaged and motivated by his daily tasks.
A traditional response to Dave’s dilemma might be that he either needs to move up or get out. However, a rock climber will tell you that there’s more than one way to scale a mountain. Sometimes you’ll have to make some lateral moves on the way up. That’s where the career lattice comes in.
Everyone wants to believe his or her job is going somewhere, and that it inherently has forward momentum or a career path. But not every role in the workplace has an obvious upward career path laid out. And that’s okay.
The lattice approach to career development provides employees with flexibility as they’re building their career. Lateral, vertical, or diagonal moves within the organization give employees the opportunity to expand their skills and knowledge base while finding a career path that really works for them.
A key component of the career lattice is the flexibility of the approach. That flexibility can have some surprising benefits for a company’s bottom line. When it’s assumed that workplace success looks a certain way, that can create a stigma for employees who aren’t driven by the upward “quest for success.”
Is the Lattice Better Than the Ladder?
That all depends on the employee. The ladder can be a great path for employees who are specialists in their field or feel secure in the trajectory of their job. The lattice, however, can be great for employees who feel stymied by their current role, who are curious about a career change, or are looking for a different work-life balance.
Since the lattice gives workers a glimpse into many different aspects of a business, it can be extremely effective training for general managers, senior executives, and other cross-functional roles.
Thomson Reuters, an information services enterprise with $12.9 billion in revenue, decentralized finance functions of more than 40 portfolio companies into a more lattice-like, collaborative structure with service bureaus located around the globe. Employee surveys demonstrate that 80 percent of the employees rate the company’s flexibility efforts favorably, far more than other high-performing firms.
And Cisco builds versatile leaders by moving high-potential executives around the company through a career lattice. Both the ladder and the lattice are uniquely beneficial approaches to career development.
The Career Lattice: A New Way to Climb
The traditional approach of climbing the career ladder, although rigid, was an easy concept to grasp and seemingly laid out each step on the way to the top. But as business environments and career fields have change, company structures have become flatter, leaving many employees questioning how to move forward.
The flexibility of the lattice encourages collaboration, cross-functioning, questioning, and curiosity. However, as enticing and effective as the career lattice can be, creating a well-articulated organization lattice can be a challenge.
That’s why we recommend integrating the career lattice into an employee development program to greatly simplify the process at both an employee and organizational level. We view it as an essential component of maintaining a productive and fulfilled workforce.