Changes in today’s workplace have been happening with increasing speed. Generation Z has entered the workforce with a different vision for building their careers. Technology continues to advance and change how we work, with AI being the latest innovation. And, of course, the pandemic of 2020 altered the traditional nine-to-five in the office mindset and introduced remote work options globally. Another new trend has started to catch on: the idea of a career lattice.
If the term is new to you, a career lattice is an approach to career progression by looking for roles that are horizontal, diagonal, or even lower that offer the opportunity to learn new skills that will benefit you later in your career. Instead of thinking of your progression as sequential in the same discipline, a career lattice takes a big-picture view of developing a more diverse set of skills to help you become a more well-rounded leader.
Executives and HR leaders understand the importance of succession planning and building a robust internal talent pipeline. However, the traditional linear “career ladder” approach does not provide the 360-degree understanding of the business that a career lattice can. Often, executives are only familiar with their discipline, be it finance, operations, or sales, and do not fully understand the complexity and interrelatedness of other departmental functions.
Embracing a career lattice approach to professional development benefits both the employee and the employer. Employees seek more flexibility in their career paths, and companies are struggling to improve employee engagement and reduce turnover.
According to the Academy to Innovate HR, “The career lattice approach provides more flexibility regarding what opportunities are available for individuals to navigate their careers. It also brings additional benefits to the organization in terms of access to new skills, retaining employees, and increasing internal mobility.”
The article notes several challenges companies face when implementing a career lattice approach, including talent hoarding, a lack of visibility of opportunities, a lack of self-insight into transferable skills, a limiting work architecture, and more.
It also mentions actions companies can take if they want to adopt this approach:
- Educating stakeholders on the benefits
- Gathering skills and career data to show how work and skills are connected within the organization
- Equipping individuals to build their own skills portfolios
- Creating visibility of different opportunities and critical requirements
Similarly, a recent piece by Korn Ferry on creating your career lattice mentions, “It’s all about positioning. Lateral career moves—or moving along the career lattice—can help you gain additional skills and experience…as well as help establish new relationships and connections that will benefit your career in the long term and make you a more valuable contributor at your firm.”
The article suggests the following if you want to expand your skill set.
Try a new role
Think about what roles interest you outside of your current position, and then see if you can shadow someone in that role or if there is a stretch opportunity that would provide you a chance to work with that team.
Focus on work you love
Take some time to consider what excites you about the work you’re doing. Then, meet with your boss (or coach if you have one) to see if there is an opportunity to apply your skills and learn new ones in a related role at the company.
Consider the advantages
Lateral moves provide the opportunity to learn new skills, and they also offer the chance to build new relationships with others in the company. And when taking a job outside the company, they also provide the opportunity to learn new industries.
Don’t rule out a promotion
When a promotion isn’t immediately available, taking a lateral role could put you in a better position for a promotion when the opportunity presents itself. Showing adaptability and continued learning demonstrates a desire to grow.
With the growth of upskilling and reskilling services, building a culture that supports career lattices as a means of employee development could be a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining top talent.
For more career development, HR, and related articles, visit our blog and read more valuable insights from our human resources recruiters.