Lateral Career Advancement

Climbing the corporate ladder is a phrase we are all familiar with. But what about a lateral movement instead of upward? Instead of focusing on getting a promotion, more and more people are beginning to move into positions with similar titles and pay grades in different departments instead. This is also known as lateral career movements. In fact, up to 89% of people surveyed in a study done by Kelton and Cornerstone On Demand would consider making a lateral career move with no financial incentive.

Why would employees abandon the path to management and the rewards that come with it?

Disengagement, Lack of Opportunities, Preference

According to a Gallup poll, only 31.5% of US workers were “engaged in their jobs” while 51% were “not engaged” and 17.5% were “actively disengaged”. Being in a role for a few years where there is just no more room to grow, or where things have become routine, it can be hard to give your all or be happy. Consequently, employees leave their jobs or even careers in search for a refreshing change. Even if it may not profit them to do so.

Another possible reason could be that the higher you rise in the organizational hierarchy, the lesser the number of roles to be filled. Promotions may not always be available. As a result, concerns regarding a lack of opportunities for advancement arise, pushing employees to leave before they stagnate.

The last reason could be more personal: Not everyone is born a leader or enjoys managing people. Joining the management ranks might not be something every employee strives toward. As such, leaving their current roles and trying new ones might be easier and more fulfilling than climbing the ladder.

Learning and Growth, Improved Marketability

In our modern society, we view jobs not just as a means to put food on the table, but also a place for personal fulfilment and growth. Employees and job seekers now look beyond the compensation aspect. They desire to find fulfilment in their work. When they do not, they leave.

Leaving an old job and your comfort zone to venture into something new could feel risky or scary.  But it could come with major learning and growth opportunities.

For lateral moves within the same company, the employee gets see different facets of the organization and understand how the different departments function. This is improving his/her organizational knowledge tremendously.

Generally, when we learn to work with new people, our interpersonal skills improve and our network expands.  The visibility also increases along with promotion potential. When we learn to do new things, we also get to hone our skills, acquire new capabilities and achievements. We become more valuable as employees. Overall, we will be more marketable and attractive candidates to future recruiters or headhunters.

Additionally, in a new environment and with new responsibilities, personal growth or discovery could be a pleasant outcome when you rediscover a lost spark or realise new talents and passions.

Expand Career Options

In a 2016 study done by Cornerstone On Demand and Kelton (a leading global insights firm), more than half of respondents reported that they expect to change careers – not just jobs – at some point in their life time. 42% of respondents expect to have three or more careers.

Lateral movements could help employees who want to take on completely new career paths or try out new industries.

When should you make a lateral career move?

Here are some situations where a lateral move would be right according to

• You want more challenge but not more responsibility, because your plate is already too full with challenges outside of work.

• Your spouse is being moved and your company has a facility in the same location.

• You and your boss or a colleague have locked horns and there doesn’t seem to be any way to set the situation right.

• The functions your unit performs are being outsourced, but you don’t want to leave the company.

• You’re taking courses or completing a degree and don’t want the stress of a promotion at the moment.

• You’re preparing for an eventual move and want to spend some time in a functional area where you haven’t had that much experience.

• There’s an opportunity to report to someone in another unit from whom you can learn a great deal.


Deciding to make a move?

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