Employee Experience

Navigating the career lattice: empowering dynamic growth paths

5 Mins read

Career growth is no longer confined to sticking to one’s assigned path. In the realm of professional advancement, the traditional concept of climbing the corporate ladder has given way to a more dynamic alternative known as the career lattice.

A career lattice encompasses a comprehensive approach to career progression, enabling individuals to pursue growth through vertical, horizontal, and even diagonal movements. In simpler terms, employees are no longer restricted to remaining within their designated departments in order to advance. This type of flexibility is highly sought after, as evidenced by a survey indicating that nearly 90% of workers would be open to making a cross-departmental move without any financial incentives.

“The career lattice goes beyond the conventional ladder by incorporating diagonal job growth, empowering employees to explore diverse roles within the company that facilitate the development of various competencies.

By adopting this career strategy, individuals gain a more comprehensive understanding of the company, its industry, and the invaluable contributions made by each department.”

Jessica Lim, HR Manager at LiveCareer

Career Lattice vs. Career Ladder: Exploring Paths of Professional Progression

Understanding the disparities between career lattices and career ladders is crucial in devising and implementing an effective employee development plan that aligns with your business model and workforce. Let’s delve deeper into the definitions of these two strategies, accompanied by illustrative examples.

A career ladder entails a linear and uniform approach to career advancement, wherein individuals progress through their careers by transitioning from one position to another. In the realm of career ladder examples, upward mobility is achieved through factors such as tenure, favorable reviews from management, or simply by filling a vacant role based on one’s experience within the company. The ultimate objective is to ascend to senior positions that offer increased responsibility and remuneration.

As the career ladder represents a series of linear moves, individuals typically hone their skills to qualify for higher-paying positions. Through a career ladder development plan, employees can focus on enhancing their skill set and acquiring new knowledge. This helps to work towards a singular goal as they advance upward.

Conversely, a career lattice embodies a more adaptable progression path. This way, allowing employees to leverage their skills and experiences in diverse ways. Unlike the “one size fits all” approach of the career ladder, the career lattice encourages individuals to explore new avenues and experiment. These experiments include various options to identify the roles they excel in as they advance. In fact, employees may acquire skills that are unrelated to their current positions. By moving forward, upward, and even backward, the career lattice provides opportunities for individuals to gain insight into company facets.

Moreover, the career lattice takes into consideration employees’ personal lives, affording them greater control and flexibility over their future trajectories. This proves advantageous for individuals who are uncertain about their desired positions until they have engaged in a variety of tasks and acquired diverse skills.

Benefits of career lattice for employees and organizations

The career lattice structure makes flexible options available, recognizing that talent development doesn’t always have to be upwardly mobile to be effective. It allows team members to pursue new skills and engage in interesting projects that may not be available in their current department, without hindering their career growth.

Furthermore, the lattice model enhances cross-department collaboration by enabling team members to move across departments. This fosters the creation of relationships throughout the company, breaking down silos. Also, it promotes stronger communication and greater cohesion among employees.

By providing opportunities for diverse experiences, the career lattice reduces team member boredom and disengagement. When individuals can work on projects and initiatives that genuinely interest them, rather than solely focusing on climbing the next rung of the ladder, they tend to be happier and more motivated.

career lattice 1

Moreover, the career lattice offers the benefit of fresh perspectives. When employees remain in the same roles for extended periods, their ideas may become stagnant or repetitive. By cultivating a culture where team members switch teams and explore different areas, the lattice model injects new life into brainstorming sessions and encourages innovative idea generation.

In addition, the career lattice structure plays a vital role in retaining high performers, who are often challenging to replace. By providing more options for career progression, team members remain engaged and motivated in their roles. Furthermore, their ability to establish cross-departmental relationships strengthens their connection to the company’s culture, making them less inclined to seek opportunities elsewhere.

How can my organization implement a career lattice model: 5 steps

Communication

  • Promote available job opportunities through company-wide meetings or informative emails to empower employees to make lattice moves.
  • Foster connections between different departments through lunch and learns or informational interviews. This way, you give employees a realistic understanding of other areas within the company.

Compensation

  • Consider the overall compensation structure, taking into account current and future options.
  • Assess if a compensation increase is warranted for additional responsibilities or if the opportunity itself holds sufficient value.
  • Engage in open discussions with the employee. Make sure to highlight the learning potential and outlining the new career path that the move can offer.

Learning

  • Identify key skills and knowledge areas that need improvement when employees switch teams.
  • Offer relevant training courses, suggest attendance at conferences, and provide learning and development resources.
  • Collaborate with the employee’s manager to determine ongoing learning opportunities for continued growth.

Onboarding

  • Recognize that an internal move is essentially Day 1 of a new role and provide adequate onboarding support.
  • Ensure the new manager understands the employee’s skills and experiences, addressing any knowledge gaps.
  • As HR, offer assistance to the manager and acknowledge that ramp-up time may still be needed.

Engagement

  • Monitor employee engagement in their new roles to ensure a positive return on investment.
  • Conduct regular check-ins with employees during the first 90 days and at the 6-month mark. Ensure to address any challenges or concerns.
  • Proactively seek 360 feedback to gauge employee satisfaction and make necessary adjustments.
  • Leverage post-mortem insights to enhance future career lattice moves for other employees, turning challenges into valuable lessons.

Examples of career lattice

Two examples of career lattice are:

  •  A computer programmer transitioning to network administration before eventually reaching IT management after two years.
  • Another example is a receptionist trying their hand at registration across the hall before advancing to the role of office manager.

After all, lateral moves within the career lattice hold significant value as they provide opportunities for skill development and a deeper understanding of the company. Such diverse experiences make employees more valuable and marketable. Career lattice examples like these are increasingly becoming the norm in 21st-century organizations, promoting individual growth and skill acquisition.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the career lattice has emerged as a dynamic and flexible alternative to the traditional career ladder. It offers employees the freedom to explore diverse paths of professional progression, fostering skill development, engagement, and cross-department collaboration. By implementing a career lattice model, organizations can unlock the potential of their workforce, retain high performers, and promote a culture of continuous learning. Embracing the career lattice mindset empowers individuals to shape their own career journeys, leading to enhanced job satisfaction, increased productivity, and a more agile and adaptable workforce. As the modern workplace continues to evolve, the career lattice proves to be a valuable strategy for organizations and employees alike, driving success in the ever-changing landscape of professional growth.

Further Reading

Rejected Candidates: Nurturing the Candidate Experience through Communication
Supporting employee’s sleep health: Workplace napping
The Company Culture at Amazon

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About author
Fatjona Gërguri is the content writer for Employee Experience Magazine, covering the relevant topics about employee experience, organizational culture and general HR topics.
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