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Career Ladders Need Wings


April 5th, 2011

- Updated on

February 6, 2017 - 12:10pm

The topic of career movement has been the focus of a recent blog and the subject is raised again in this posting, although from an organization’s perspective exclusively on this occasion. When and where to move an individual are key questions faced by organizations today. What are the drivers impacting career mobility and how important is the leader’s role? These are trends 6 and 7 in our top trends trends in coaching, team and leadership development series. Click here for Trends 4 & 5: Leadership Gaps & Doing More With Less

Trend 6: Career ladders need wings

What AJO Is Seeing:

The economy, in concert with precipitous demographic shifting, has changed the nature of career movement, perhaps forever. We’re learning that organizations are faced with the dual challenge of increasing career opportunities and options while at the same time closing competency gaps. Managers have been tasked with managing their own careers at the same time they must assume responsibility for defining career paths for individuals at all levels.

The journey from career control to empowerment – two stories

  1. One organization (a U.S. multinational and household name) shared with us that historically, decisions have been made for individuals regarding when, where and how their careers would progress. Today, this organization is grappling with how to shift career management responsibility to employees, changing ingrained cultural norms and expectations in the process. They acknowledged the added burden placed on managers to have meaningful conversations at a time when opportunities for progression have been, and will continue to be significantly diminished.
  2. Another organization (a foreign owned multinational) further along in its journey in the U.S. from a “control” to an “empowerment” culture shared with us how it is incorporating several functions - talent acquisition, succession planning, performance management and development, diversity and retention practices - into its single, integrated talent management strategy, breaking down silos that previously existed. Vertical career ladders have been replaced by career paths. Employees need to have resumes, know how to interview and be prepared to compete for opportunities. With 30% of the workforce eligible for retirement in 2020, there is a business imperative to focus on the 90% of employees that had previously “been ignored” from a talent development perspective. It was refreshing to hear this story and we’re honored to be a coaching partner within this progressive organization.

Trend 7: Leader’s role in talent management drives bottom-line impact

Having conversations with employees about their performance and career, while balancing the needs of the organization, is often the most difficult aspect of a leader’s role. Companies with high-quality talent management including coaching and developmental planning have higher engagement, lower turnover and twice the revenue per employee. Skills and tools for leaders to assess developmental potential and readiness for career moves are critical success factors.

What Others Are Reporting:

Much has been written about lateral career movement in the last few years, as more companies are looking for, and embracing new approaches to career development. Greater attention is also being focused on bridging skill gaps resulting from reduced investment in talent development during the recent recessionary years. 

  1. HBR: How the Corporate Ladder Became the Corporate Lattice
    In this HBR blog posting, Cathy Benko, Vice Chairman and Chief Talent Officer at Deloitte LLP and best-selling author, argues that economic, demographic, and technological changes are contributing to the demise of the corporate ladder and the rise of the corporate lattice.
  2. Bersin: Coping with Limited Career Advancement
    Karen O'Leonard picks up on the corporate ladder to corporate lattice theme, stressing that leadership development and succession management initiatives today must also incorporate lateral movement. 
  3. Bersin: More in the Middle – focusing leadership development on your mid-level managers
    Barb Arth makes the case for why organizations need to focus on the development and performance of their middle managers. She shares strategies and case studies from best practice organizations.

What are you seeing?

Click here for Trends 8 & 9: Executive Coaching Cultures & Large Scale Programs