Help Employees, Managers Recognize the Why of Lateral Moves

SHRM Article ImageThe world is flat. Well, maybe not the actual world, but the world of work has certainly flattened. Layers began to disappear in the 1980s, with the shift to flatter organizations gaining such momentum that one firm, the Boston Consulting Group, filed for a trademark in 2005 for the term “delayering.” Corporate career ladders lost rungs, middle management levels disappeared, and some C-level roles vanished. Gradually, fewer and fewer options for growing by moving up existed. At the same time that delayering was reshaping organizational structures, consumers and clients were becoming more sophisticated and savvy. Competition demanded agility and creativity. One-stop shopping and custom solutions moved into the center circle of expectations. The first point of contact needed to know more, do more, and be prepared to handle a much broader set of requests than ever before. While on the one hand a decreasing number of upward opportunities appeared to stall careers, on the other hand, new avenues for professional growth emerged from the need for breadth of expertise. The often ignored or overlooked lateral move surfaced as a strategic development option. So why are lateral assignments still seen as less than attractive? What can be done to fill the need for a wide scope of expertise?

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