How to Build a Career Lattice

If your organization has problems with retention rate and employee turnover, it could be your promotional structure that’s to blame. If this describes the challenges you’re currently facing, it may be time to replace your outdated career ladder with a new and improved career lattice. The right software can show you how.

What is career lattice? Most people are familiar with the term “career ladder,” but fewer workers understand the concept of the career lattice. The career lattice definition refers to internal movements that are more than just promotions. They can be lateral moves, as well. If you picture a garden lattice, or trellis, you can see the slats extending in different directions, including diagonally. A career progression plan that utilizes the career lattice allows employees to change jobs within the company in directions other than “up the ladder,” while still achieving their long-term career goals. While salary and benefits may not increase with each move, skills do. Employees learn more aspects of the company, gain knowledge, and become ultimately more valuable to management as a result.

Many progressive companies are adopting the career lattice model because it allows them to retain quality employees for longer periods of time. When an employee tops out, or becomes bored with their current position, allowing them to make a lateral move is often the solution. It benefits the employee by allowing them to learn new things. And it benefits the company by reducing turnover rates. And if an exemplary employee has proven their worth at one task, allowing them to attempt a second position is a good way to uncover hidden talents. Additionally, employees who are cross-trained to work in different departments are invaluable when someone calls out sick or can’t report to work for another reason. Having that person waiting in the wings who is already trained to fill the role can save companies thousands of dollars in lost time revenue.


Career Lattice Examples

Some liken the career lattice to building your own adventure. There’s not necessarily a rhyme or reason to a career lattice, meaning workers may move sideways or even back, if the eventual prize is the job for which they strive. Instead, career development takes place organically. When employees can go where their strengths and interests lie, they have more control over their own career progression. Examples include the computer programmer who makes a lateral move to network administration before landing, two years later, in IT management. Or, it may describe the receptionist who moves across the hall to try their hand at registration before ultimately becoming office manager. There’s a lot of value in lateral moves, even ones that take employees sideways, backwards, up, and around before landing them where they initially wanted to be. Along the way, they’re developing skills and learning more and more about the company. As a result, they become a more valuable and marketable team member. These career lattice examples, and others like them, are increasingly becoming the norm in the 21st-century organization.

Career Progression Framework

There’s more to the career lattice framework, however, than just permitting employees to move into any department they choose. To be successful and mutually beneficial, there must be parameters in place. For the employee, these include:

  • Self-assessment
  • Individualized career map
  • Willingness to explore

Using these three elements, workers can more easily make the best use of their workplace strengths. They can plan a clear career progression framework that points them toward their ultimate career goals. And on the side of management, having strong learning and development programs in place that challenge workers to keep improving is vital. Managers must have the ability to view, at a glance, the entire job architecture of the company, so they can more easily recommend personnel for pivotal roles and fill gaps between positions. Keeping a career lattice visual on hand is helpful, and so is a well-defined plan for lattice development. In this way, both management and the workforce have transparent methods of engineering career progression levels, as well as monitoring performance.


Career Ladder Vs Career Lattice

What is the difference between a career ladder and a career lattice? While a laddered career path does allow for employee advancement, it provides only a limited number of rungs because all positions are directly above one another. In layman’s terms, this means the person above you must leave their position or retire for that spot to open up. The drawback to this career ladder is that most employees don’t want to wait indefinite years for a promotion. Most would rather have the option of making a lateral or diagonal move to a career pathway level that’s on the way to where they eventually want to be.

Alternately, a lateral move would permit an employee who’s in a corner, waiting for advancement, to come out into the light and take a temporary position on another team until their coveted position becomes available. And other examples may place that same employee moving between multiple teams, departments, or positions, and then landing in a different position that’s on equal footing with the one they originally wanted. With the career lattice in place, there’s no one single right or wrong path to the prize.

Lattice Organizational Structure

When it comes to corporate ladder vs corporate lattice, more and more companies are dumping the old and embracing the new, and for good reason. There are many benefits to the corporate lattice organizational structure. For employers, they include:

  • Increased employee engagement
  • Increased productivity
  • Reduced turnover
  • Higher morale
  • Higher rates of employee participation
  • More customized work structures

On the part of the employee, there are also multiple benefits of a corporate lattice, meaning more opportunities to move into new positions and increased opportunity to master new skills. However, a lattice view of career management requires the employee to be willing to accept jobs that aren’t traditionally ideal. Still, by planning a clear career trajectory, workers should still be able to reach their ultimate goals, regardless of how unconventional the method.

Ideally, the career progression examples listed here will give you insight into the benefits of developing a career lattice hierarchy for your own company. To see all the ways TalentGuard can help make your organizations career lattice a reality, request a demo today!


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