Lateral movement is an alternative strategy of promoting career growth and personal development among employees in your organization. Instead of giving rigid, constricted role assignments to team members, there is freedom for everyone to do more than what their job title says.

Also known as horizontal growth, it aims to defy conventional standards of promotion in a vertical mode. In the former, an employee has the opportunity to gain knowledge and skills in multiple areas, whereas in the latter, the focus of the employee is to master a particular role, and eventually, set sight on the next most coveted position in the organization.

In essence, the value of lateral or horizontal growth is on the exposure or experience, which may be in the form of a special assignment, attending relevant seminars, or enrolling in professional or short courses, among many other options. By contrast, vertical growth is more about developing one’s expertise.

Here's Why Lateral Career Growth is Not So Bad

Interestingly, both you and your employees stand to benefit from a lateral growth POV. Here’s why:

1. Employees become empowered professionally.

In the lateral growth organizational setup, employees can assume other responsibilities outside of their department. To fulfill such responsibilities means that they expand their competencies and become a point person with colleagues from other teams, as well as clients.

While tech-savvy programmers deal with codes day in and day out, they may grow laterally by coordinating more with your company’s front-liners such as the marketing, sales, or customer service people to gather feedback on how a specific program needs to be tweaked.

You could even involve your software programmers or engineers in after-sales functions through client visits. Make sure you prepare them for this eventuality by sending them to personal development seminars to help them hone their communication and interpersonal skills beforehand.

2. Teamwork is nurtured

As you give employees additional roles that go beyond their usual scope, they get to work with other members within or outside their own team. Collaborative learning results in the process—helping the company achieve its goals of streamlining inter- or intra-departmental processes. Not to mention, raising the level of productivity among employees.

Here's Why Lateral Career Growth is Not So Bad

You also cannot underestimate the bond that is formed as teams or employees grow with one another and own up a particular assignment or project.

3. Employees have a better chance at their tenure

While having credentials like finishing MBA programs or business courses help raise an employee’s qualifications at work, there’s nothing more tangible than demonstrating the ability to handle special projects as part of an employee’s journey to lateral growth.

Management is always on the lookout for employees who can be real assets to the business, so although no employee is said to be indispensable in a company, those who show potential for lateral growth will be harder to let go of.

Although the monetary gains of lateral growth may not be that attractive for employees, the long-term benefits of tenure can very well compensate just the same.

4. Companies can have more leeway during tough times

Promotions and staff hiring are the first ones that usually take a backseat on days when business is not doing so well. At this time, companies can leverage the lateral growth approach to tide themselves over until business prospects improve.

It may eventually be an eye opener for companies to incorporate lateral growth strategies into their organizational structure, giving the company a new lease on life, so to speak.

5. The corporate culture evolves more dynamically

In today’s highly creative and competitive business space, innovation can take your company to greater heights. While a number of companies have had success in keeping a traditional hierarchal type of organization, others are also starting to see the wisdom behind moving away from this norm for good reasons.

Employees are seizing the opportunity to learn and grow, and the company is continuously discovering a new way of doing things for everyone’s benefit.

The concept of lateral career growth is perfectly suitable for those who refuse to think and do as everyone else. It’s a bold, courageous, and out-of-the-ordinary move, all right, but it’s one that sets the most flexible and well-rounded professionals and organizations apart from the rest of the crowd.

Written By
Jomel Alos is a Content Strategist at Guthrie-Jensen Training Consultant. He’s obsessed with TV shows about designing like Tiny House Nation, Forged in Fire, and Ellen’s Design Challenge and eating burnt bacon

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