With the basic principles of dual career ladders covered in an excellent recent post by a co-contributer, let’s expand on the topic. The idea is to offer more alternatives for work advancement than only one track -- into management. Most employees want to get ahead, but some people don’t want to supervise others. Instead of forcing individuals whose prime talents and personal interests are better suited to individual contributor roles into unwanted management jobs, dual tracks can let them choose what they do best and like most.
By the way, the concept of offering separate job progression tracks need not be limited to dual career ladders separating managment paths and individual contributor roles. When management careers can range from supervisors continually monitoring many immediate subordinates to senior executives who manage broad functions with no direct reports, simple partitions can get complicated. Likewise, individual contributor roles can also involve diverse career paths in specific technical, professional, administrative, sales, research and other functional vocational areas.
Designing flexible programs for employee career movement can enhance the impact of organizational reward systems.
Some employers have created extra career job steps with extraordinary higher pay grades for continued super-senior professional track progression. By paying a few emeritus subject matter experts far beyond normal parameters, they thus hold key contributors who supply institutional memory. Golden handcuffs can reduce turnover, eliminate replacement costs and save productive time otherwise lost in training. Extraordinary total rewards that retain select high-performing veterans can increase operational efficiency in potentially problematic areas like marketing or software programming where ignorance of past history can be very expensive.
With a bit of foresight, many possible problems can be avoided. For example, switching employees from one ladder to a different track can be a major issue if transitional bridges are not created in advance. Establishing consistent criteria for advancement from one level to another is another important precaution.
A lack of alternative career ladders leaves the company vulnerable to the negative effects of the Peter Principle. It’s a terrible outcome to find that when you promote your best individual contributor to team supervisor, you lose your best producing worker and gain your worst supervisor. Or the opposite can happen. A supervisor with a gift for training, guiding and inspiring subordinates who is switched to an individual contributor role can be wasted in an analytical job where they yearn for contact with other people. If the organization has no alternative career track with a suitable slot for either type of misfit, both sides lose.
One school of thought says there are no bad employees, just bad matches between talents and assigned jobs. All the knowledge, skill and ability in the world will be wasted if workers are not assigned where they can apply their greatest talents with maximum leverage for the benefit of the enterprise. Placing the right person in the appropriate position is the essence of human resource management.
Multiple ladders reduce the risk of misplacement. Firms without even dual tracks typically experience churn among the most talented who are in "the wrong" ladder. It does the company little good to be pleased with a worker who is personally unhappy with their career prospects. An effective analyst frustrated by roadblocks to her desired progression into management will eventually leave, either physically or emotionally. Likewise, a competent supervisor who simply wants to work alone will either neglect his leadership duties or seek another job opportunity. When there is only one path upwards in pay and status, options for mutual employer/ee benefit are severely limited. Frustrated top performers will look outside for more suitable prospects. Meanwhile, your marginal workers will cling desperately to their jobs and demand infinite seniority increases. Losing your best while retaining your worst is a combination to avoid.
Practical and effective career progression programs have an immense impact on employee value propositions. They are a vital part of reward systems. Take care to design mutually beneficial paths for job movement. Failure will waste talent and the money spent for it. Success can create an environment where engaged workers are pleased by their career advancement options. Whichever happens, it may determine your next career move.
E. James (Jim) Brennan is Senior Associate of ERI Economic Research Institute, the premier publisher of interactive pay and living-cost surveys. After over 40 years in HR corporate and consulting roles throughout the U.S. and Canada, he’s pretty much been there done that (articles, books, speeches, seminars, radio/TV, advisory posts, in-trial expert witness stuff, etc.), serves on the Advisory Board of the Compensation and Benefits Review and will express his opinion on almost anything.
Creative Commons image "Risk v/s Reward : Choosing the right Career path" by Youthopedia Media