Career 'lattice' is the new ladder

It's time to adjust dated career expectations, according to a recent report from Korn Ferry

The management consulting firm estimates that employers will hand out fewer pay raises and promotions in 2024 than they did in 2023. Rather than aiming to move upward in their careers, workers can benefit from taking lateral promotions: moving along a career "lattice" rather than climbing the typical career ladder. 

Few roles still offer "pure next-step progression," according to Frances Weir, an associate principal at Korn Ferry. She suggests workers gain valuable experience in other ways and measure success by acquired skills, not raises or promotions. Horizontal motion within the same company also allows employees to meet new people and deepen their roots within the organization. 

Rather than waiting to be moved up, employees can consider the work that energizes them and ask managers for more tasks that fall along those lines. Those who prove they are multifaceted may avoid layoffs and instead be reassigned during an economic downturn. 

The concept is a notable departure from trends that promote doing as little work as possible, like quiet quitting, but the labor market is shifting. Power is transferring from employees to hiring managers, and more workers are staying put — even if they aren't thrilled about it.

One thing's for sure: as with most hallmarks of the pre-COVID-19 workforce, "The old way of thinking about getting a promotion every year or two is antiquated," according to Dan Kaplan, senior client partner in Korn Ferry's chief human resources officer practice.

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