Why the Lattice, Now?

That’s one of the main questions that career coach and radio show host Bonnie Marcus had for me in a recent interview for her show Career GPS.

It’s a good question. Immersed as we all are in economic uncertainty, concerned about the stability of our companies and of our careers, it’s easy to overlook the sweeping realignment that is crystallized in the lattice.

Three long-term trends are aligning to replace career ladders with career lattices.

  • Baby boomers have to stay on the job longer, effectively blocking promotions for 40-somethings. Strategic lateral moves can equip valued middle managers with operational experience while they wait for promotions  to open up.
  • Boomers themselves are finding satisfaction in late-career lateral moves. Some progressive companies, like Time Warner Cable, create internal consulting or project-based positions for pre-retirees. That creates a channel for sluicing the boomers’ knowledge back into training, talent development, and information systems, while opening up operational slots for rising managers.
  • Millennials, observing the two trends outlined above, assume that their careers will be just as much over and up. And, that feels right to them, the first workforce generation steeped in social media. They already know the power of peer relationships; latticing gives them a career structure for the connections and opportunities they gather through social media.