Lateral Moves Offer Career Development for Employees

Employee interview for lateral job move within the company
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In a lateral move, an employee moves to an equivalent role in an organization. The new position usually has a similar salary range and a job title and is at the same level. Unline a promotion where an employee moves up the employment ladder, a lateral move keeps the employee on the same level but changes their job responsibilities. The sideways move may afford the employee new opportunities or access to new skills.

Growing Laterally

A lateral move gives the employee a chance to expand his skills and network with a new circle of employees and customers. A lateral move is an opportunity for an employee to expand their career path opportunities.

Visually, in a lateral move, the employee's new job is equal to or on the same level on an organizational chart as the employee's former job. The employee who accepts the move may or may not report to the same manager, depending on the responsibilities that report to that manager.

Frequently, it affords the employee the opportunity to report to a new manager. This change allows the company to get a different perspective on the employee's skills and experience. Also, the move may allow the employee to work in new departments, offices, work areas, or workgroups.

Availability of Promotions

In any organization, job promotions are limited by the number of roles needed to accomplish the work. The number of available roles, as seen visually on an organizational chart, decreases the higher on the chart you go. As you move up through management levels, fewer and fewer people are needed to fill the next layer of jobs.

As an employee advances up the organizational chart, fewer opportunities exist for lateral moves. Organizations need fewer people who organize and manage the work and oversee the work of others than they need employees who actually do the work. 

Also, different departments within a business may have a limited number of positions at higher responsibility levels. Lateral moves can change a high-achieving employee into a department that has more room for continued upward growth.

Advantages of a Lateral Move

The lateral move provides a career path for employees through additional training and new experiences or responsibilities. It may help the employee overcome boredom and dissatisfaction they may have had with the previous position.

The demands of the new position provide a new challenge and will force the worker to continue in their career growth. They may learn about different facets of the business and how work is accomplished in different departments or job functions. They may be able to bring new insight into the way things are being done due to the experience they had in the previous position.

Also, the worker gains visibility with a new group of coworkers and managers. Visibility for a good employee brings potential future opportunities.

A lateral move is viewed as desirable by employees because of the impact a lateral move has on the employee's opportunity for personal and professional growth and motivation. While a lateral move may not heavily affect pay, the lateral move is often accompanied by a small increase in responsibility. The worker may feel more connected with the business as they begin to have a broader influence on the decision process.

A lateral move raises the status of the employee. The move is a visible sign of esteem from the employer that they are developing the employee and preparing them for bigger and better opportunities. Coworkers will see this as do managers.

Continuing Commitment

The lateral move is viewed as a continuing commitment from the employer to enable the employee to continue to develop and grow in their employment and pursue a desirable career path. It is valued as an opportunity booster. It is cherished by employees who are not quite ready for—or an opportunity doesn't exist for—a promotion. The employee's career continues to grow.