originally published in the 2016 Winter Issue
Recently while viewing www.womenofinfluence.ca, I read an article titled “A Changing Workplace: From Corporate Ladders to Corporate Lattices”. This is the concept that in order for organizations to increase productivity, employers need to retain talent and attract the best workers. This is done by allowing employees options to develop and grow instead of using the traditional ladder approach. The career lattice is the belief that careers are no longer linear, or one dimensional, and instead zigzag beyond the 9 to 5 desk.
The expression “career lattice” is not new. I first read about it in the 1998 book “Career Intelligence: 12 New Rules for Work and Life Success” by best-selling Canadian author Dr. Barbara Moses.
In this book and others, Moses encourages job seekers to become “career activists” and to take personal responsibility for the future. She states “Jobs have been replaced by project work, outsourcing, contract work and shortterm assignments. The career ladder has been replaced by a trellis where people zigzag between work, education, leisure and volunteer time.”
It is all about thinking lattice not ladders, and tracking career progress by the work you do, instead of your title or level. Moving sideways is the way to gain depth, manage your career and become better at what you are already good at.
However you perceive the expression “career lattice”, it is important to understand that the Canadian workplace is not what it used to be and high-achieving companies are now using innovative best business practices to be competitive.
Some of these pioneering best practices include offering options for when, where and how employees do their work. For example, some employees are allowed to work from home or they are rewarded with autonomy to work on projects that are naturally interesting to them. These types of choices have been proven to increase productivity, foster an inclusive workplace, improve employee retention and drive overall happiness.
Accepting the career lattice model might not be easy for employers or employees. For employers, it requires leadership originality and imagination to look towards the future. For employees, it requires an understanding of what are often called “soft skills” or “self management skills”. These skills can be difficult to quantify because they are intangible, and are generally learned through life experiences rather than through academic education. To help understand the “soft skills” needed in the career lattice workplace model, instead of a career ladder model, here is a summary of 4 essentials:
Understand crosscultural communication:
This is more than respect, appreciation of cultural diversity and the business etiquette of a firm handshake. It is being aware of socially acceptable behaviors and the importance of a friendly smile, and small talk, to establish rapport and build relationships.
Appreciate the importance of adaptability and flexibility:
In today’s workplace the ability to assume multiple work roles and to be able to cope with the stress of changing circumstances is vital. It also includes being open to different ways of doing things and to finding ways of being cautious and watchful on your own behalf by identifying and preparing for opportunities instead of expecting someone else to guide you along the way.
Value customer service:
Whether you work on the frontlines with the general public, or only deal with others via email or the phone, the ability to anticipate and distinguish the needs of customers with an attitude of helpfulness, and that friendly smile, is part of being a company ambassador. An upbeat outlook is a soft skill that innovative employers want and seek out when selecting candidates. Often candidates are chosen because of personality, instead of academic credentials and technical competence.
Recognize work and life balance:
Sometimes employers will ask this behavioral-based question at job interviews:
“Once in awhile it might not be possible to get everything on your to-do list done. Tell me about a time your responsibilities got a little overwhelming. What did you do?”
What the employer really wants to know is, if you have a work and life balance. For example, do you beat yourself up for things that did not work out, or do you remind yourself of your successes? Can you live comfortably with parts of your life that are less than perfect, or are you struggling for everything to be 100%? Employers like to hire employees who have stress management plans, who set realistic expectations and who get along with others.
All 4 of these soft skills are needed in a workplace that is a career lattice. Are you ready to be part of it?
If you want to find out more about soft skills and what employers are expecting from candidates, contact the Centre for Education & Training Employment Services (www.tcet.com) and ask to speak to a Career Specialist or attend a job search workshop. Learning the difference between career ladders and career lattices could change the results at your next job interview and shift you from a candidate to consider, to the candidate that gets the job!
This article was submitted by Lisa Trudel, Career Specialist with the Centre for Education & Training. She works at their Toronto Parliament Services location and can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org