In recent years, the traditional career path of climbing the corporate hierarchy has started to shift towards a more flexible approach. Horizontal career growth is a rising trend in which professionals broaden their skills and experiences by pursuing various roles and opportunities within or outside their current field, allowing them to gain diverse skills, build a robust network, and increase their overall marketability.
In this brief guide, we will explore horizontal career growth and provide actionable tips for employers looking to prepare for modern general expectations.
What is Horizontal Career Growth?
Let's say you have an employee that wants to further specialize in an area of business rather than being promoted to a management position. Or you have an employee who wants to gain a wide range of skills, with the ability to collaborate with multiple departments. These are just two examples of how an employee can have horizontal career growth without needing to move up the corporate ladder to management!
Horizontal career growth has been commonly used in larger firms since the early ‘90s, though many modern companies have yet to implement this method, in which employees shift roles horizontally.
Horizontal vs. Vertical Career Growth
Vertical career growth refers to the traditional model of climbing the corporate ladder by seeking promotions and career advancement within a single organization or industry. This approach typically involves increasing levels of responsibility and authority, focusing on managing employees for the job you had previously been doing.
On the other hand, horizontal career growth involves pursuing opportunities that broaden one's skill set and professional experiences without stepping into a management role. This approach often involves deeply specializing in a specific activity or gaining a diverse range of new skills that can be used across different business functions.
It is easy to think of traditional career growth as climbing a ladder. But what if there was another way, a better way, to think about your professional future? Rather than only looking up the corporate ladder, many employees today should be looking around them. By creating a personalized career path that includes growth horizontally, as well as vertical career growth, today's workforce can find better job fit and career satisfaction.
Why is Horizontal Career Growth a Rising Trend?
Horizontal growth has become a rising trend for several reasons:
Vertical Growth is Less Common: As the job market becomes more dynamic and less predictable, professionals seek greater flexibility and adaptability in their careers, and horizontal career growth offers them the opportunity to build diverse skills and experiences.
Distinct Priorities: Younger generations entering the workforce value work-life balance, purpose-driven work, and development opportunities for growth and development. Horizontal career growth allows them to pursue their passions and explore different career paths rather than being tied to a single role or organization.
Rising Gig Economy: With more opportunities for remote and project-based work, professionals can take on various roles and projects that allow them to build their skills and experiences on their own terms.
Benefits of Horizontal Career Growth
Horizontal career growth is a win-win, benefitting your business and your employees. Unfortunately, not every good employee at their job would make a good manager. With vertical career growth, those employees would be promoted to management or supervisory positions where they will likely fail. This can hurt the business and the employee's career satisfaction.
Thankfully, horizontal career growth allows employees to continue to progress in their careers without becoming managers. Let’s look at a few of the most prominent human resources benefits of horizontal career advancement for employees and the businesses they work for.
Growth and Experience in Different Areas
Pursuing horizontal growth can open an employee up to a broader range of skills, knowledge, and experience in their industry, making them more versatile and adaptable in their careers.
Professionals making horizontal career moves can pursue opportunities in various functional areas (marketing, HR, finance, operations), specialize in a rare skillset, pursue roles in different industries or sectors, or even pursue different job types (freelance work, part-time work, project-based work).
Becoming a More Well-Rounded Employee
There are many new ways in which this style of career movement can help employees become more well-rounded, including exposure to diverse perspectives, development of transferable skills, newly applied creativity, flexibility and adaptability in new environments, and personal growth in paths that align with their interests.
Companies Benefit from More Employee Engagement
Support is a two-way street, and when employees feel supported by the organization they work for, they are more motivated to support it back. Employees offered opportunities for horizontal career growth are more likely to be engaged and motivated in their work.
Higher Retention Rates
When employees recognize that their employer prioritizes their development, offering them resources to grow and achieve personal goals, they feel more motivated to invest time and energy into the company. As a result, horizontal progression can mean higher retention rates.
What Does the Trend of Horizontal Career Growth Mean for Employers?
The trend of horizontal career growth has several implications for employers in the modern workforce. Most importantly, employers must begin encouraging career development, including opportunities for deeper specialization, lateral moves, job rotation, and cross-functional projects. In doing so, they can help employees build diverse skill sets and gain exposure to different areas of the company.
Recent figures show that millennials want training to assist their development opportunities, so providing technical and soft skills training is crucial.
Equally important is recognizing and rewarding employee growth. Whether through salary increases, promotions, or other incentives, modern employers must recognize and reward their employees, motivating them to explore more career opportunities within the company outside of their current role.
Companies Need to Adapt to Recruit and Retain Talent
The last thing you want is to lose young employees within your company to the competition. Recognizing the need to adapt is the first step in increasing employee retention. Offering employee benefits, such as flexibility, training, support, and recognizing and rewarding growth can help companies attract new talent to their engaged and committed workforce.
Horizon is a Trusted Partner for Small-to-Medium Sized Businesses
As a trusted HR and payroll service provider in the industry, our team at Horizon understands that managing human resources and onboarding new employees can be daunting, especially for small to mid-sized businesses.
That's why we offer comprehensive services to help you streamline your operations, increase efficiency, and save time and money! Our team of experts is dedicated to providing personalized solutions tailored to your specific needs.
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With our quality services, you can focus on what matters most — growing your business and serving your employees. We take care of the rest, ensuring your HR and payroll operations run smoothly and efficiently.
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