In classic organisations, careers were (and remain) fairly clearly structured: you might join as, let’s say, a Junior Something-or-other, work for two years before becoming a Senior Something-or-other and moving on to your first Team Leader role, and then another, but this time with a bigger team and greater budgets and sales responsibilities. Finally, you move up to be Divisional Manager or Head of Department. Or you might change company and start from an intermediate position. Eventually, your career path comes to an end as manager of a branch, division or subsidiary – or perhaps you climb even further and win a seat on the Management Board, or even the Executive Board.
Anyone willing to carve out a career and put in the work, always doing a bit more than the next person, and to develop professionally (and who knows the right people...) can make it to the top. That’s long been the outline of a person’s career path. Sure, there may be a few setbacks here and there, times when you’re overlooked for a promotion – it was never going to happen overnight. Nevertheless, the path was laid out and passable for those ready to make a career for themselves.
However, the end of that era is nigh. The fewer fixed structures an organisation has, the more its employees work across departments and disciplines, the more projects and networks are determined by product development and marketing... the less space there is for classic careers. “We’ll need far fewer managers in the future,” says Prof. Nils Hafner, management consultant and tenured professor at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. Middle management positions will see particular reductions, he argues, as they will become unnecessary. “Employees will no longer be able to define themselves using the manager-to-staff ratio: there simply won’t be enough managers to do so.”
So, what next? For many people, carving out a career was what drove them, it was their “personal WHY” – the very reason they gave everything for their company. And now, all of a sudden, we should just accept that there’s “no career possible”? Are agile, fluid, flat structures robbing employees of their drive and motivation?
No – or rather, not necessarily. But careers will be redefined. Until now, it’s been about status, of course, but primarily also about influence. The higher up the hierarchy a person was, the more chance they had of becoming influential. If you really wanted to get stuff done, you had to move up in the world. Yet in agile companies, everyone can – and should – be influential. This is exactly the reasoning behind an agile structure: the right people with the right skills and the right mindset work on tasks, services and products which, ideally, they’ve developed themselves (or at least helped to develop).
Anyone with an idea for a product that could bring the company forward, open up new markets or radically transform existing ones can publish their concept internally, enlist colleagues to work with them, and request a budget. If you can find a sponsor for an idea, go right ahead! Alternatively, employees can apply for projects conceived by others. Why? Well, perhaps because their skills and knowledge would be better used there, or because they can learn something new, or maybe because they want to get to know other colleagues and departments …
This means that the agile career of tomorrow will be horizontal, not vertical. It won’t be about status or your job title, but rather about being influential and successful in the right places. Sometimes you’re the idea generator heading up a project, sometimes you’re the project manager, and other times you’re just a team member working on an exciting project. What matters is the opportunity to do epic shit and develop yourself both personally and professionally. It’s about the chance to help make a service or product successful and contribute to sustainable corporate success. Of course, you’ll also be recognised for your work and rewarded with an appropriate salary, along with the status of being a driving force behind the company’s success – even without being Senior Vice President Something-or-other.
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People.OS helps to transform careers from vertical to horizontal. Because it’s not about status or position, but about becoming effective and working sucessfully across departments and disciplines.
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In traditional organizational designs careers are focused on the increase of personal power and influence. Today employees thrive to create impact on a higher purpose and to enrich their personal lives. Only companies who are able to support this new way of building personal career paths will be able to sustainable retain their employees.
To make sure it can successfully counter the major challenges that lie ahead, every company needs an organisational design that optimally combines the relation between employee type and organisational structure, so that each employee makes an essential contribution to the company’s successful future.
In People.OS, all employees enter up-to-date profile data including their interests, skills and wishes. At the same time, jobs and projects specify the skills they require. This means that the right people can work on important tasks – without detours.
In People.OS, employees receive targeted training based on their needs. This means that they’re directly supplied with relevant content when they require it. This is a huge boost for learning by doing.
People.OS goes far beyond classic talent management by supporting recruiters in prioritising characteristics so they can reach the correct decisions.