Authors: Cathleen Benko and Molly Anderson

Publisher: Harvard Business Press, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-1422155165, 224 pages

Rooted in the industrial era, the corporate ladder takes an outdated, one-size-fits-all view of work. In the ladder world, work is where you go from 9 to 5. Success means a bigger title, office and paycheck, plus more power and prestige. Today’s world is different, explain Deloitte vice chairman Cathleen Benko and talent director Molly Anderson. Globalization and technology are creating firms with fewer rungs and more options for how, when and where to work. Employees are also profoundly different and more diverse. Workers’ needs and expectations don’t match those of the former homogeneous workforce. The ladder is collapsing. The “corporate lattice” is emerging. getAbstract recommends this innovative explanation of the lattice model and how it aligns with the new world of work by allowing more options, careers that zig and zag, work that can be done many ways and good ideas that can come from anyone, anywhere, anytime.

From ladder...

The corporate ladder has been the de facto 20th century standard that shaped the way companies operated - sometimes consciously and sometimes not. But now deeply held assumptions based on the ladder are limiting companies’ ability to respond to the changing corporate landscape. Investing for the future using yesterday’s blueprint is futile. Organizations need a new model for impelling agility and high performance in today’s transformed world of work. Even the factors that constitute value have changed: Once, 60 percent of corporate value creation depended on hard assets; now more than 85 percent relies on intangible assets: brand, talent and intellectual property. Organizational structures are on average 25 percent flatter than 20 years ago. Technological advances, globalization and the knowledge work boom have freed jobs and workers from physical locations and fixed hours; firms often disperse teams across sites and time zones. Nonroutine tasks have outpaced routine ones by 20 percent since 1960. Project work, one type of nonroutine activity, has increased 40-fold in the past 20 years, building the need for collaboration.

Workplaces have changed drastically. Today’s flatter organizations challenge traditional upward-movement models of talent development. Unlike factory jobs, the knowledge and service positions that now dominate the economy release workers from set hours and offices. Work is changing so fast, the US Department of Education estimates that 60 percent of new, 21st century jobs will require skills that only 20 percent of current employees possess.

The workforce has shifted radically as well. The corporate world is based on the family structure active in two-thirds of US households in 1960: Dad went to work; Mom stayed home with the kids. Now only 17 percent of US families follow this model. Women, the main breadwinners for nearly 40 percent of US families, are half the workforce. Households also face the burgeoning challenge of elder care. Career-life alignment remains the priority concern for 70 percent of Baby Boomers and 92 percent of Millennials (Gen Y). In fact, men in dual-career, dual-caregiver homes feel more work-life conflict than women. Younger generations have life-balance concerns that affect their motivation, while older workers seek flexible ways of staying employed. In just about every way, employees are more diverse than ever — by 2042, the majority of US workers will be nonwhite.

Even the definition of success is shifting, as trends converge to alter the corporate landscape irreversibly. These seismic shifts leave firms struggling to meet the challenges of change. They signal the end of traditional assumptions about how to achieve and sustain a high-performance workplace.

...To lattice

The “corporate lattice” model, in contrast to the traditional ladder, is more adaptive and thus better aligned with the changing needs, norms and expectations of today’s workplace and workforce…

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