No More 'Climbing the Corporate Ladder'; It's Time to 'Traverse the Uneven Terrain' of Today's Economy

No More 'Climbing the Corporate Ladder'; It's Time to 'Traverse the Uneven Terrain' of Today's Economy
From Recruiter - September 30, 2016

In the first articleof this series, we discussed the need to unlearn the idea that there is something wrong with you if you have short job tenure. We also discussed the need to unlearn the idea that winners dont need to hustle for their next jobsthat recruiters will always be calling them, and if they fail to call you, then you are a loser.

Today, well discuss another popular career concept that needs to be unlearned: the idea of climbing the corporate ladder.

Climbing Corporate Ladders

One pervasive component of early-to-mid-twentieth-century thinking about careers was the concept of climbing the corporate ladder of success. This framework used the corporation or institution as the economic foundation ofupward mobility. In this context, success meant ever-increasing levels of job titles, salaries, and responsibilities within the same organization.

This ladder-climbing framework may continue tobe viable for large companies and institutions with sophisticated approaches to management development, but how many of those organizations still exist? What is the probability that you willwork for one of them?

Most of the people whose career campaigns we manage will end up working for smaller companies with espoused philosophies that people are our most important productyet these companies will also conduct themselves according to a just in time approach to leadership succession.

Rather than paying the cost of in-house leadership development, the company will decide it wants someone who can hit the ground running when an important leadership role opens up. The company will find this person by employing retained search firms to sourcethe most qualified candidates both inside and outside the company.

The higher up the organizational ladder an open role is, the higher the bias in favor of hiring outside the company. Given the drive for doing more with less, in-house employees are struggling to simply perform the jobs they were hired to do. They lack the timeand the company does not provide them with the resourcesto demonstrate fitness for higher-level jobs.

The Devil You Know Is at a Disadvantage

Under these circumstances, promoting in-house candidates to higher management roles can sometimes be perceived as being as much a leap of faith as hiring an outside person is.

Consider the popular term the Peter principle, which refers to the idea that managers rise to the level of their incompetence because people are hired for new roles based on their competence in their current rolesnot their competence in the new role.

Itwould be an error to assume that the best sales professional in the company will be the best sales manager. It would be an error to assume that a baseball teams best pitcher will be the best coach. As one ascends the corporate ladder, jobs increase in responsibilitybut they also require different skill sets. Thus, when hiring an internal candidate for a leadership or management position, a company runs the risk of enacting the Peter principle.

Another problem for internal candidates is that it is riskier for hiring authorities to promote internal candidates than it is for them to hire external candidates. The popular cliche is that the devil you know is better than the devil you dont know. That cliche breaks down in the hiring process.

Finding out the devil you didnt know has problems opens the hiring authority to accusations of making bad decisions under conditions of incomplete information. Finding out the devil you know has problems opens the hiring authority to accusations of making bad decisions under conditions of complete information: You knew they came with baggage, and you hired them anyway???!!!


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