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Chutes and Ladders? Nope! Jungle Gyms.

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I had the opportunity to present at a conference earlier this week on the topic of the future of work. It was the perfect venue to highlight several talent disruptions facing businesses in the next 3-5 years (actually, some are facing them now) and discuss how we can prepare if we take the time to plan. We covered everything from Gen Z to the gig and shared economies to how technology will eliminate some jobs, reshape the ones we have, and create positions we can’t even fathom yet. I love this stuff!

One of the comments I made seemed to resonate and it centered around the need for career paths to be less like a ladder and more like a jungle gym. Let me explain.

For many of us, we grew up during a time when the workforce was governed by “old rules.” One of those “old rules” is that the definition of career growth and success is measured by moving up the ladder. And this career development approach worked for a long time. Why? Well, who would dare to question this structure when we were led to believe that we should go to college, get a job, work hard, and the employer would decide the rest….when we work, how we work, how much we make, when we receive a promotion, etc.

I think about that now and can’t believe how passive it is. It makes me cringe.

You know who dared to question the “old rules?”  The Millennials. And when our businesses failed to listen and understand the types of career experiences and paths they desired, they took matters into their own hands and started jumping from job to job to obtain the experiences they were after.

And most businesses still didn’t get it.

Instead of hearing what they were saying, the job hopping was dismissed as uncommitted, unfocused, and entitled behavior. Now don’t get me wrong…I met, recruited and worked with plenty in this generation who fit that stereotype, but it’s just that….a stereotype.

The point is that we did a terrible job of responding and it’s one of the leading reasons why so many companies can’t attract, recruit and retain the right people today. It is essential that we look at career paths more like a jungle gym and provide opportunities for people to move up, back, left and right as they gather the experiences they deem essential in building their careers.

It’s just good business. Why? Because employees will feel empowered as they leverage their strengths and interests and pursue meaningful work. This, in turn, creates engagement which spurs innovation which ultimately leads to higher retention, business growth…and more innovation and on and on.

Not sure this applies to you? Well, Gen Z is going to force this issue as they are even more laser-focused on flexible, personalized career paths. Don’t believe me?  Look at these fun stats:

• 52% of Gen Z wants to write their own job descriptions
• 65% of Gen Z want to create their own career paths

Let’s not continue to make the same mistakes we have in the past.

To know better is to do better.

PS. Want to learn more about Gen Z? Check out this post.



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