In a lateral move, an employee moves to an equivalent role in an organization, usually with a similar salary range and a job title at the same level. In a lateral move, though, the employee's job responsibilities change thus affording the employee new opportunities. A lateral move is an opportunity for an employee to expand his or her career path opportunities.
Visually, in a lateral move, the employee's new job is equal to or on the same level on an organizational chart as the employee's former job. The employee who accepts a lateral move may or may not report to the same manager depending on the responsibilities that report to that manager. Likewise, the employee experiencing a lateral move may or may not change departments, offices, work areas, or work groups.
In any organization, job promotions are limited by the number of roles needed to accomplish the work. The number of available roles, as seen visually on an organizational chart, decreases higher on the chart. Organizations need fewer people who organize and manage work, and oversee the work of others, than they need employees who do the work.
Advantages of a Lateral Move
Consequently, the lateral move provides a career path for employees when job promotions are not available. A lateral move provides advantages for an employee. In a lateral move, the employee:
- gains new knowledge and skills by performing a different job that requires new skills and provides different responsibilities.
- overcomes boredom and dissatisfaction by having a new and different job with changed responsibilities and tasks.
- is given a new challenge, a chance for the employee to expand his or her accomplishments, reach, impact, and potentially, influence different aspects of the work.
- may learn about different facets of the organization and how work is accomplished in different departments or job functions. (This will build his or her organizational knowledge and ability to get things done.)
- is prepared for a promotional opportunity by receiving the chance to expand his or her skill set and responsibilities, and gain broader knowledge about the organization.
- gains visibility with a new group of coworkers and managers. Visibility for a good employee brings potential opportunities.
A lateral move is viewed as desirable by employees because of the impact a lateral move has on the employee's opportunity for personal and professional growth and motivation. While a lateral move may not heavily affect pay, the lateral move is often accompanied by a small increase in pay. Increased, or at least, changed responsibility, and the ability to influence broader organizational decision making, may also occur with a lateral move.
A lateral move raises the status of the employee who receives a lateral move which is a visible sign of esteem from the employer. The lateral move is viewed as a continuing commitment from the employer to enable the employee to continue to develop and grow in their employment and pursue a desirable career path.