Lateral Moves in Global Mobility Can Be a Career Leap

Lateral move of any kind has always been perceived as an indirect demotion. A study by Mercer even indicates that 14 percent of the employees surveyed regard lateral transfers as an impediment to or a slowdown of one’s career.

Nowadays, this process of shifting an employee or a talent to a different, but equal-level, position is being seen as a positive development, especially in the global mobility sector. Global mobility managers are also steadily realizing that this process can also be a way to retain the assignees and international talents that they urgently need.

Some view lateral move as a simple transfer, though. Clearly, there’s a need to make distinctions. For The Balance, lateral transfer means an employee is shifted to the same position in the same company but under a different department, reporting to a different boss and tasked with very different responsibilities.

For example, a supervisor in the sales department still remains a supervisor when he is transferred to the marketing department. The manager of operations still remains a manager when he assumes the job of a logistics manager.

Lingering doubts about an employee or assignee’s transfer only happens when the job is considered a career bump. Imagine the thoughts going through their head if, after rising through the ranks for the past couple of years, things are suddenly swept under the rug. This means they were asked to consider a position they are not fully equipped to hold or maintain. This can mean that they were placed in a different job function.

All of a sudden, they have to learn new skills and establish new networks. To an extent, they are starting over — and being at the start of the finish line means they are far from the career goal they had hoped to reach at a certain time.

There are other adjustments they have to consider. While their salaries remain the same, the perks can vary or even be removed. Marketing professionals, sometimes, do not receive commissions above their usual salaries as frequently as their sales colleagues do. Those selected out-of-town trips may no longer apply. Finally, after working comfortably with a boss who they already know well, they would have to re-acquaint themselves with a new one.

The Harvard Business Review suggests that disappointed laterally-transferred assignees look at the silver lining. The transfer will open up to them opportunities in growth, responsibilities, and education. Placing them in a different setting could unleash gifts, abilities, and valuable character traits they did not know they had.

Burned out because of high quotas, the sales-supervisor-now-marketing-specialist finds that his presentation skills can actually flourish in their new mandate of locking in partnerships. They can still wheel and deal without the dagger of a sales target looming before them.

During his transfer, the employee or assignee might undergo training or further knowledge to help them succeed in their new job. He might leap from doing by-the-numbers sales acquisition to create digital funnels that will draw in new online leads. At the end, all this new learning will become an advantage to them and can be used in other jobs and other engagements.

Global mobility managers and their assignees alike can see lateral transfers both as an investment in their careers, and a broadening of their professional horizons. One of the frustrations of assignees is that, after putting a lot of feathers under their belt, they have very little room to practice it in their current department.

Another source of discontent is that sometimes there is very little upward mobility. Lateral moves can allow them to stay in the same organization or same country or region while making an immense contribution — and at the same time preparing themselves for an unexpected opportunity.

Given the explosion of technology in cities like San Francisco and the attendant jobs they bring, a lateral transfer can ultimately make the assignee more well-rounded, multi-skilled, and more valued. Well, as long as it’s not just called a transfer.