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Why you need to build career paths for non-managers

Rich Hein | Dec. 2, 2014
In competitive markets, such as technology and IT, organizations that don't create career paths for both management and nonmanagement roles risk losing some of their top talent.

Nathanson says that this group of individuals finds the job of management burdensome. They view the added responsibility of managing people and their careers as something that might take away from their own individual ambitions or passions. "I have seen people across all functions of companies who have zero desire to ever be a manager and some of them are the best performers too," says Nathanson.

Reed agrees, noting that most often he sees these individuals as being great workers who want to devote their time to being "hands on" with the technology, rather than, perhaps, facing the time investment in personnel matters by someone in a managerial role. "The common misconception is that not being on a management track may derail ones' career or come off as a desire to remain stagnant, but these are often highly motivated and skilled individuals who want to do impactful work and be productive," says Reed.

Where to Start
There are many assessment tools such as Predictive Index or 360 reviews, Nathanson says, that will provide insight and information on a candidate's aptitude for management. Or you can have workers act as a lead or mentor before promoting them to see how they fit. However, experts agree, the process should start with a one-on-one conversation with the management candidate to find out what his or her career ambitions are and what motivates them. For individuals who aren't looking to be promoted into a management position, it's important to find out if there is an equally acceptable nonmanagement career path and if there isn't one in place, then build it.

Some examples of nonmanagement roles that an organization might use to build nonmanagement career paths include roles such lead developer, project manager, software architect technical lead, team lead, architect, principal level engineer, distinguished engineer role, senior R&D position and program manager to name a few.

These roles do require some management and leadership but they allow employees to continue on as more of an individual contributor with a larger overall impact. "There is a certainly a 'manager lite' aspect in these more advanced roles, as there are certainly leadership expectations. They will be expected to provide recommendations, direction and solutions to the team while also maintaining a considerably hands-on function, "says Reed.

Is Management the Right Track?
The aforementioned conversation should also include a brief bit on what a management position is and what entails. Many employees will be able to articulate what they want but for those who are unsure. Reed says, "See if they have a realistic understanding of a 'day in the life' as a manager. Providing opportunities to utilize these skills before making any decisions is always a good indicator of potential success in the role."


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