I'm not quite sure just what career opportunities to provide our Senior Technical Individuals at the top of their career path when "no" management positions are available. We are considering dual career paths that would allow a highly technical individual to be at the same or higher grade level as a manager. But, there are issues in our company culture about having a manager in the same grade or a lower grade than individuals they manage. Any ideas?
Cheena Curtis, HR Manager, Memphis, TN.
Your dilemma is not a unique one.
Given the current market conditions in the IT/IS industry, a number of companies have justifiably created two separate career paths. Not everyone is suited for a management position, as not everyone is suited for a technical position. Some folks are just plain better at some things than others. It is a bad business decision to promote to a level of incompetence just to be able to provide a higher level of income.
Everybody loses--the employee, the department, and the company. We should not consider, as a primary option, promoting every senior technical professional into a management position but nor can we ignore the strengths they bring to an organization as highly skilled professionals. These professionals need to be rewarded for their skills and contributions as managers are rewarded for managing.
Creating separate job families for technical and management professionals, and utilizing broadbanding of the salary structure is one viable solution. This approach has been utilized successfully by a number of corporate organizations.
The Project Team approach is another that might be worth trying out--where teams, rather than individuals, are assigned separate projects. The senior technical individual now becomes the Team Lead reporting directly to top management. They are now in charge of running the project, but not at the sometimes high personal and professional price of becoming management.
Both of these approaches will probably require some modification in corporate culture in most companies this is a sizable challenge. Consider seeking the assistance of outside consultants for a more professional evaluation and opinion. Once given the support of IT executive management, the battle is half won.
The real questions are (1) how to continue to retain these individuals; (2) what is best for the organization; and (3) is the company prepared to do what it takes to modify the culture?
SOURCE: Careerpath.com, Los Angeles, CA, March 14, 2000.
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