Managers find way to the top is blocked

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The Independent Online
WHAT managers at BP, BT and countless other organisations around the world have long suspected has been proven by research: the career ladder is on its way out.

For the first time more managers were forced to move jobs last year than chose to go, according to research published today by the Institute of Management.

The growing trend towards restructuring is making managers increasingly subject to job changes imposed by their employers. Moreover, the arrival of flatter organisations means that upward moves are less likely than sideways ones - or even redundancy.

The report, Are Career Ladders Disappearing?, which tracked job changes by more than 800 managers over the past 13 years, found that the economic climate had little to do with the increasing frequency of job changes. Instead, structural changes in business meant that the number of upward moves had shrunk nearly 40 per cent since the peak in 1987, while the number of horizontal or downward moves had doubled since 1980.

The recession has taken a toll of management jobs. In the mid-1980s just 1 or 2 per cent of those surveyed were made redundant in a year, but last year more than 7 per cent of managers were unemployed.

Roger Young, director-general of the Institute of Management, echoed the view that traditional promotion is being replaced by emphasis on movement between projects. 'The myth of traditional steady progress up the management ladder has finally been shattered - if it ever existed,' he said of the study carried out by Professor Kerr Inkson of Auckland University in collaboration with the institute and Edinburgh University.

'Managers must be prepared for a job move at any time and to seize each change as an opportunity rather than a threat. But they will only be able to do so if their portfolio of skills is right up to date. Sideways moves around the organisation will become the norm. These will give the scope for personal development that traditionally came from upward progress.'

But he added that if organisations failed to stimulate and develop those managers whose path to the top was blocked, morale could suffer.