Want to get ahead but don’t want to manage people? You need a job with dual-track promotion

What if the conventional path to career advancement and leadership didn’t insist on the pivotal, yet frequently ill-suited role of people management? The truth is, not every employee is cut out for—or interested in—people management.

It turns out, exceptional individual performers do not always translate into exceptional managers. Sometimes they’re trying so hard to make a cat bark like a dog that they’re in a constant state of stress and anxiety, with their impostor syndrome going through the roof.

There are also plenty of alarming statistics about the challenges that middle managers face. Research from a new McKinsey Global Survey indicates that 53% of middle managers say they’re overwhelmed in work, and 51% say it’s impossible to give all of their direct reports the one-on-one time they need.

According to data from Capterra’s middle management survey, nearly three in four middle managers globally say they “sometimes” or “always” feel burned out at work.

Career progression is changing

This revelation is prompting a pivotal shift in how companies view career progression. Meta and X (formerly Twitter) made headlines in 2023 by eliminating or demoting entire levels of middle management.

In March of that year, the Canadian ecommerce giant Shopify split its career ladder into two tracks, “crafter” for individual contributors and “manager” for aspiring leaders. This allows individuals to advance in their areas of expertise and passion, rather than forcing them into roles that may not suit their skills or interests.

Under Shopify’s dual-track framework, individual contributors or crafters can ascend in their careers without the implicit necessity to manage people, but they’re regarded as leaders and are compensated accordingly. Offering a distinct managerial track has helped to empower individuals who have a genuine interest and skill in leadership and people management to pursue those roles.

This innovation in career advancement is not occurring in a vacuum. Walmart Global Tech launched a Fellow program which fosters growth in individual expertise, without mandating a shift to managerial roles.

Google’s engineering teams have created an “individual contributor” career path that is more prestigious than the manager path, and sidesteps management entirely. Similarly, at Mastercard, employees can either progress as consultants (functional) or leaders (managerial).

The company already has these defined paths in project management and sales, and plans to implement them in product development, marketing and communications.

BP has triple tracks: functional specialists, functional leaders and business leaders, and Rolls Royce also has three tracks for promotion in the form of specialist roles, technical manager and project manager.

Dual track advantages

The biggest impact of the system is that it gives agency to people to choose the path that they’re most passionate about while still experiencing career growth.

Furthermore, recognizing and rewarding excellence in individual contributors decreases the likelihood of losing top talent to competitors while fostering a workplace where employees feel valued for their unique contributions.

Not without challenges

Organizations may face difficulties in creating clear criteria for advancement and aligning the dual track system with existing compensation and benefits structures. Additionally, managing expectations and ensuring fairness between employees on different career paths can be complex, requiring ongoing monitoring and evaluation.

Nevertheless, as companies strive to become more adaptive and employee-friendly, we could see more organizations embracing this dual track strategy or similar models, leading to a profound evolution in how we think about work, leadership, and career development.

If you’re looking for opportunities with companies that demonstrate a committed dedication to employee experience, visit The Hill Jobs Board where you can browse a wide selection of open roles right now. Here are three companies hiring this week.

The Joint Commission has an open position for a Senior Assistant General Counsel who will offer general legal support and legal counsel on federal and state laws related to health care, data management, lobbying, government contracts, administrative procedure act, and contracts.

Applicants must have a Bachelor’s degree and Juris Doctor from an accredited law school and hold a current professional license in DC. Eight to 15 years’ of experience is required and preference will be given to candidates with in-house health law experience.

Indiana University Research is looking to recruit an Executive Director of Federal Agency R&D Relations to lead and direct responses to the grand funding opportunities in the U.S. federal agencies. Ideally, you’ll have a Phd or an MD in a STEM discipline or a health science.

You’ll also have three years’ prior experience as a program director/manager within a federal funding agency, and a proven track record of leading successfully-funded research and/or education-based teams as a Principal Investigator. This position offers flexible working options (DC-based or Indy-based).

Legislative and Public Policy Practice Group, Arnold & Porter is seeking a Senior Policy Specialist for its DC office. Alongside executive branch political appointees and a bipartisan group of congressional staff alumni, you’ll advocate for clients before the United States Congress and the departments and agencies of the Executive branch. Qualified candidates will have a Bachelor’s degree and possess at least three years’ of experience working in Congress, an Executive branch department or agency, or for a corporation in government relations. Experience working on education, appropriations, transportation, and technology is preferred but not essential.

For more career opportunities and to find a role that suits your life, visit the Hill Jobs Board today

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