Off the Career Ladder and onto the SWAT Team

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When Mervyn’s department stores of California discovered that talented

employees in merchandising were leaving because they were

tired of patiently serving time on the company’s one-size-fits-all career

path, the company came up with a creative solution. Several

managers suggested placing these restless individuals on unassigned

status where they would be called on to fill frequently occurring

staffing gaps in the company’s nine different divisions.

Those put on this ‘‘SWAT Team,’’ as it was called, found just

what they were looking for—a varied mix of responsibilities, new

contacts, new opportunities for growth and learning, and greater control

over their own schedules.

In the first year, the SWAT Team grew from nineteen members

to thirty-four. Several SWAT Team members have been recruited

into higher-level positions because of their increased exposure across

the company. By not holding to rigid ideas about traditional career

paths, Mervyn’s has created an exciting, prestigious, flexible alternative

that has allowed the company to hold on to talent they would

otherwise have lost.8