Job rotation is a popular practice at many companies, and for good reason. It energizes and educates employees, boosting retention while strengthening resources. However, when you’re dealing with “moving parts”, there are certain best practices that must be followed to ensure that things continue to function smoothly.
What Is Job Rotation?
Job rotation is an organizational development tactic that involves encouraging workers to try new roles within their company. The roles are temporary and tend to be within the same department, and on the same level of the hierarchy. This means, for example, that a production worker rotates to another job related to production, such as shipping or inventory. They don’t move to a management role (but this is definitely a possibility for companies with programs such as leadership development and talent development).
The Benefits of Job Rotation
Job rotation makes for a definite win-win situation. With minimal effort and resources, job rotation can serve the company’s interests and give the employee new opportunities – even if it only means a temporary break from their usual job.
Job rotation allows employees to learn more about different functions, people, departments, and strategy. Those who go through a job rotation program will come out of it with improved skills, knowledge, and abilities, and that’s a plus for everyone.
Sometimes employees leave without warning, and it can require a lot of time and money to replace them. In addition, chances are that it will take their replacement a while to get up to speed. A job rotation can avoid all of these hassles.
Similarly, if a worker is sick for a while or needs extended leave, somebody who has rotated through their position can take over. There’s no need for HR to find a replacement, just for the replacement to be released when the regular employee comes back.
Many leading companies provide job rotation opportunities. Getting the word out that your organization offers one will appeal to potential hires who are looking to gain experience and skills as the background for an upwardly mobile career.
Many job rotation programs are for new hires. When they get the chance to work in various roles, both they and the organization get a chance to find out which ones are the best fit for the employee’s skills. It’s also a convenient time to discover what roles the person enjoys the most, as a way to increase retention.
One of the reasons that employees request a job rotation is that they are just plain bored. Perhaps they have been in the same position for too long, or they are not well suited for it to begin with. Job rotation gives them a chance to try something that might appeal to them so that they stay longer with their employer.
Once the engagement is finished, an employee might like the role so much that they become involved in other activities, like talent development or leadership programs, to increase the possibility of an eventual move.
Who Should Participate in a Job Rotation Program?
Learning more about the people, functions, and capabilities of your company has no downside. Any organization that wants to enhance the synergies that result from such knowledge can include:
Lower level employees
It’s often the case that, the further down the hierarchy you are, the more limited your view of the “big picture”. But by understanding their fit in the organization, employees can take part in effective problem solving, get to know more people, and have a better feel for how they can support other departments.
Any manager who is headed for senior positions needs to know how the company functions as a whole. This is because they might be in charge of a department other than the one they are in presently. Or, they might need to cooperate with an otherwise unfamiliar section of the organization.
HR people affect the entire company, but often don’t have much of an idea about what goes on in the roles that they hire for. Getting to spend some time “in the trenches” can provide a lot of insights towards what skills and personality types are best for certain positions, and it never hurts to meet employees outside the usual review sessions. Another possible take on HR job rotation is to put employees from other departments in HR for a little while so that they understand more about what services HR provides, and how they can make life for the HR staff a bit easier.
What Types of Companies Use Job Rotation?
As the below examples show, job rotation is offered by companies in a variety of industries. Some of these programs even go on for years. Clearly, these companies invest a lot of resources in job rotation because they see a lot of benefits from them.
HSBC is a major banking and financial services company. As a large multinational, it has many branches throughout the world with lots of slots for job rotation. Even interns can participate in rotations to both different geographical locations and operational areas. For example, HSBC Holdings offers an 18-month rotation program through relationship management, global trade, and receivables finance. They also provide a digital-focused rotation program that lasts two years.
This medical device and health care corporation provides development programs that focus on recent hires. The programs last for two to three years, and involve rotations to departments including finance, IT, manufacturing, quality assurance, engineering, and environmental health. Even within these categories, participants take on a variety of roles and work in different locations.
As one of the Big Four accounting firms, Deloitte employs about 350,000 people across the world. They provide huge choices for job rotations through their Global Mobility program. These temporary assignments can last only a few months, for the length of a project, or for an extended period, depending on Deloitte’s needs and the employee’s interests. Deloitte also has a secondment program that enables employees to move to different geographical locations for the long term.
National Football League (NFL)
Even professional sports are in on the game. NFL administrative employees who are part of its Junior Rotational Program can move between project-based assignments for up to a year. Departments include operations, events, public affairs, communications, and international business (the NFL has branches in Mexico and the UK).
Alternatives and Additions to Job Rotation
Job rotation is a tactic because it is only one of the many ways for this type of organizational development to happen. The goal of job rotation is to improve skills (among other advantages) by exposing the employee to new roles, but there are also other methods to accomplish this. These include:
- Informal roles – a different capacity outside of normal working hours to just give things a try
- Secondments – moving to an entirely different team or even to another organization; this sometimes happens with close supplier/buyer relationships and gives the employee greater insight for improving the relationship
- Physical relocation – working at a distant branch of the same company, which can help with inter-business transactions and cultural understanding
- Job shadowing – accompanying a more experienced colleague or manager as they perform their daily tasks
- Workshops – discussing various roles in a group setting
- Cross training – working in a department that is closely related to where the employee is currently; an example would be a salesperson moving to the marketing department for a while so that they are familiar with both jobs
Depending on the nature of the job and the career path of the employee, it’s possible for HR to “mix and match” these opportunities. For example, an employee can start off with a simple job shadowing assignment when they first start working at a company (job shadowing is seen as an ideal form of onboarding). Later on, job rotation can be used so that the worker gets to know more about how the company functions beyond what’s involved directly in their particular role.
Best Practices for Job Rotation
Job rotation can be highly beneficial, but if not done properly, it might backfire. Employees and organizations that don’t experience the benefits that they foresee will regret the time and other resources that were invested. An organization considering job rotation should keep the following in mind:
HR practitioners need to explain the temporary nature of the program, the efforts that it will require, and also emphasize that it is not a guarantee of moving up the career ladder – but that it definitely helps. This is particularly true when thinking about low levels of internal promotions.
Match career paths to roles
The optimal way to implement job rotation is by making it part of a career pathing / career management program. The results of a career pathing effort will provide a clear guide as to what kinds of jobs the employee should experience.
Set goals, timelines, and measurement methods
With the employee’s career path in mind, HR should create a job rotation schedule similar to a career development plan. The employee should also be interviewed before and after each rotation to determine if they have acquired new skills and if they liked the program.
Job rotation will probably interfere with a worker’s productivity. HR and management should cooperate to minimize disruptions. This can be accomplished by initiating the program during periods of low demand and/or replacing the employee with another who is also rotating through.
It’s almost certain that any employee in a job rotation program will require at least some skill training because they are taking on a new role. If there is time, the worker should receive the relevant L&D courses in advance. It’s also likely that certain skill shortcomings will be noticed on the job, and that will also require correction. Finally, employees might want to develop certain skills so that, if a permanent assignment ever comes up, they will be ready. Note that mentoring can be a great medium for skill training on the fly in a job rotation program.
GrowthSpace and Job Rotation
Before, during, and after a job rotation program, many employees will discover that they don’t have all the skills that they need. The answer to this is customized L&D programs that can handle upskilling and reskilling to the highest levels of competency.
To make the most out of your job rotation initiative, call on GrowthSpace. Its multi-experience talent development program matches skill training needs to top experts in each field, enabling your most ambitious employees to fulfill their professional dreams and your HR objectives.