This article was updated on Oct. 4, 2018.
A job rotation program moves employees through a variety of positions within or among departments, enabling them to gain exposure to different parts of the business while growing and expanding their skill sets. While job rotations can offer a multitude of advantages for employee and employer alike, there are certain areas in your organization that will reap greater rewards than others.
Here are three of those areas.
1. Employee Motivation and Retention
Job rotations motivate key, high-potential employees because they are seen by those employees as a company-made investment in their future. They retain talent because they foster learning opportunities. If a talented employee doesn't see any kind of growth opportunity, or if he or she is kept in the same position for too long, there is a turnover risk. By rotating that employee, you create more challenges, test adaptability to a new environment and manager and get the employee learning new skills.
2. Skills and Organizational Capacities Increase
Job rotations broaden skills because they expose employees to different functional areas of the company. When a research and development employee rotates to a sales position, for instance, they learn more about building relationships with customers, understanding their needs and how the whole sales cycle works. Employees gain a fuller picture of how the business works, which benefits all involved.
3. Rotations Build Employee Networks
Just as job rotations broaden skill sets, they also broaden employee networks, further preparing the rotated employee for leadership roles. Employees learn the different working styles and cultures within each area, as well, which encourages collaboration. They also provide the company with cross-functional capabilities, meaning that when someone suddenly quits or gets sick, the organization can call upon a deep bench of talent who is capable of filling different functional roles.
Hurdles to Success
HR leaders should be precise when implementing job rotation programs, maximizing benefits and minimizing problems. They should align rotations with the organization's HR strategy and use them to prepare high-potential employees for assuming leadership roles.
Here are four common challenges faced by HR leaders when implementing a program and four possible solutions:
1. Establishing value
Leadership doesn't recognize the value of job rotation, seeing it as a potential creator of chaos/musical chairs.
Solution: Gain the commitment of your leadership team by making the business case for job rotation as a tool to motivate, broaden skills, retain employees (especially younger ones) and develop cross-functional capabilities.
2. A loss of specialized skills
Job rotations can lead to a generalist mindset within an organization, meaning that employees know something about multiple areas while the company may prefer employees to know a lot about one area (i.e., have a more specialist mindset).
Solution: Define the departments and functional areas suitable for such a program. Remember, it may not be a good tool to develop the technical expertise your company needs, but it could be great for developing generalists and leaders. Setting up a leadership track alongside a specialist track may represent the best of both worlds.
3. A decrease in productivity
You'll be rotating someone out of a position where the employee is highly productive into a new position where they have a steep learning curve ahead, so you'll have to provide more support when rotating the now less capable employee into a new position. The rotated employee's new manager and colleagues may also find themselves less productive in the short term as they provide coverage.
Solution: Develop policies and standards to help managers and rotated employees navigate the program and introduce a structure of support, such as training, orientation for the rotated employee's manager and colleagues and mentoring programs.
4. Success Metric
How do you measure the success of job rotation programs?
Solution: Define criteria to evaluate the results. What skills has the rotated employee learned? How has the rotated employee used best practices from previous positions? How has the employee's manager and team learned from the employee, and vice versa? You'll likely want to collect regular feedback from the rotated employee, their manager and colleagues.
Although implementing a job rotation program may seem complex (it is), such programs offer tremendous benefits for employees and organizations alike.
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