Today’s workers are constantly looking for something refreshing and new. This thirst for new challenges has posed a problem for many employers, who must learn new ways to train and maintain employee motivation at high levels.

One of the strategies employers are utilizing is job rotation. It’s a strategy used to keep employees challenged and motivated, as well as to provide tangible benefits to the organization.

Setting up a Job Rotation Program in Your Company

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In this guide, we’ll look at job rotational programs and explain how they operate. We outline the benefits to both the employer and the employee, before setting out a three-step plan for implementing the strategy in your organization. Finally, we’ll also discuss some of the pitfalls of this strategy.

WHAT IS A JOB ROTATIONAL PROGRAM?

Job rotational program refers to a human resources (HR) strategy, in which organizations move around employees from one job to another.

Under the program, the employee will work in different positions within the organization, instead of spending all their time in a single position. In certain situations, it can even help identify the best people for specific positions, as you are testing employees’ skills in different roles.

Job rotation is typically done either within a department or a team, but there are occasions it can also be done within the entire organization. In these cases, the switch can take place between departments. This can depend largely on the type of organization in question, as well as the roles part of the program.

Job rotational programs are used to identify, assess and develop the organization’s talent readiness. In essence, job rotation serves two specific purposes:

  • It nurtures future talent: Provides the top talent within the organization a broader experience, which can be beneficial in future roles. For example, in terms of management skill development.
  • It cross-trains employees: The employees gain better understanding of the different roles and the ‘big picture’, which can help understand how the organization operates. The deeper understanding can improve the employee’s ability to work in their regular job position.

The program is therefore efficient in preparing the organization for future challenges. It can strengthen the position of the organization in the face of uncertainty, whether it is arising from within the organization or outside of it.

Job rotational programs typically run within specific time intervals. The length of the program can vary from business to business. The minimum length generally falls around a week, with the top length programs running for a few months.

The program is suitable for all types of organizations operating in different industries. Susan Hearthfield, a HR consultant, said in a Cornerstone interview, “I can’t think of a single industry that wouldn’t benefit from job rotation”. She continued by stating, “It helps employees spread their wings and extend their boundaries”.

Let’s next turn our attention to these benefits in more detail.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF JOB ROTATION?

Job rotation provides a number of benefits to both employees and the employer. Since the advantages on offer are available for both, job rotational program can be much easier to implement in an effortless manner.

Advantages for the employee

The main benefits for employees centre on motivation and knowledge development. A job rotational program can:

  • Increase employee’s job motivation. The tasks differ and the employee is able to try new things as part of the job. This can make a workday much more interesting, as well as challenging, since no workday will be alike.
  • Enhance the employee’s understanding of his or her personal interests and talents. They can find out where their true passion lies and discover new skills they didn’t know they had. This can improve their ability to perform different tasks and increase motivation to learn. The discovery of interests and talents can be especially beneficial among younger employees, who still lack the experience of the work world.
  • Provide better networking opportunities within the organization. As the employee moves from a team to another or a department to another, they are able to make connections, which can be important in terms of future career opportunities.
  • Boost knowledge and performance of the employee. Working in different jobs is a great way to gain more knowledge and in turn, boost performance in the required jobs. The need to adapt to new situations and to acquire new skills quickly will also improve problem-solving skills.

Advantages for the employer

But job rotation isn’t just about improving employee motivation and satisfaction. There are tangible advantages for the organization as well. The program can help the employer:

  • Decrease attrition rate. As the employees feel more satisfied and motivated with their job, the attrition rate, or the employee turnover, will drop as a result.
  • Notice improved productivity. Employee satisfaction, as well as the increase in employee knowledge and skill set, can also help drive up the organization’s overall productivity rate.
  • Find hidden talent and nurture existing talent. As mentioned above, employees can discover hidden talents by participating in a job rotation program, which is naturally helpful for the employer. Identifying future talent potential becomes easier and the organization is better able to ensure employees do the jobs that they are the most suited to do.
  • Enjoy a more flexible workforce. Preparing people for different jobs can increase the flexibility of the workforce. This means that situations, such as parental leaves or employee sickness, don’t leave the organization into a mess. Responding to changes in the workforce can be better managed, which will improve the organization’s operational strength.
  • Enhance team building across departments. The company culture can benefit from the job rotation, as people from different departments mix and create connections.

Below is a short video representation of job rotation and its benefits:

THREE STEPS TO SETTING UP A JOB ROTATIONAL PROGRAM

While the benefits of a job rotational program are multiple and impact both employees and the employer, organizations shouldn’t approach the program lightly. Proper implementation of the program is necessary for success.

There are three core elements to an effective job rotational program:

A clear purpose for the process

Before the organization sets out to implement a job rotation, it must define the purpose for doing so. The organization should answer two questions:

  • Why implement the program? The program doesn’t always make sense. For example, a specific department might be highly specialized, in which case job rotation can be difficult and too costly. You need to therefore understand the reason for implementing the program.
  • What does the organization want to achieve? What are the specific outcomes the organization is set to achieve?

A well-laid out plan

Once the purpose and the objectives are clear, it is essential to draft a plan for implementation. The main questions to answer regarding the plan include:

  • How can the organization achieve the goals?
  • What are the problems the organization might encounter?

A proper assessment to measure success

The final core element involves assessing the effectiveness of the program. It’s not sensible to continue with the job rotation if it doesn’t achieve the goals or provide any other benefits to the organization or the employee. In order to establish proper assessment, the organization must answer questions such as:

  • What are the key metrics that highlight success?
  • How does the organization know it’s achieved the goals?

Let’s now examine the three core elements further by outlining the three steps to a successful job rotational program.

Step 1: Define a purpose for the program

The first step involves outlining the objectives for the job rotational program. The organization must approach the goal setting by figuring out:

  • What the organization hopes to achieve?
  • Which employees or departments should be involved?

It’s a good idea to examine the organization and recognize any vulnerabilities that should be solved. These could be specific roles or departments within the organization.

Furthermore, the vulnerability could be something like a group of people approaching retirement age within certain departments. The objective could also be about growing a specific aspect of the organization, such as increasing productivity.

Step 2: Draw a plan for the process

Once the goals are laid out, you need to start drafting a plan for implementing the program. There are three essential steps to creating a plan of action:

Outlining the program size, the structure and the duration. You should start from a single project first, as you don’t want to cause too much disruption straight away. Implementing the project within a single department, for example, can ensure you discover the pain points and get to tweak your plan further before expanding the program.

When selecting the length of the program try to aim for a balance. You don’t want the program the be short for employees to not be able to learn the new job, but you also don’t want it to be too long in duration to make swapping to yet another position too difficult.

Developing a proper job profile system. It’s important to create a proper job profile leaflet to ensure employees can read about the new job roles in advance. The profile should answer the following questions:

  • What are the key aspects of each role?
  • What are the skills needed to perform the role?

You should also think about the training structure. How are the employees trained to each role? What is needed to guarantee the training is sufficient?

Including a strong mentoring program. Mentoring is an essential part of a strong job rotational program. It’s crucial employees experiencing these new roles have mentors available to spur them on, but you also want to provide mentoring for the trainers and managers. This can help the participants feel more relaxed and supported, as well as provide them with crucial networking opportunities.

The organization must always present the job rotational program plan to the employees before implementing it. Be aware that the program isn’t always welcomed with open arms and you must provide adequate information, as well as time to settle, before you launch the experiment.

It’s essential to focus your communication on discussing the goals and intentions behind the program. Emphasize the benefits of the program to the employees clearly, as better understanding of them can create excitement among the employees.

Step 3: Create an evaluation process for each role

Finally, you need to introduce measures to examine the program’s success. You can’t fully appreciate the effectiveness of your job rotation if you don’t measure metrics or ask for feedback.

First, the creation of a strong feedback culture is essential. You should remember to gather and analyze feedback from different sectors within the organization, not just the ones directly involved with the program. The whole organization should be involved, as the benefits of a job rotational program can unexpectedly spill over to other departments.

For example, the HR department might notice job retention improves, even if you weren’t aiming for it as an objective.

Furthermore, you shouldn’t be just gathering feedback, but also providing it to participants. It’s important trainers, management and the employees get positive feedback, as this can boost their motivation and commitment to the program.

Second, you should create an evaluation process for each role part of the program. The evaluation process should be individualized for each participant and focus on the before and after skill set. First, you should outline the skills the employee possessed before the program and the specific role and then evaluate how the skills changed after involvement in the program.

Ensure you measure the progress and development at intervals, not just at the start and the end. Interval analysis can reveal certain problems and help you fix them before they turn into a bigger issue.

For example, if the employee isn’t gaining any new skills and is running low on motivation, you can hold meetings to try to change certain things around.

THE PITFALLS YOU MUST AVOID

As discussed earlier, it takes plenty of planning to set up an effective job rotational program. The above three steps will help an organization set up the program efficiently, but there are certain pitfalls organizations must be aware of.

The most common mistakes organizations tend to make with job rotation include:

An inflexible plan

The plan to use should be flexible enough, as things don’t always go according to plan. During planning, implementation and the assessment the organization might find aspects of the program problematic or challenging. If at any point the plan is not found to be working properly, it must be flexible enough to be changed and tweaked.

Most often, the things that should be effortlessly changed at any time include:

  • The duration of the program. Ensure the length can be shortened or slightly increased if needed.
  • The employee’s decision to stop participating. Sometimes employees might find themselves out of their depths midway to a job rotation. As mentioned above, participation shouldn’t be forceful and this includes the ability to leave in the middle of the program.
  • The jobs and roles of the program. As well as changing the length of the program, you should also be prepared to swap around the jobs and roles. Certain position might turn out to be a bad mix and you don’t want to waste time and resources keeping people in roles, which are not suited for job rotation.

Underestimating the workload

While the benefits of job rotation are plentiful, you shouldn’t expect for a miracle. Even though employees can benefit from this program, not everyone will get on board immediately. Convincing everyone in the organization to participate in the project will be a tough ask.

Furthermore, the implementation process will take time and require an organization-wide effort. The training part, especially, will be a learning curve at the start. Therefore, creating a solid and flexible plan will be crucial for the project to succeed.

It is essential to support the employees throughout the process. The process of swapping jobs with someone can turn out to be a stressful experience, even if the employee was looking forward to.

In addition, the mentoring of employees and providing them with feedback will also increase the workload of employees and managers. It’s important to evaluate this increase in workload to guarantee it doesn’t interfere with the person’s ability to perform other tasks and roles.

Insufficient focus only on company goals and benefits

Finally, when you are defining the goals of the project, you must pay attention obtaining employee feedback and ideas.

If you narrowly focus only on the benefits to the company, the process won’t provide the same levels of success a more comprehensive set of goals would. The objectives you want to achieve should reflect both the needs of the organization and the employee.

THE FINAL WORD

A job rotational program can be a useful strategy for most organizations. It tends to work efficiently, as it doesn’t just benefit the company, but also provides advantages for the employees.

Nonetheless, implementing this program requires plenty of planning and careful consideration. If the organization manages to outline its objectives, creates a strong support structure and measures the program’s effectiveness, then job rotation can help in employee satisfaction and productivity.

Organizations can not only boost their bottom line, but also ensure employees learn the required skills to be more flexible and feel challenged enough to want to continue to be part of the organization.

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2 comments

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1

Thank your for such an insightful post. My question is: how do you assess the performance of individuals doing short-term (1 year) rotations in a different part of the organization? Given the learning curve and the focus on development, should those individuals be compared to others in the organization who are in similar roles full-time (not on rotations)? Thank you!

2
Guillaume DIAKI

Thanks