Some employees can be hard to hold onto. Why? Employees, particularly millennials, want more opportunities to learn, grow, and advance their careers. In fact, job development is so important that 87% of millennials want it.
The good news is that your employees may be able to get the development they want without changing companies. Cue: job rotation program.
What is a job rotation?
Job rotation is a strategy where employees rotate between two or more jobs in the same business. Employees take on new tasks at a different job for a period of time before rotating back to their original position.
Generally, an employee’s pay remains the same. A rotation program doesn’t mean employees are promoted, although promotions do happen. Employees typically move laterally from job to job.
With a job rotation system, employees gain experience and skills by taking on new responsibilities. Rotations are meant to promote flexibility, employee engagement, and retention.
Job rotation advantages and disadvantages
Whether you want to boost retention or encourage development, a workplace rotation program could help you take things up a notch.
Intrigued? Before implementing the system, weigh the job rotation pros and cons.
Advantages of job rotation
Many employers who choose to create a job rotation policy do so as an employee benefit. But, employees aren’t the only ones who reap the rotation program benefits.
Consider these benefits of a job rotation program for both employees and employers.
1. Eliminates boredom
Thirty-six percent. That’s how many U.S. employees are actually engaged in their jobs, according to a Gallup poll.
If that’s true for all workplaces, that means 64% of employees are: A) unenthusiastic, B) unsatisfied, C) have low morale, or D) all of the above.
Yikes. The last thing you want is a team filled with employees who are going through the motions without the engagement to help grow your business. Not to mention, hiring managers can lure disengaged employees away by promises of a better, more challenging job.
Giving employees new responsibilities won’t solve all your problems. But, it could help employees become engaged and prevent boredom.
For the most part, disengagement is a gradual thing. Typically, an employee doesn’t go from 100% engaged on a Monday to 0% disengaged on a Tuesday. By mixing up responsibilities every so often, a job rotation program may help prevent a gradual decline into disengagement territory.
2. Encourages development
Knowing how to do job ABC like the back of your hand is great. But, it can also be limiting. A job rotation strategy helps employees develop other skills they can use not only in other positions but in their main role, too.
- Make an employee feel more valuable
- Boost morale
- Increase engagement
- Improve knowledge
Employees who work at a company that encourages their development might not feel the need to change jobs. Instead of leaving your business for a new job that helps an employee develop, they can rotate jobs.
3. Gives employees a break from strenuous job duties
If an employee’s job is physically (or even mentally) exhausting 24/7, fatigue and disengagement can creep in.
Industries that require heavy-duty labor use job rotation strategies. Overworked employees who are constantly doing manual labor benefit from getting a break. By rotating their jobs, you help offset the risk of fatigue and possibly injury.
For example, you could have a warehouse employee who lifts heavy packages for deliveries rotate to a job that handles the paperwork for shipping.
4. Helps you identify where employees work best
People can be surprising. Whether it’s hidden talents, skills, or knowledge, you might not know all there is to know about an employee. And that could be hurting the employee’s engagement and your business.
A job rotation strategy can point out an employee’s strengths and weaknesses. You might find that an employee is stronger in a different job at your business.
After all, you need to have all your employees in the right roles for business growth and efficiency.
5. Provides a backup plan if an employee leaves
Although employee turnover can be expensive (just calculate your employee turnover rate to see how expensive), it doesn’t have to be devastating. By having a job rotation plan, you have multiple employees who know how to do each job.
If an employee leaves, you won’t need to scramble to hire the first person you see. Instead, you have other employees capable of covering the separated employee’s tasks.
And if you do need to hire a replacement, you can take your time to find the right fit.
Disadvantages of job rotation
Hold up: Not all businesses can implement job rotations successfully. Take a look at these job workplace program cons.
1. Can be costly and time-consuming
When an employee takes on a new role, they don’t magically have their new responsibilities down pat. There’s a learning curve.
Employees might need training to do their new job, which can be costly (we’re talking thousands of dollars) and time-consuming (hours and hours). According to the Association for Talent Development, these are the averages for training employees:
- Cost: $1,252
- Time: 33 hours
Although you may not need to spend quite that much money and time on a lateral shift, you should still consider it.
2. Could end up with disgruntled employees
Some employees might not want to rotate jobs. An employee who is comfortable and successful in their current position may worry another employee would mess up their process.
You might have some employees who excel at their jobs and aren’t willing to learn new things unrelated to those jobs. And, you could see employees who are stressed out at the prospect of changing their jobs.
3. It won’t fix all your problems
Job rotation programs aren’t guaranteed to increase employee engagement, so don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Disengagement could be due to other factors.
Other reasons for disengagement include:
- Lack of positive reinforcement
- Disconnect with company culture
- Poor communication and management
Don’t use a job rotation program for the sole purpose of making employees happy before getting to the root of their problems first.
4. Might not be feasible for some industries
For some industries and positions, job rotation is not realistic. This is especially true in highly skilled positions where employees need years of training to do their jobs.
If you want to implement a job rotation program in your business, make sure it’s possible. Don’t waste effort on something that won’t work.
5. Your business could suffer
One of the most devastating disadvantages of job rotation is that your business could take a hit. Because employees are learning new skills, there could be some errors. Customers could become frustrated by confused employees who make mistakes. And if operations don’t run smoothly, your bottom line could suffer.
Consider how job rotation could help your business. You don’t want slow operations, confused employees, and angry customers in the process.
Implementing a job rotation program
Decided to pursue a job rotation system? Great! For a successful program, you need to follow these job rotation best practices:
- Set goals
- Create guidelines
- Analyze it
1. Set goals
What is the point of having employees rotate jobs in your business? What do you hope to accomplish with your job rotation program?
Set and define job rotation goals. For example, your goals may include:
- Developing employee knowledge
- Giving employees more stake in the business
- Enhancing employee skills
- Preventing burnout
2. Create guidelines
What does your program look like? Lay down the who, what, where, when, why, and how of your program through detailed guidelines.
- Who will rotate?
- What is the protocol for rotating (e.g., do employees initiate, managers, etc.)?
- Where will employees rotate to?
- When will they rotate?
- Why will employees rotate jobs?
- How will you get employees set up in new positions?
Consider adding your guidelines to your employee handbook so employees can reference them as needed.
3. Analyze it
How’s it going? Are there any kinks in the program you need to work out? Once you get your workplace rotation up and running, determine whether it’s working or not.
Analyze your program to learn:
- How your employees are benefiting from it
- How your business is benefiting from it
Consider asking employees for feedback (e.g., surveys) that ask for engagement, morale, satisfaction with the rotation, etc. Feedback can help you judge the effectiveness of the program from the employees’ perspectives.
This article has been updated from its original publication date of November 27, 2017.This is not intended as legal advice; for more information, please click here.