Today only 15% of employees say they are engaged in their work. One of the main reasons employees are checking out? They aren’t being challenged with diverse experiences to develop their skill sets. So, how can you boost employee engagement at your company? Job rotation.
Job rotation is a technique used by business owners and managers to increase employee learning and job satisfaction as well as prevent turnover. It means moving employees between different positions within the company. This fosters professional development and improves engagement.
But how can you tell if job rotation is right for your company? Let’s explore its advantages and disadvantages to help you figure this out.
But First, What Is Job Rotation, Exactly?
Job rotation is the practice of switching employees between two or more positions within a company over a certain period. It is a prominent technique in organizational psychology.
Job rotation is typically horizontal. This means it’s not a promotion, as team members usually switch between roles that are on the same level at the company. Still, job rotation can lead to promotions, as it prepares employees to take on diverse responsibilities.
Let’s consider a common job rotation example. Marc is a Payroll Officer, but he wants to expand his knowledge of HR, safety and recruiting.
Since his manager has set up a job rotation program, Marc can switch to new jobs in these fields. He can gather the new competencies directly on the job. Later on, he can move back to his initial role, or continue expanding his knowledge in HR, or elsewhere. Marc's rotation could look something like this:
What Is The Purpose Of Job Rotation?
When team members rotate from one position to another, they learn new skills and grow. They get new responsibilities, which brings a sense of freshness and novelty. Employees can also explore different teams and boost their network within the company. Ultimately, job rotation can increase job satisfaction.
For companies, job rotation creates a solid roadmap to prevent losing internal know-how. It helps make an organization more flexible and internally connected. As it creates new opportunities for employees, it also helps with retaining talent.
Rotation can be used alongside other job design strategies, such as job enlargement or increasing an employee’s responsibilities within an organization rather than switching the person to another position, as rotation does.
The Job Rotation Pros And Cons
Is job rotation a good idea for your business?
Here are the most common positives and negatives to guide your assessment.
The Advantages Of Job Rotation
The benefits of job rotation are certainly numerous—both for employees and employers.
#1. Provides Learning Opportunities
One of the biggest benefits of job rotation is that it encourages employees to learn and grow. They can gain valuable experience and new skills by taking on different positions within the same company. Cross-training boosts not only the employee experience but their contribution to the business too.
Besides gaining specific new skills, job rotation allows staff members to gain an overview of how the organization works. They get to know different departments and how they work together, which helps employees better understand the company.
#2. Boosts Motivation & Retention
Job rotation allows team members to explore their professional interests without having to leave the company. This is a great opportunity to check whether a new field is a good fit without the risk of quitting. This, in turns, help you retain your employees longer.
When team members regularly switch different jobs, they can diversify their day-to-day work and avoid monotony. This can significantly boost employee engagement and job satisfaction. With new challenges and opportunities to learn, staff members can escape the boredom of working the same job for years, and improve their career development. It’s no wonder that 94% of employees say they would prolong their work at a company if provided with learning opportunities. Job enrichment matters.
#3. Allows Employees To Switch Off From Difficult Duties
Rotation programs allow employees to get relief from strenuous duties and avoid job burnout. This is especially helpful in manual labor jobs where physical fatigue can be significant, or in high-stress positions where mental strain takes its toll.
This, in turn, can help reduce employee turnover at your organization. Retaining staff is more difficult than hiring for 63.3% of small businesses, so it’s worth trying. When people have the feeling they are stuck in a burdensome position, they could hold it for a while, but eventually could also quit. If team members can explore other skill sets, they’ll come back to their duties refreshed.
#4. Enhances Connectivity Within The Organization
When employees rotate between different departments within an organization, they can get to know more of their colleagues. This is a good opportunity to create new professional connections, as well as friendships. It can boost people’s feeling of belonging to the company, as well as overall employee morale.
From the organization’s point of view, job rotation can improve team building within and across teams and departments. As staff members get to know each other, they are better connected and can function as one team.
#5. Helps You Discover Employees’ Strengths
Job rotation provides a chance for team members to step out of their comfort zone and explore different skill sets. They can learn what they’re good at, and so can you. It’s a great human resource management technique to assess the strengths of your team members in practical situations.
Once you know where each person performs best, you can allocate different tasks between team members in the most efficient way. You can also find hidden talents. This approach can improve productivity, as well as help employees feel valued and satisfied.
#6. Makes The Organization More Flexible
You can use job rotation as a backup plan when team members leave. Turnover is rarely a good thing, but you can minimize the collateral damage. With rotation, several people can get trained to handle a job, rather than relying on a seemingly irreplaceable person.
This brings flexibility to the organization on other levels as well. Employees can easily replace each other if necessary. When a staff member takes a holiday or goes on parental leave, the disruption is minimized. The same goes for succession planning for retiring team members.
The Disadvantages Of Job Rotation
It’s worth knowing the potential downsides of a rotation program as well. Here are the important ones:
#1. Requires Extra Resources
Before you craft a job rotation system, you should calculate the upfront investment it may require. Training is not cheap, however meaningful it is. It also takes time for other employees to mentor their colleagues.
When team members start on a new position, there is an inevitable learning curve. Employees need time to master new skills, which can lead to inefficiencies along the way.
#2. May Cause Employee Frustration
While the purpose of job rotation is to increase employee satisfaction, it may also lead to frustration. Frequent changes to different job positions can be tiring for people. It can take a lot of time to learn a new job, not to mention a lot of concentration too. For example, if a team member is just getting up to speed with their new tasks, being moved to a new role can be highly demotivating.
Job rotation may be unpleasantly stressful for some people, or they may have adjustment issues. Others may just want to get better in a single field rather than covering several ones. It’s important to note these personal preferences so you can avoid any unnecessary employee turnover.
#3. May Lead To Lower Work Quality
Rotation programs may have another downfall: a rise in work errors. As employees learn how to handle a new position, their lack of experience can bring down overall quality. If there isn’t a trained team member to check the final product, this can turn into a serious issue.
If your business works directly with clients, this could lead to lower customer satisfaction. There may be frequent interruptions in service or clumsy communication. As customers notice more mistakes or subpar services, they may not use your company anymore. Long story short: If job rotation is not done right, it could impact your bottom line.
Tips For A Successful Job Rotation Program
Setting up a working job rotation system entails good planning. Here’s how to go about it.
Create A Solid Plan
A successful job rotation program starts with defining clear objectives and making a detailed strategy.
You need to include the following in your plan:
- Analyze and select critical job positions that should participate
- Define development techniques, including mentoring and training
- Find employees who can take part in the program
- Interview employees and determine their attitude towards rotating jobs
- Assign approved employees to different new positions
It’s easier to start with one team or one department. That way you can test-run the rotation plan in safe mode. Then you can move on to switching employees around in other departments.
Once the program is in motion, you should ensure there is continuous support. Doing regular evaluations is a good idea, as is setting up a reward system for performance.
Estimate The Right Duration
A key ingredient for a winning rotation strategy is getting the timing right. This is important both for your employees and for the organization.
A team member should stay in a particular position for long enough to get the desired new skills and knowledge. There should be sufficient opportunities to adapt and learn. At the same time, the system should be dynamic.
Employees should move to new roles at regular intervals, long enough for learning, yet short enough to create a sense of novelty and development. For some companies and positions, a change every month or quarter may work. For others, the periods can be seven to eight months long.
Listen To Your Employees
Setting up your job rotation program should not be a purely mechanical process. To make it work, you should involve your employees in the planning. Forceful reassignments can hurt motivation and engagement. After all, each person should have a say in their professional development, so that the rotation makes sense for them.
It’s important to listen to people and understand their preferences and goals. Then you can offer them a new challenge that they can’t refuse.
Get Started With Your Rotation Program
Job rotation can bring immense benefits to your company.
If you’ve decided to give it a go, Hourly can help you out in the process. The app can give you a hand with running payroll for employees on rotation programs, time tracking, workers’ comp, and much more.