Job Rotation Planning Can Help Keep Employees Happy

Take a moment to imagine: You walk into work and sit down (or go about your rounds) doing the same thing you’ve done for what – today anyway – feels like forever. You think about your friend who just got a new job and how happy they were at dinner and wonder if this is all you’ll ever do. Or you worry that you only have the skills to do this one job and who knows what the future will hold.

You idly pop open LinkedIn and start browsing…

This scenario is probably more common to our employees than we realize. Even well-structured surveys and good managerial interactions might not be able to unearth feelings of apathy and discontent among employees. Many of the cited reasons for people leaving companies (unhappy with their work, need a new challenge, dislike manager/team, etc.) can be indicative of the deeper feelings of dissatisfaction that an employee has but can’t articulate in normal daily interactions. So what can you do about it in your company?

Shake Things Up

Without wanting to reformulate each employee’s job description (though an isolated case of additional responsibilities can’t hurt now and then), the simplest explanation is to develop a meaningful job rotation schedule. In a normal job rotation cycle, employees are given a certain number of years in a role before being offered the opportunity to find other positions within a company of an equivalent level, often expediting the process by comparison to traditional hiring. The idea of having employees try out or permanently move to new jobs on a regular basis within an organization is a great way to stave off the doldrums that lead people to leave for a new, exciting opportunity.

Job rotations give employees:

An opportunity to develop new skills

The chance to use existing skills on a new set of challenges

A better view into the inner workings of other departments/roles

The existing relationship/knowledge of your company which is often a huge hurdle when switching companies

By trying new roles, current employees feel like they are getting a chance to provide expertise, gain empathy, and become more “marketable” internally, all while remaining within the security of a company into which they have often invested years of time and labor.

The Basics

Developing a good job rotation program means taking several factors into account:

How Will You Communicate?

Relaying positions that are available (along with basic skill requirements) and a method for current employees to apply are a must; depending on your company and existing contracts you may be required to post all positions both internally and externally and to conduct an appropriate number of interviews to determine the best candidate, so please keep that in mind when looking to implement.

The Current Skill-Set of the Employee Being Rotated

Certain individuals have a very specific set of skills based on years of education and job experience; to make sure that people are applying for the right roles, have the employee and their manager fill out a skill assessment and job description for their current role (this will help with the next factor).

The Skill-Set of the Position Being Filled

External job searches are hard enough for most people and the goal in a job rotation is to help people find roles that make sense for them and your company. A job posting that is made public can often seem like a discouraging, long list of talents that only a perfect candidate would have – make sure to revise down the list to core skills (software that is used, specific certifications needed, etc.) that allow an internal person looking to rotate to know exactly what is needed at the most basic level. In addition, not every position in the company should be considered “open” for job rotations as some positions might be critical or require a high level of expertise that is not readily available in the current employee base.

Managerial Participation Levels

As with so much of what we do, managerial participation is make or break. Managers must understand that it is more important to the company for an employee to find a good role (even if it is not on their team) and should actively embrace the program and look for positions for individual team members.

Size of Your Company

Unfortunately, not every company is large enough to create a full rotation program; if your company is smaller, utilize cross training/responsibility changes and job shadowing as short term solutions while you look to potentially create a new role or title for individuals.

Passive vs. Active

It is important to remember that employees who are dissatisfied in their current roles will often look to leave a company first because their specific role becomes a microcosm for their view of the company as a whole. In this case, I highly recommend an active program where you and managers vocalize the job rotations program, its benefits, and a general willingness to help individuals who are looking to try something new find the right place within the company.

Program or Career Path

Depending on your end goal, sometimes a job rotation program can also be codified based on certain career goals. For upper management-related development, a multi-discipline program with regular rotations can be created. Creating multiple versions (open enrollment programs for employees AND career focused programs for development) can provide different tools. This is similar to what we’ve created with our Management Fellowship program at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA®) which prepares recent college graduates for leadership roles within our organization by providing them with a two-year rotation in various departments at our hospitals across the U.S.

Who Goes When, and Then?

It is usually difficult to predict when an employee will benefit most from a rotation, and merely having a program in place is not sufficient. When the time comes for someone to look, managers should be advocates and employees should feel empowered. Always keep open positions in mind, and if there is a waiting period before something becomes available, make sure to give applicants for roles consideration for other opportunities to engage them.

Making sure that your staff feel at home in your organization and that their skill is kept is the ultimate goal. Most HR leaders will struggle to find a more ready supply of knowledgeable people than those already within their own walls in a competitive hiring environment.

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Eric Magnussen

Eric Magnussen serves as the Vice President of Talent for Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) and is accountable for all aspects of the CTCA Talent function for a 5,500 employee organization. Eric is responsible for talent strategy, attraction and selection, employee development, succession planning, wellness and wellbeing, compensation and benefits. Connect with Eric.


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