The job rotation win-win

It can be training, career development and succession planning all in one


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Remember the last time you walked into your business only to find that a key employee called out? Your first reaction was probably fear or anger, as you were relying on this person to accomplish important tasks that only they can seem to do correctly.

What about the time one of your departments was very busy and working overtime, while another department was slow but unable to assist due to lack of cross-training? I also have experienced both of these situations.

Earlier in my career, I started a new management job in a production environment and noticed excessive monthly overtime. I discovered the overtime was all for one department, yet employees in slower departments were encouraged to use vacation time or go home without pay due to lack of work. It became immediately apparent that cross-training and job rotation were necessary to resolve this problem.

Job rotation refers to the movement of employees between different jobs, and it is a critical form of career development. This not only improves employee engagement while increasing employee retention, but can also play a part in a company’s succession plan. If done properly, job rotation can allow a company to increase employee productivity, reduce the effects of absenteeism and improve employees’ value to the company.

It’s important to first outline the goal of your job rotation efforts then develop a plan for implementation. The goal may be to cross-train all employees within a department to be able to handle all functions within the department. This would provide great back-up coverage for absences while allowing you to better manage the flow within the department.

Or perhaps the goal is to create a career path for one of your employees. In this situation, having this employee learn all functions will provide a better understanding of the overall operations of the company and help them continue to train for a higher level position in the company.

In my example above, our goal was to provide training across departments, so we created a job rotation plan and trained employees in slower departments for tasks in the busy department. Almost immediately we saw an increase in employee satisfaction, as well as improved efficiency and reduced overtime. Employees who were previously depleting their vacation time or forfeiting pay were now able to maintain a steady income while overworked employees were able to improve their quality of life.

In my current role, we utilize what we call a “three-deep” approach to job rotation, ensuring that every key person has at least two people who can handle their job at any time. Doing so provides the assurance that the company can operate without key personnel at any time, while providing key employees a relaxing vacation without business interruptions.

Additionally, this level of job rotation allows people to grow in their careers and instantly step into a larger role when the opportunity arises.

Sound familiar? Yes, job rotation is also the starting point of creating a company’s succession plan.

Succession planning is critical in ensuring a company can operate efficiently regardless of any personnel losses. A solid succession plan can provide many benefits to the company and its employees, including:

 • Developing a pipeline of talent within the organization to handle positions most critical to the future needs of the organization

 • Providing the opportunity to harvest critical organizational knowledge that can be shared with future generations of workers

 • Demonstrating to employees that the organization has an interest in their knowledge and skills and is committed to their career development

 • Ability to withstand times of demographic changes and talent scarcity

As important as succession planning is to an organization, it should not be limited strictly to senior management, but rather used throughout your organization. This can be achieved by developing a solid job rotation program and allowing employees to continue to learn across the company.

Job rotation creates a win-win situation for the company and the employees. Workers now experience reduced boredom with their day-to-day tasks by learning and performing new duties. Businesses are able to better manage workflow and ensure continuous forward progress in the company regardless of absenteeism or personnel losses.

With the current labor shortage, wouldn’t it be best to maximize the value of your current employees, pay them accordingly and create a career path that benefits the employees and the business? Job rotation is a 3-in-1 solution to achieving this ultimate goal and I highly recommend it.

Bob Camire, director of human resources and operations for New England Document Systems, Manchester, can be reached at 603-625-1171 or bcamire@nedocs.com.

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