In short, job rotation is an employee development tool used to help employees develop skills in a wide variety of areas in an organization. After spending some time learning a position, the employee moves to another role in the organization. This pattern may continue for several months, or perhaps a few years, depending on the employee’s skill set and level in the organization. There are many advantages to job rotation, including
- Overall employee development,
- Development of knowledge, skills, and techniques for how to handle various levels of responsibilities,
- Minimization of job boredom / job dissatisfaction,
- Promotion preparation,
- Decreased work burnout, and
- Increased employee motivation and appreciation of organizational roles.
Workers’ Compensation expert Jon Coppelman remarked that when implementing job rotation in the garment industry, “The somewhat hidden benefit in this was that, when the workload increased in one area, or when someone went out sick, they had people who were cross-trained on a variety of machines so they were not short-staffed in one particular area; I don’t see any downside to people having a wider skill set, other than perhaps, increased training costs.”
What are some drawbacks of job rotation? From a labor relations perspective, experienced employees may not be pleased with revisiting entry-level positions. Organizations that have unions may need to look into how collective-bargaining agreement clauses could encumber some job rotation programs. Naturally, overtime pay also can be an issue if not handled properly. Another concern can be work quality. Work done by a new trainee vs. work done by a trained worker can be completely different. Depending on the type of work and the sensitivity of the end result, some positions may not be well suited for job rotation.
Things to consider when establishing a job rotation program
· “Job Rotation must start with an end goal”: If the goal is for all employees to be cross-trained to do every job, the structure will have to be carefully created to avoid issues related to overtime and unions. If the goal is to train employees for eventual promotion, or to decrease job boredom, the structure will be different in regards to frequency and extent of work.
· “Job rotation must be carefully planned”: This links back to the original program goal. One series of questions to consider are
· How will the program measure employee participation?
· Will it be mandatory or optional?
· What restraints will be placed on it?
· Will employees pick out the areas where they would like to learn more?
· What policies will need to be put in place to avoid abuse of the program, as well as protect employees from becoming overwhelmed?
- “Employees are able to assess whether the job rotation is achieving the goals”: Making the program transparent will help employees to see how well they are doing. How will you make the program transparent enough for employees?
- “A mentor, internal trainer, or supervisor / trainer is provided at each step of the job rotation plan”: This additional support communicates seriousness and can assure to the employee that his / her time is valued. It also ensures for the organization that the employee completes the goals outlined for the job rotation program.
- “Written documentation, an employee manual or online resource enhances employee learning”: Job descriptions are a must, but outlines for job rotation will also be helpful.