Published on August 03, 2017

Team Meeting during Rotational AssignmentThe current talent landscape poses several challenges to companies acquiring and retaining the human capital they need to expand. Without quality workers, their ability to reach operational objectives and build companies that are poised to thrive in the digital economy can be compromised.

This is where rotational assignments come in. A rotational assignment is a consecutive series of professional assignments designed with specific employee or business outcomes in mind. A series usually comprises between three and five assignments and typically consists of short-term placements of between three and six months each.

Companies use rotational assignments for two main purposes: talent development and project work.

Using Rotational Assignments for Talent Development

To boost their human capital, employers are investing in rotational assignments to develop their in-house talent and add new talent. This type of rotational assigning is typically used for four more targeted purposes:

  • Leadership development. Rotational assignments allow future leaders to acquire cross-functional knowledge of mission-critical functions and develop agility by varying roles, departments, scope, units, sectors, objectives and job locations, according to Fernández-Aráoz, Groysberg and Nohria in their Harvard Business Review article titled "How to Hang on to Your High Potentials."
  • Knowledge transfer. Hands-on learning is critical to knowledge retention. Employees sent on rotational assignments can acquire local business knowledge or knowledge of the specific location's processes, if it differs from the point of origin.
  • Recruitment. Companies also use rotational assignments to attract new talent. A Wakefield Research study revealed that 82 percent of millennials believe relocation will be required if they want to advance in their jobs. Giving new hires the opportunity to work at multiple organizations within a short period of time allows them to explore various job functions and locations and can help them determine what career path they want to pursue at a company.
  • Retention. Rotational assignments can be used to encourage employee engagement and loyalty by providing opportunities to learn new skills, acquire new knowledge, work with knowledgeable colleagues and contribute to interesting projects.

Meet Critical Business Objectives with Rotational Assignments

Companies also use rotational assignments to manage projects or fill skills gaps on projects, whether those are internal or for clients. These are projects that, without the right leadership or skills, would fall short of their objectives – for example, internal manufacturing process improvement that require Lean Six Sigma experience or product for clients that require niche engineering skills. Companies are hard-pressed to find qualified STEM talent – so when the necessary skills and experience aren't available onsite, companies can use alternative solutions. Sending employees on rotational assignments can perform the double function of providing the needed abilities at a fraction of the cost of hiring external talent while simultaneously challenging and developing employees.

A Guide to Rotational Assignments