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Job rotation – Your turn to boost productivity

Job rotation – changing between positions and responsibilities for brief periods – makes employees happier. And your business will benefit. This is how rotation works.

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Job rotation was originally introduced so that conveyor belt workers would tire less quickly. Today it’s about more than that. This form of work organisation promotes new talent, qualifies your workforce and deepens specialist knowledge. Job rotation also helps prevent crime.

Routine at work provides a sense of security. But it can also mean stagnation and monotony. Concentration can lapse as a result. Mistakes are made. Job rotation helps you build on the strength of your employees and redress weaknesses.

But before reorganising the way people work at your business, allow us to introduce some different methods briefly.

Methods of job rotation

  • A trainee programme works on the same basis as job rotation. Trainees pass through the various departments and areas of a business, getting to know as many processes, requirements and procedures as possible in a short time. This familiarisation should even be done at different locations where possible.
  • Job shadowing means new employees accompany experienced colleagues like shadows. They watch them while they work, which helps them learn much quicker.
  • In swapping, employees switch responsibilities and tasks for a fixed period of time. This is the purest form of job rotation. When swapping, it is important that participants have the same levels of experience and qualification.
  • Project work is also a form of job rotation. In a project, teams of selected employees work together. The task they undertake may be within the area they are used to working in, but may also involve other areas.
  • Job visiting is an example of a lesser-known form of job rotation in which an employee undertakes, for example, 80 percent of a new activity and retains 20 percent of their old one.


Job rotation with more responsibilities and more tasks

In job enlargement, the scope of duties grows, but the demand level remains the same as in the previous activity. Job enrichment also involves new tasks, but these have a new quality. They are more complex and demanding. For example, employees can be given more responsibility or may take the lead in a group. This gives them experience.

How SMEs profit from job rotation

Job rotation prepares employees better for demands. It helps avoid HR bottlenecks and enables companies to fill positions with the right qualifications. But these aren’t all of the benefits which businesses and their employees enjoy.

Job rotation relieves anybody who does hard physical work. This applies to older employees in factories and in the trades. It helps prevent physical strain. If job rotation is connected to new tasks and challenges, this produces more variation and greater motivation. But this only works if the activities give individuals more responsibility. Job rotation is a good way of implementing lifelong learning in a company. Anyone who participates will enjoy more flexible and varied work.

Changing workplaces becomes obligatory during pregnancy leave. Businesses that have gathered experience in this process will be quicker to reap the benefits in other areas. Businesses like to use rotation as a way of comparing different candidates. Not everybody may like this, but it does help people to recognise their own strengths.

What is happening in other departments? What is it like there? And how is knowledge built up there? Every new procedure and every new approach to work that is learned by employees when they change workplaces helps a business fill gaps in knowledge when employees leave.

Potential drawbacks of job rotation

  • It may be that employees abuse the trust placed in them. This doesn’t just mean reaching into the company till. Careless handling and theft of data can also be avoided.
  • Don’t underestimate the time you may lose through job rotation. Employees who change position at regular intervals will have to learn the ropes again and again. Explaining work, showing them procedures and checking them takes time and reduces productivity.
  • Changing may prove too much – for the company and for the employees. New responsibilities, new procedures and new demands bring challenges that not everybody can cope with right away.
  • Do you experience rotation as a loss of power or control if a colleague starts to do your job straight away? Will this affect your loyalty and authority? Don’t underestimate this aspect. You should discuss the subject in your teams before opting for job rotation.

Be careful not to break the law when you rotate. Just as you need a driving licence to drive a car, there are activities at work that require training, completed qualifications and previous knowledge.

Job rotation – just do it

But the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Simply try out job rotation. Select an area of your business and begin. If you follow our advice, you’ll find it very easy to implement.

Take note

  • Talk to all of your employees before launching the project. Nobody is being transferred for disciplinary reasons, but everybody should be allowed to ask questions and express concerns.
  • Coordinate with the employee organisation. In big companies it is mandatory to do so and it will protect you, avoid problems and may also prove useful for implementation.
  • Think of all the formalities and support your employees. Periods working abroad may require work permits, visas and vaccinations.
  • Draw up a timetable for the whole project before you begin. This will prevent anyone from being disappointed and will eliminate insecurity.
  • Document the entire process. Write down the expectations of everyone involved, and what is going to happen beforehand. This will make it much easier to check the results.
  • Define your aims. Is it just about gaining insight into other departments, or is it about developing in-depth knowledge?

If we’ve inspired you to try out this form of work organisation, define your overall aim. Do you wish to extend your employees’ knowledge? Do you want to help them understand relationships within the company better? Do you wish to develop leadership? Or are you aiming for what job rotation originally was for – to make jobs less monotonous?

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