In job rotation, employees are systematically moved around to different positions over a period of time rather than stay in one position in a company. Companies use rotations to introduce workers to multiple parts of the organization and to protect their employees from job burnout. The time frame for employees to stay in a particular role varies by organization, goals and the level of formality of the program.
In a formal job rotation system, employees are hired based on general talents and abilities that fit a work culture. At the start, the employee knows that she will rotate to different positions at certain increments. The Society for Human Resource Management indicated in a December 2012 article that a formal job rotation system usually involves moves after a year or a little longer.
Some companies use job rotation, but not as part of a formalized system with clearly defined increments of time at each position. In informal programs, rotations may occur anywhere from one month to one or more years. Some companies operate job rotations as an extended form of cross-training. In this case, employees rotate every one to six months. The purpose is more to get an employee comfortable in several roles to increase worker mobility or to prepare a manager or leader by offering a broad overview of the business.
Rotations that are too short can lead to problems for the company and employee. Each new position typically involves a period of training and orientation before a worker is fully up to speed on her tasks. It is costly and inefficient to rotate an employee after just a few months if it takes one to two months to get her properly trained to function well in the job. Similarly, an employee can get frustrated if she is constantly trained for new positions and then moved just when she feels comfortable.
At the long end of the spectrum, rotations can lose their benefits. The point of rotation is to keep an employee from losing interest in the same job and to help the organization develop workers with broad skill sets. If an employee rotates every three years, she is likely to lose much of the experience and knowledge acquired in each role. In addition, she may already reach a point of burnout well before the move. This can lead to turnover in a company.
Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.