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Job Rotation: Definition, Advantages, Disadvantages & Examples

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Shawn Grimsley

In this lesson, you will learn about job rotation, including its advantages and disadvantages. Examples will also be provided. You can reinforce your knowledge with a short quiz after the lesson.

We also recommend watching Types of Job Redesign: Job Enrichment, Enlargement & Rotation and Methods for Training Employees: Mentoring, On-The-Job & Job Rotation

Definition

Job rotation involves an employee changing positions within the same organization and eventually returning to the original position. It can refer to different types of rotations.

Task rotation usually takes place in jobs that involve a high degree of physical demands on the body or a high degree of repetitive tasks that can become extremely tedious. Employees are periodically removed from these mentally stressful or physically demanding tasks to a less demanding task for a while to give them a break.

Let's say you work as a spot welder on a production line where you work 10 hour shifts, 4 days a week. You basically spend your day standing in place applying welds to two specific locations on the product as it moves down the line. The production facility's environmental controls aren't the best, and you're constantly hot and sweating because of the protective gear you must wear along with the heat generated by the welding machine. However, every other week you get rotated off the line to work in the maintenance department and tool shop where your tasks are varied, the environment is a bit more comfortable and you can sit down a significant amount of the time. This is an example of task rotation.

Position rotation is the process of laterally moving an employee to different positions, departments or geographic locations for the purposes of professionally developing the employee by exposing her to new knowledge, skills and perspectives. Position rotation can be further broken down into within-function rotation and cross-functional rotation. Within-function rotation is where an employee rotates between jobs with similar levels of responsibility and in the same functional or operational areas. Cross-functional rotation, on the other hand, usually involves a sequence of positions, often with increasing levels of job responsibilities.

Let's say you are a junior executive at a multinational consulting firm on the fast track. Your mentor and supervisor have just informed you that you have been approved for the company's advance executive training program. You will spend the next two years rotating from your home office to the headquarters in New York, to the company's office in London, then onto Dubai, and finally onto Hong Kong before returning to your home office. You job responsibilities will change a bit at each office, but you will basically still serve as a financial analyst. Upon your return, you will receive an important promotion so long as the rotations are successful. This is an example of position rotation, and more specifically, within-rotation.

Advantages

Task rotation has some distinct advantages. It can increase job satisfaction because workers will be exposed to various work tasks that will reduce constant physical or mental stress, which may create more motivation to continue in the position and reduce turnover. Another advantage is the ancillary effect of cross-training employees for different tasks, which will increase the flexibility and adaptability of the organization.

Position rotation also has some distinct advantages. Position rotation can be used to groom or prepare promising employees for future leadership positions by increasing their knowledge, skills and perspective. It can also assist an organization in creating members with a broad base of organizational knowledge. Position rotation may also facilitate new personal relationships across the organization that may help develop a since of cohesion and loyalty.

Disadvantages

Both task rotation and position rotation share similar disadvantages. Some efficiency may be lost because employees do not develop proficiencies in specialized tasks as quickly due to rotation. Rotation may result in increased use of resources and time because of the support required in having a rotation program. A problem unique to position rotation is the risk of spending time and resources on employees that are not worth grooming. An organization can reduce this risk by carefully screening candidates for positional rotation who demonstrate the attributes, skills, and organizational commitment to make the investment worth it.

Summary

There are two general types of job rotation. Task rotation involves cycling an employee from a physically stressful or tedious job to a different position for a while and then moving the employee back. The purpose is to give the employee a bit of a break and hopefully increase job satisfaction and motivation. Position rotation occurs when an employee is moved to different positions, departments or geographic locations as a means to increase an employee's knowledge, skills and perspective. It is often used as a means to groom an employee for future leadership positions within the organization. Advantages to rotation include developing employees with a broad range of skills and increasing job satisfaction. Disadvantages can include some increase costs in time and resources and some decline in productivity potential because specialized skills are not developed as quickly.

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