Blog: Rotational assignments for today's 'rolling stones'

Learning & Development

Rotational assignments for today's 'rolling stones'

Executives can be encouraged to use their talents effectively in different work experiences
Rotational assignments for today's 'rolling stones'

“A rolling stone gathers no moss.”

Back in school, this aphorism really intrigued me. Though conveyed more as censure than in admiration, in essence, it meant that people who are not rooted to one place avoid responsibilities and are devoid of attachments. However, HR professionals today are turning this saying on its head by giving it a positive context of dynamism in a job profile as against career stagnation. With executives constantly seeking variety in their job profiles, mundaneness caused due to career plateauing is remedied through rotational assignments — a buzzword in talent management (TM) these days.

Job rotation is an integral component of talent development practised across organizations to create an opportunity for their executives to put their skill sets to use in multifarious work assignments. The element of change coupled with getting the executive out of her comfort zone to test her skills in a new job role can create clear results for the company and her as well.

Rotational assignments technically have been present from the World War era, wherein a commanding officer is put through several specific assignments before he gets the opportunity to lead a unit. Today, rotational assignments are looked upon as a cost-effective means of accelerating career growth and getting professionals ready for bigger future roles.

So how does one create a successful rotational assignment? It should be planned to align with the overall talent and business strategy. This is an integral part of managing resources with high potential and high performers in any organization and is part of effective TM.

The following steps are essential to match executives with their roles for rotational assignments:

  1. The selection of a suitable candidate for this assignment is made based on key competencies, previous experience, functional knowledge, technical knowledge and her current level.
  2. Assignment objectives would have to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.
  3. Skill enhancing and learning objectives are identified from a variety of themes, such as building general business; coaching and interpersonal skills; enhancing functional and operational knowledge and product development and launch.


Here are seven varieties of assignments that can be incorporated:

  1. Chairing projects meriting ideation and innovation besides shouldering key responsibilities during product launches, events of significance, or crucial negotiations.
  2. Becoming a task force member to work on goal-oriented assignments such as a merger, acquisition, evaluation, special audit and so on.
  3. Managing change when there is a transition in organizational focus and strategy (for instance, shift from manufacturing to marketing) or by helming a TQM project, introducing an ERP or HRIS system or learning to deal with a new technology.
  4. Cross moves like changing divisions, functions, or taking up tasks or projects never done before.
  5. Taking up international assignments that include working in a different geography, different culture, dealing with diversity, products, environment and people.
  6. Managing crisis wherein learning on the fly is an important part of the equation. For instance, filling up for a CEO who suddenly has a major health issue, troubleshooting a critical business condition and making up for losses. These are fix-it and turnaround assignments that focus on solving a problem and turning adversity into opportunity.
  7. Helming a new division within the existing setup by forging a new team, creating new systems and exploring new avenues for revenue generation. These offer executives the challenges associated with a startup.


The biggest challenge during a rotational assignment, however, is sometimes the individual might be successful in it, but this might not really translate into a career opportunity or accelerated development for her.

Other challenges faced by companies in implementing rotational assignments:

  1. Allocation of budgets: To accommodate a novice who will be developing but will not necessarily bring 100% productivity to the role becomes a barrier to getting management approvals. As per Corporate Leadership Council studies, most organizations eager to embrace this concept find it difficult to make a business case for the budget required.
  2. Employee resistance: Employees who are comfortable with their current roles might be reluctant to take on new ones. HR should thus explain the advantages of rotational assignments to them.


So what do successful rotational assignments look like? They help identify organizational leaders of tomorrow and facilitate their movement into critical positions at a much faster rate. When considered as an integral part of the organization’s business strategy, it results in effective TM of high-potential executives and transforms them into high performers of the future.

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Topics: Learning & Development, #HRInsights, #Trends

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