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Developing Talent with Rotational Assignments 07.24.2018 | Jennifer Connell

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Rotational assignments were once the domain of oil and gas companies who used them to alleviate the burden on employees working in remote or hostile locations. Today, as more companies struggle to fuel their talent pipelines with specialized skills and millennial employees, these assignments are much more widespread. And serve a wide range of purposes.

The simplest definition of rotational assignments is “a series of short-term assignments.” For example, an employee spending anywhere from three weeks to three months in the host country followed by a period back in the home country or moving to another host country altogether. These moves are relatively easy to administer and not particularly cost-heavy. What’s more, 57% consider rotational assignments critical for career development purposes.

For those reasons, it’s not surprising that a recent Weichert survey showed that nearly one-third of companies (32%) expect their volume of rotational assignments to increase.

What makes these moves so appealing is that they allow employees to take on a wide range of projects, gain exposure to other areas of the company, and acquire new skills. Traits that, not surprisingly, also make these assignments (and the companies that offer them) particularly attractive to millennials.

Research shows that most millennials want to work for companies that will help develop their skills and provide opportunities to discover their strengths. They want to learn more about themselves and the world around them while taking on a diverse range of challenges, which makes them particularly well-suited for rotational assignments. More importantly, rotational assignments introduce millennial talent to an array of growth opportunities within the company, allowing them to map out an internal career, rather than having them look outside your organization.

That said, when it comes to benefits for employees on rotational assignment, it’s important to look closely at the demographic of each employee and the stage they are at in their careers. Early career professionals seek assignments that challenge them and strengthen their skill sets. Recent college graduates have fewer belongings and typically rent. More experienced employees have families and own homes.

Among the benefits companies offer to employees on rotational assignment, Weichert’s research shows that 58% cover travel between the departure and assignment locations; 54% provide temporary living and 36% cover return trips to the departure location (or family visits).

The vast majority of programs do not extend benefits to families, so it’s easy to see why 43% of companies report “separation from family” as a challenge with rotational assignments. This makes return trips an important provision for many assignees.

Another top concern in rotational programs is housing. This is due to the short nature of the assignment, as nothing belies the idea of deploying talent swiftly and nimbly than planning to move in and out of a home or apartment. Our research shows that 44% of companies will provide leased apartments/corporate housing to employees on rotational assignment. Full shipment of household goods is rarely provided.

As for how costs are covered during a rotational assignment, 50% of companies surveyed provide a per diem for certain living expenses. This per diem is typically used to cover meals, lodging and transportation in the assignment location. Beyond per diems, 28% provide a lump sum and 22% offer direct reimbursement for actual expenses.

As the name implies, rotational assignments require some advance thinking on the employee’s next destination. Are they coming back to the home office or being sent somewhere else? We would encourage including employees in discussions about their next assignment to learn how to best utilize the insight, skills and experience they’ve acquired. Consider a mentor program that connects rotational assignees with leaders throughout the company to facilitate their career plan in concert with the assignment.

In a year, circle back to evaluate the success of the program and make any necessary adjustments. Communicate with your stakeholders to receive input and recommendations on how to improve the existing framework, administer mobility provisions more effectively and ensure your program reflects the proper success factors in developing future leaders.

Unlike other types of temporary assignments, rotational assignments are more likely to expose your employees to more areas of your organization. Take time in your selection process; you want to identify the candidates that you foresee staying with the company for a while, as well as those who possess the ability to leverage the skills and experience they pick up at each assignment.

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Written by Jennifer Connell

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Jennifer Connell, SCRP, SGMS-T, is North American Practice Leader with Weichert’s Consulting Services group. She has over 23 years of experience in the workforce mobility and employee benefits industries and received Worldwide ERC’s Meritorious Service Award in 2010. She has also spoken on workforce mobility topics at industry conferences throughout North America.

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