We’re all familiar with the old expression: “Variety is the spice of life.” It holds true: we don’t eat a single type of food, wear a single color of clothing or only read books by a single author. That would be boring.
Yet why is that same logic seldom (if ever) applied to the workplace?
In a world where we crave new and different experiences, why is it that so many of us settle for a work environment where we do the same set of tasks over and over, with little break from the monotony? Wouldn’t we be more engaged and fulfilled if the view changed every once in a while?
In the following excerpt from “The Inside Gig,” Hitch Founder & CEO Kelley Steven-Waiss and co-author Edie Goldberg, Ph.D. make the case that variety should be the spice of work, as well. It’s hard to argue with the resulting rises in engagement, productivity and retention.
“It is often said that it is much easier to get a new job in a different company than to transfer to another department within the same organization. Employees today want new and different experiences. Yet most jobs are so specialized that people get “stuck” doing the same work over and over again, which leads to boredom and disengagement. Providing employees with opportunities to work with different people on different projects is exactly the type of dynamic learning experiences today’s employees seek. When employees are exposed to new leaders, work with new team members, or are able to use their skills in a different context, there are constant opportunities for learning and growth from not only the new challenges presented in those work teams but also different leadership styles and the knowledge, skills, and experiences of coworkers.
Traditional job rotation programs have been around for a long time. Their main benefit is exposure to new managers, teams, and types of work, which is a quick way of expanding an employee’s set of experiences in a relatively brief time frame. To gain the same amount of learning in a traditional role-based assignment would take many more years to accomplish. Given that millennials have demonstrated an impatience with the speed of learning in a traditional job experience trajectory, some organizations have turned to job rotations as a method of providing new experiences for employees.
With today’s technological capabilities, there are new ways to provide employees with diversity and choice in work rather than rely on traditional job rotation programs.
In a survey conducted by Tata Communications, an Indian telecommunications company, more than 50 percent of its eight thousand employees said they were interested in changing their roles. However, the organization’s internal job rotation program could only handle about four hundred rotations per year. Tata Communications also found that most of its departments had lots of programs and projects they needed to complete, but didn’t necessarily have the skills on hand to do the work, a realization that gave rise to the Tata Communications Project Marketplace, an internal opportunity platform. The company built its own system to capture the skills of current employees, then had managers post jobs in the marketplace that its employees could apply for.
Now, when employees finish projects in the marketplace, they get rated on their skills, much like the rating systems used by other talent platforms such as Upwork. That way employees can shape their internal reputations around specific skills. Employees who take on projects do so “on their own time,” since they don’t get released from any of their primary work responsibilities. Tata Communications believes that only its top performers who can invest extra time in personal development choose to participate in the marketplace, which is strictly voluntary. The company uses this program to familiarize managers with hiring for project-based work. The intention is to train them to consider what work should be a project and what work needs full-time dedicated employees.
As we build new people practices, we need to consider what the employee or manager wants or expects from that practice. When it comes to what attracts new employees to a company, the research is very clear: potential for career advancement, challenging work, and opportunities to learn new skills. So our ability to provide employees with a diverse set of experiences in which they can craft their own paths will most likely attract the best talent in the marketplace. With the barriers to “free agent” or contingent work being low and talent demanding more diverse work and greater choice, as well as the opportunity for rapid acquisition of new skills, there is pressure to create an employee experience like that of a “free agent” inside an organization.
By participating in short-term, part-time projects (just like a task force committee assignment), employees get to learn while doing real and important work for their organizations. We are strong promoters of the idea that 70 percent of learning should come from on-the-job learning experiences. We just use the term job a little bit more loosely. Importantly, by having the choice to opt into projects where they can learn a new skill set, use a currently underutilized skill, or simply work on a project they’re passionate about, employees will exert more discretionary effort because the work is based on their personal interests.”
The Hitch platform can help your organization end the cycle of employees getting “stuck” in their routines by leveraging the diversity of their skills and talents to drive engagement, productivity and retention. Contact us to set up a free assessment call or meeting. You can also visit www.hitch.works and register to download a free chapter of “The Inside Gig.”Learn More