Secondments, the temporary transfer of an employee to another position, department or even company for training, are not exclusively for large companies.
Small and medium-sized companies can also benefit from secondments as a tool to help them nurture the best talent and keep people for the long term.
Secondments involve the ‘loan’ of an employee to a different department within a business, a related entity or sometimes to a different organisation altogether (ideal for small businesses that do not have more than one department). Whether internal or external, secondments are increasingly recognised as being valuable for both the employee and organisational development.
Secondments can be for just a few hours a week, such as volunteering for a not-for-profit, or full-time for a year or more. They may even involve the employee moving to another city, state or country, while still employed by the original business.
Depending on organisational policies, such opportunities may be open to all, or restricted to managers, technical or professional staff. This is down to individual companies and how much capacity they have.
While secondments can benefit your business as well as the employee, they are not without risk. However, small and medium businesses are finding them to be an increasingly useful method to build leadership skills in their employees and a great way to network with other businesses and organisations.
To reduce the risk of secondments, HR, or your equivalent department, needs to manage the process so that it is formal and clear that the seconded employee remains in the employment of the original business. It is important for the seconded employee to understand:
- The period and terms of secondment; is it for a fixed term or indefinite period subject to notice? Are they being paid the same salary and any additional benefits, or are they volunteering?
- The procedures for dealing with absence, sickness, discipline, grievances and appraisals.
- Protection of confidential information and intellectual property: A secondee may have access to confidential information at their original workplace and also at their secondment site. To avoid disputes, they should sign an agreement about this.
how to assess the benefits and risks
If the secondment was requested by the employee, find out why they want to go; are they disengaged in their current job or do they want to learn a new skill? Ensure they know that they are an ambassador for your business and their behaviour will reflect on you. Whether suggested by the employee or employer, there needs to be a clear business case for secondment. The request needs to detail the ideal outcomes that will ultimately result in benefits for all.
When assessing the benefit of a secondment, a manager should consider whether the skills learned on the secondment will benefit the broader team. If approved, when a secondee returns to work, they should be debriefed to determine whether the secondment met their objectives, and asked how their new-found knowledge and skills can assist your business.
If a seconded employee is coming to your workplace from another department or business, then HR should inform all existing employees about the secondee’s role, expectations of their performance and their secondment period so they fit in quickly and work effectively.
The main benefits of a secondments’ program is to help your employees:
- gain new experiences and skills
- expand their career and personal development
- try out new roles and sectors without leaving their current job
By going on a secondment, it shows the employee is adaptable, flexible and willing to step outside their comfort zone, all assets they can add to their CV. It can also work as a chance for employees to build their professional networks.
The main benefits of a secondments’ program is to help your business after employees return, including:
- boosted morale can increase the motivation of your wider workforce
- new skills, fresh ideas and external perspectives to your business
- enables you to build your reputation as a good employer, particularly if secondments are to charities - you boost your corporate social responsibility image and community involvement.
A returning secondee may face some hurdles; they may want to leave their old job and take on their secondment role. They may feel their old job is now a demotion.
The best way to overcome this is to ensure that the secondee can actively transfer the new skills gained into their old role. You can do this by altering their responsibilities or job description to accommodate their new experience. Employers should also consider that staff who are interested in secondment, but who are not selected, may become demotivated.
For secondments to be beneficial for employees and employers, they must be properly planned. Employers must make sure parameters and expectations of both parties are made clear from the outset.
Posted: Tuesday, 11 April 2017 - 9:00 AM