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A new job just for a day

Be a housekeeper, receptionist or head barman for a day: job permutation is an original management tool for human resources. “Job rotation day”, organised by some companies, presents many advantages: better understanding for all of a department’s production, stronger collaboration between services and development of innovative capacities.

For several years, reality television programmes have made a show of counter-employment. Viewing audiences are thrilled to watch the difficulties everyday people or celebrities have living just a few days or a few weeks as a farmer, nurse or fireman. The goal of the television programme is to grow its audience by profiting from comical situations. In the same way counter-employment, because of its mirror effect, may be used to managerial ends. This method has been used for several decades at American hotel chains. Each year, Bill Marriott Jr has donned the uniform of a car attendant or bellboy at one of his hotels in order to substantiate an openess towards other people’s trades to achieve a better understanding of the complementarity of the chain of services.A useful evaluation tool for HR: _ In addition to providing a better understanding of the product and its different aspects as well as better employee collaboration, “job rotation day” increases the capacity of personnel by developing specific knowledge of a specific area or by broadening knowledge of the company’s organisation. Job rotation is thus particularly adapted to managerial functions. On a period longer than a single day, rotation can prepare employees for career changes. It can also motivate and offer new challenges to a manager who has held the same position for a long time. It is not an exercise in “corporate tourism”. Evaluation reports must be written up by both parts: by the department manager as well as the employee who rotated jobs.Since 1992, the Center Parcs in France have instituted “job rotation days” when employees try out other jobs. In this way a housekeeper fills the shoes of a pizzaiolo, a managing director plays barman or a lifeguard stands in for the deputy general manager!Three times a year a quarter or a fifth of employees discover a job other than their own. Alongside the person who fills the position, they can learn about the 64 different trades represented at these recreation centers. The goal: to improve the quality of service. A fairly rare initiative in Europe, and in France in particular, but more widespread in the United States. This HR tool has a simple operating rule: to offer each employee, regardless of his position in the corporate structure, a global understanding of the production process, which is essential to the successful client experience.In a high capacity hotel, considering the large number of employees, it is not unusual for employees in very disparate positions to be unable to properly appreciate the role of each and every other employee. A fortiori in a resort hotel where some jobs that are leagues away from the classic hotel trades, such as that of the gardener or the lifeguard, “discovering another trade helps improve collaboration between departments,” according to Eléonore de Saint-Agnès, manager of Human Ressources at Center Parcs France. Greater respect for tiresome tasks, a better understanding between the services comes from this appreciation of the role of each.Job rotation day has other advantages. Back office employees come out of their offices to (re) discover direct contact with the client. By changing positions, the management controller is able to understand how much time the head chef needs for his mise en place. And this logic works inversely as well: during this day, a collaborator discovers the quality of work he can expect from support services. This understanding of the requirements and particularities of each trade is important for services that must collaborate. This knowledge proves to be useful during busy periods or when an unexpected event or need turns up. “Job rotation” may also favour the anticipation of problems and finding solutions in case of conflict.For just a day, job rotation is stimulating, and each service can be involved in its succcess. This period may be used to test the compatibility of an employee and a position, in order to know more about the productivity of each. Job rotation plays an important role in the development of managers and develops the capacities of each employee, as he finds himself confronted with tasks he is not familiar with.The practice of job rotation may be a source of innovation. The employee who tests out another position, even if it is just for a day, brings a fresh outlook to the position’s holder who usually has “his nose to the grindstone”. New ideas may spring forth from this objective point of view, as may improved procedures or the development of new products. In the long term, companies whose employees are used to this mobility are less resistant to a new organisation or a technological modification. The permutation of positions improves the ability to change properties or even companies. Inversely to the division of labour dear to Adam Smith, according to whom productivity is the result of specialisation, Japanese companies favour job rotation and the practice of several functions throughout one’s career. And these same companies are also recognised for their ability to innovate and launch new products.This direct tie between innovativeness and job rotation has been shown. Why not give it a try?Basic rules How to organise a “job rotation day”? _ Holiday periods and peak periods should be avoided. Yet with an occupancy rate around 93%, Center Parcs nonetheless managed to implement this pratice. In order to avoid totally upsetting the good functioning of the resort, no more than a quarter of the positions were subject to changing incumbbents. The personnel office draws up a list of positions that could be suitable for permutation. The rotation schedule is established in function of the agenda and the wishes of each. Some employees have very specific requests, others discover their day-long appointment the same day. During this day, each employee is guided by the incumbent, who writes a report. An informal cocktail is organised at the end of the day, allowing everyone to exchange their thoughts.Goal: mobilise to improve service quality: _ A source of motivation for personnel, “job rotation day” make it possible to sensitise employees as to the importance of each department within the global functioning of the company, and the essential role played by the quality of each person’s service at each link in the chain. It is the spirit that must preside over the presentation of the operation. Each employee discovers a trade that is different from his own and also participates in the good functioning of the company. Each person can thus gain an awareness of the difficulties presented by each activity. Others can also valorise their function by explaining it to a colleague. Those who work in the shadows may find themselves back in touch with the customer.

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