Job swaps for succession planning

On-the-job learning in the form of internal job swaps and secondments are helping Britannia Building Society address recruitment difficulties.

Analysis undertaken as part of its succession management process highlighted a number of key roles in the organisation with a high degree of technical knowledge, as well as the potential vulnerability it could face if current postholders left.

One such role is the building society’s head of treasury, which has two senior managers reporting to him, each responsible for specialised areas within the treasury function, according to Philippa Harrison, employee relations and learning and development manager.

“We have two individuals with enormous potential, but if our head of treasury left tomorrow, what would we do?” said Harrison. “We had two people [each] up to half the job, so we took the two and they’re swapping with each other.”

Britannia prefers a ‘full immersion’ approach to the job swap, said Harrison, and the two managers have been in their new roles full-time for more than eight months. For senior management positions such as these, full immersion was important to maintain clear accountability, but it also makes for a better, more intense learning experience, said Harrison. “The best way to learn is by actually being in the role,” he said.

While each manager has “stopped doing what they did before,” the swap is very much about mutual support as well as support from the head of treasury. “In that sense, it’s a team effort,” he said.

Another part of Britannia’s succession management programme involves promoting internal secondments, where staff can gain experience working in new roles. So far, 250 of its 3,500 staff have taken part.

Some are relatively unaffected by the experience and only wish to go back to their former role. But many develop and come out with “bags of potential,” said Harrison. These potential high-flyers have detailed discussions at the end of their programme about the new skills they’ve acquired, what new opportunities are available, and their own interest in moving on.

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