Many students and new grads may be unsure of their long-term career aspirations and are fearful of being locked into an initial position that may ultimately not be a great fit. In the process of “sorting it out,” there’s a strong preference to keep their options open. As such, many students and new grads are not only comfortable with ambiguous career paths and early job experimentation, they actually seek them out.
A rotational job program, where companies expose new employees to different projects & challenges, enables you to play right into this millennial ethos by providing the environment and arrangement to help them “figure it out.” Such programs offer more than “just a job” to candidates. They deliver a “learning experience” that allows them to flexibly explore different functional areas and teams, while proactively allaying their fears about getting “stuck” in a defined role. They can help position your organization as a step forward and not a step back, no matter what direction they choose to take their careers.
On the company’s end, a rotational program enables you to find the best organizational fit for a talented candidate. In addition, if you’re committed to young talent long term, having such a program (and doing it well) can be a huge selling point for future candidates, particularly top talent that may ultimately have many options. Also, if you can’t beat/match bigger, more established companies on a salary basis, then a rotational program offers another way to compensate for that by making your company more attractive from an experiential standpoint.
However, if rotational programs were easy, everyone would be offering them. Establishing a good program that serves your needs and that of candidates takes thoughtful planning and strong organizational execution. They also require some degree of infrastructure breadth in place to offer enough options to make the program compelling, along with a collaborate development/management culture to help ensure a great experience. Thus, they are likely appropriate for only the most committed smaller companies and startups.
TripAdvisor offers an excellent model to emulate or learn from via their Web Engineering Program
. Targeting full-time software professionals, they offer a custom designed rotation program that allows employees to be a full member of different engineering teams for 1-3 month stints (highlighting that employees will be delivering code with immediate impact on the business is a BIG selling point). TripAdvisor complements this with training and a “buddy”/mentor in each area as well as the opportunity to attend talks given by senior execs at the company.
You don’t have to be the size of TripAdvisor to take some of these core concepts and implement them successfully within your company. Consider starting small with a model that works for your organizational structure, one where the rotational roles are not too disruptive and can be additive from a productivity standpoint. You can always build from there as you learn and continue to grow.
If you do implement a rotational program, be sure to brand it with a compelling name and work it into your marketing and recruiting efforts. You’ll be one of the few startups to do so and have a compelling differentiator for standing out on campuses.
Michael Gaiss is the Founder of ThinkB1G. You can find this post, as well as additional posts on his blog located here. You can also follow Michael on Twitter (@MichaelGaiss) by clicking here or sign up for the ThinkB1G newsletter here.