Rotate to retain

Keen to keep your young stars? Here’s an ‘up-skilling’ strategy that can do wonders. MICHAEL PHILLIPS

Michael Phillips

By Michael Phillips

One of the many criticisms of younger workers is their inability to remain focused and committed to a job for a prolonged period of time. A common bone of contention with these staff is that owners and managers invest time, money and their kind hearts into new recruits only to see them leave after 12 to 24 months for more money and a new opportunity.

As I’ve said on many occasions, this is easy to do in a “sellers market”, where the seller is the employee who can chop and change roles, as they are in such high demand. With unemployment on the rise, these luxuries for employees may well change and we’ll head back into the good ol’ days of jobs for life – but for now owners and managers have to deal with the current climate.

One method to counteract this issue is to look at job rotation. This may be difficult for all businesses, but most should be able to initiate some sort of rotational program for eager staff looking for variety in the workplace.

The idea is to give staff a three to six month opportunity in one area of the business and then move them on to another department for another three to six months and so on. Normally a program like this might run for one or two years, and gives the employee the opportunity for exposure across the business and develop new skills.

The benefits of such a program are numerous. For owners/managers you not only find a higher retention rate for key personnel, you’ll find that it drives innovation, healthy competition and continuous business improvement. For the employee on the other hand it provides variety, the ability to determine where your interests lie and an opportunity to further your skills and broaden your horizons.

There is no doubt this is a high maintenance program to carry out effectively, but it needs to be done well, incorporating the ideas and approval of management and the staff involved. If done half-heartedly, there will not be adequate “buy-in” from the key stakeholders of the program and staff will ultimately be caught in the abyss of having no support and you’ll be back to square one.

Develop the program with all key stakeholders, and then once established, ensure there is a tangible review process to determine key learnings/outcomes. If all this is done diligently the benefits will flow.


Michael Phillips is a 29-year old CPA managing a business full of Gen-Ys. He’s the Commercial Manager of Cremorne Group which wholesales and retail mens and womens apparel, including the Tommy Hilfiger, Blazer and Perri Cutten brands. He offers his experience as a pioneering Gen-Y managing Gen-Ys, covering issues such as how to recruit, retain and get the most out of Gen-Y – the notoriously difficult younger generation of employees aged 15 to 30.

 For more Managing Gen-Y blogs, click here.



Joshua Barnard writes: I am a so called “Gen-Y,” a 22 year old accountant. I feel I have to stick up for the young people; we are not all money hungry beasts without loyalty. Yes there is that element, but I believe it is a vast generalisation. My employment history shows stints of three and five years, and I only left these jobs due to major changes like graduating from high school or university. Most of my peers are similar. I think “rotation to retain” is a great idea in theory, but in any type of skilled industry I would imagine it would be difficult to earn sufficient value from their training within the three to six months. Anyone who is flexible and skilled enough to change roles with minimal training probably deserves the extra money offered by the job market. Therefore, wouldn’t you be better off paying a little bit extra (for those who are money hungry) and have a team of experts? The organisational culture is key; ensure they are engaged in their work/the organisation, create a fun workplace, then those pesky Gen-Ys will hang around. Easier said than done….

David Blight writes: Your comments about retaining Gen-Y are very true. But we are trying to engage with modern working people with an IR system built last century. It is paternal and while we try to engage with staff at a higher level we are always brought back to practically engaging on an outdated paternalistic system. We can design models for today’s workforce that treats them as intelligent people who wish to make their own decisions on what they are worth and how they manage their value. However the whole concept of ensuring continued engagement is not only the practical part that we can fix, it is making sure the Gen-Y etc are believing in your business, that leads to them belonging, and then to the behaviour that you want. That is more complex, but achievable.

Lisa Cook writes: Are you sure they are leaving the organisation simply for more money; or are there other forces at play…?

Michael Heironymus writes: I am a 32 year old manager of a food service distributor employing Gen-Y staff. I find it increasingly difficult to retain skilled staff due to the current employment market. I have tried the rotation method already and still this doesn’t work. I have resigned to the fact that employee turnover will be on a 12 to 18 month basis. There is always a better paying job out there. The only employees that have loyality are the older generation. The only other way to retain staff that I found is making the employee enjoy what they do. This only works for a handful of staff. The almighty dollar calls to most others, but are they worth what they want?



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