Having a pre-made secondment strategy can be a lifesaver for companies.
Often, companies require additional employees to complete critical ongoing projects or work in their sister organizations. They may also want to create an internal talent pipeline that can be used during succession planning or sudden voluntary exits.
Meanwhile, employees can learn new skills, expand their network and gain new experiences, all without leaving their employer.
But you may be wondering, ‘What is secondment’?
In this article, we will be taking a closer look at the secondment definition, how it works, and why creating and implementing a secondment strategy can be a smart way to gain career success.
What is secondment?
Secondment is a short-term transfer from your primary position to another role. The movement may be to another department or a sister, client, or partner company.
Companies can second employees to:
- Another department within the same company
- Another role in the same department and company
- A newly created position in the company
- A different role in a client or partner organization
- A new role in a sister company
- A project-based role with their vendor or service provider
Some companies may have a standard secondment program with policies in place, while others may prefer to use secondment as and when required.
Let’s take a closer look at how secondment works in an organization and impacts employees.
When a seconded employee or ‘secondee’ moves to their secondment, they are assigned new duties and responsibilities. They take up the new assignments for the prescribed time for a third party or the same organization.
Even while they carry out the secondment duties, they make sure to keep their obligations to their original employer. This could be in the form of certain instructions or procedural requirements.
Compensation and expenses
The original company usually retains the employee on their payroll even as the seconded employee moves to their new position. After completing their responsibilities in the seconded role, they return to their previous position in the company.
Secondees may keep the same compensation and benefits for roles similar in scope and nature to their original role. Moving to positions with significantly higher responsibilities can increase compensation and benefits.
Companies also account for additional secondment expenses such as relocation, training, overtime, or bonuses.
Many secondments may be communicated through phone calls, in-person discussions, or virtual meetings. However, it is also critically important to document and record all details of the secondment.
Companies organizing secondments within the organization may not consider the paperwork vital. But having clear documentation and transparency is essential to formalize the contract while clarifying everyone’s expectations.
Consider adding the third party to the contract terms and conditions if the position is with them and not with the original employer. While the exact secondment term might vary from one organization to another, having a written contract keeps all the stakeholders on the same page.
Speak to your original employer to confirm how the secondment would impact the employee-employer relationship. Discuss how the existing employer relationship will be maintained and if you will be moved to the third-party payroll.
In most secondments, the original employer continues to be your formal employer and is responsible for your compensation and benefits. Meanwhile, the employee continues to fulfill their duties to the organization, including clarifying any potential conflict of interest.
Leave and absences
When companies draw up secondment agreements, they include provisions for leave and absences. Make sure to discuss the policy regarding leave and absences and how they will be treated.
Here are some questions that should be clarified:
- Which organization’s leave and absence policy will be followed?
- Which company is responsible for approving leave – the third party or the original employer?
- To whom should the leave be reported?
- How will the work responsibilities be handled if unforeseen sick or emergency leave occurs?
In secondments, since you’ll be working for two different employers, they may have concerns about the confidentiality of their (or their client’s) information.
In such cases, you need to thoroughly review and understand your obligations to protect the company’s sensitive information before starting the secondment.
Secondments are temporary transfers that end once the prescribed time is over. Mentioning the exact closure terms in the secondment agreement can provide transparency and clarity to all stakeholders.
You can start by asking a few questions to see if the important elements are covered:
- When does the secondment end? Does it have a specific date or will it be whenever the assigned duties and responsibilities are completed?
- Is there any chance of finishing the secondment earlier than the prescribed date?
- Who is in a position to end the secondment prior to the scheduled end date? Is it the third party, the original employer, or me?
- What happens after the secondment period is over? Do I return to my original position or start another secondment?
- What are my options after completing the secondment if my original position is unavailable?
- Can the secondment be extended?
- What are the grounds on which the secondment can be extended?
- Can the secondment extend and turn into a full-time role after the prescribed time is over?
Advantages of seconding employees
Here are some reasons that make secondments a win-win for employees and employers.
Employee burnout is on the rise. Research confirms that more than 66% of full-time employees have experienced chronic work stress at some point in their careers. Burnout leads to disengaged employees, high turnover, and increasing absenteeism levels.
The impact of burnout on employers is also severe. Harvard Business Review research suggests that workplace stress could cost the US economy alone $500 billion and approximately 550 million lost workdays. Using secondment as an intentional employee retention strategy can work wonders.
Secondment can help employees meet new people and gain unique experiences while broadening their career perspectives. It can also enable employees to pick up projects that align with their career interests and fit into their work-life balance.
Career growth opportunities
Experience and skills gained from a new secondment are valuable and can stay with you forever.
A secondment can also be prominently highlighted on your resume or LinkedIn profile. It shows potential employers that you are flexible, dynamic, and open to exploring new career pathways.
If you’re contemplating moving into another role that requires similar skills and experiences that you possess, a secondment can help you try it out. Since this is a short-term assignment, it offers a low-risk opportunity to work in the new job role and see if you like it.
Learn new skills
Landing a new position brings many opportunities, of which learning new skills is the most exciting. Apart from flexing your existing skills, you will get a chance to join a different team and build new relationships.
Secondments are much like on-the-job training but without the hassle of hierarchies. For example, a seconded employee can be from any position, department, or level. It empowers them to learn new skills and level up their expertise across newer areas.
Build your professional network
Entering into a new secondment position can mean getting to know more people. As you become a part of a new team, there is a great chance to build deeper connections and relationships with your colleagues.
Interacting closely with another team also helps in getting access to greater opportunities besides having a positive impact on your career journey.
Tips for successful secondments
Secondments offer excellent potential to widen your network, gain new skills, and develop a broader organizational perspective. To make the most of your secondment strategy, consider these tips:
Understand the new role
Find out everything about the new role and what it offers you in the short and long term. Speak to your manager to determine if you will be developing new skills or working on a certain project, and also learn about the estimated workload in the role.
Create a written secondment contract
Make sure to have a written secondment contract that includes all the key elements of the secondment role, duration, and responsibilities. A written agreement also helps if you are going to work with a third party in another region as it clarifies the legal laws of the state.
Spend time in preparation
Planning helps employees avoid sudden or surprising revelations. If possible, speak to your secondment manager to see if they’d like you to be prepared with anything in particular.
For example, an email setup or IT permissions for the laptop are operational things that can be completed a day or two before your secondment joining date.
Stay in the loop
Whether connecting with your new colleagues or keeping in touch with older ones, use LinkedIn to stay in the loop.
Request to remain a part of the email bulletins or company newsletters so you know what’s happening in your role. That will also significantly reduce the catching up you may need to do when you get back.
Just doing the role doesn’t help you achieve your professional goals. You need to know if you’re doing well and moving in the right direction.
Make sure to interact with your new manager and request regular feedback to ensure you’re on the right track.
Review and reflect
Take some time to review your secondment experience to see how it went. Spend a couple of hours reviewing the things that went well and the ones that could have been better.
Finally, summarize the learnings, skills, and experience gained and add these to your resume or LinkedIn profile.
Apply the learnings
New things or practices learned do not stay with us unless we take the time to practice them regularly.
Spend time applying the skills and expertise gained from the secondment experience. Consider sharing a few best practices with your original supervisor or suggest recommendations for areas that can be made better with improvement.
A secondment can be the perfect piece of the puzzle for companies looking for critical staff or employees wanting to develop their careers and broaden their skillset.
Starting a secondment means stepping out of your comfort zone, which can be exhilarating. A growth mindset will help you navigate the new terrains while developing a newfound appreciation for your older role when you return to it.