When I worked as a high-frequency algorithmic trader, there was one simple strategy we used that I have yet to see many startups take advantage of. It's an inherently simple idea--the concept of role rotation. Basically, I was forced to have another employee take over my role once a year for about two weeks while I did the same with someone else. This allowed people to learn the basic aspects of other roles at the company, but it also had plenty of other benefits.

And while this is a somewhat common practice in the financial world--mainly for compliance reasons--I rarely see it in the entrepreneurial space. But it still applies.

Here are the top four reasons why your company should implement role rotation.

1. It de-risks your company.

Rotating roles on a regular basis forces your team to document their everyday processes so that anyone on your staff could jump in and handle their day-to-day responsibilities with little to no experience. As an example, we have one person who does the payroll every month at our company. However, the process is documented in a thorough checklist and three employees, including myself, have already rotated into the role within the past year.

None of those employees have accounting experience, but they were all able to complete payroll on time because the process was well-documented. So if our accountant leaves unexpectedly, we know that payroll will continue to go out on time.  

In 2017, my business partner left the company with about five minutes notice. If we hadn't been rotating roles and documenting our processes, the company would have gone bankrupt. But thanks to this simply strategy, we were able to distribute his responsibilities to a handful of team members--including myself--and keep the ship afloat.

2. It brings a new perspective.

Sitting in one role for years at a time doesn't exactly get the creative juices flowing. Most people who stay in one role for a long time just assume there is one way of doing things--the way it's always been done.

Bringing in a fresh set of eyes opens up the position for improvement, and sometimes it can alert you to major issues that were sitting under your nose. Someone might rotate into a role and complete the same amount of work in half the time as the regular employee or they may notice areas of the role that could be made more efficient. On more than one occasion, we've realized that certain people at our company were not actually completing all the work they told us they were.

Role rotation has even resulted in many structural changes at our company. We've been able to combine similar roles when we realized people were doubling up on certain tasks. We've also removed certain roles that we discovered weren't totally necessary to the success of the company.

3. It creates more versatile employees.

Rotating roles once or twice a year doesn't mean that every employee can handle every facet of every position. But it does mean that all of your employees become slightly more versatile and well-rounded. In the case that one person on your team is overloaded, you can easily have another employee step in and take some work off their plate to keep the ship afloat.

And aside from developing useful skills, rotating roles gives your employees a 360-degree view of the company. It takes them out of their specific department and shows them how the company works as a whole. This means everyone can see the bigger picture and understand how their work affects the rest of the company.

4. It creates satisfied employees that will stay for the long haul.

According to Gallup research, 32 percent of people quit their jobs because of career advancement or promotional opportunities--in other words, they weren't given a chance to learn, grow, and advance so they looked elsewhere. This was the number one factor that caused people to quit their jobs, and it's no surprise. Anyone looking to further their professional career wants to learn as much as they can.

Rotating roles can increase employee satisfaction and retention by allowing people to learn new skills outside of their traditional role. This not only provides an interesting change in their day-to-day, but allows them to learn skills that might help them advance in their career, either at your company or elsewhere. They may even find a new role that suits them better.

And much like your current employees, recruits are looking for jobs that will advance their careers. A position that offers learning opportunities and room for growth is far more enticing than a stagnating role, even if the pay is lower. Role rotation is a good strategy to bring in hungry, young professionals who are looking to advance their careers.

Published on: Dec 11, 2018
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.