Short-Term Leadership Development Assignments

There’s a recent article in Chief Learning Office Magazine called Short-Term assignments on the Rise. Here’s an excerpt:

More and more organizations are enabling a mobile workforce by increasing temporary and short-term job assignments, according to a recent survey by Worldwide ERC and Cartus. Budgetary pressures, an ever-shrinking labor pool and more demand for flexibility in the workplace are the motivators for this, said U.S.-based human resources practitioners.

Of the 80 percent of respondents who use short-term assignments, 62 percent said that during the past three years, their use has increased. Fifty-seven percent of the 208 people polled expect this trend to persist in the future.

“It’s a reaction to the real-estate market in one sense and then also a cost savings in another sense,” said Lina Paskevicius, consulting manager at Cartus, a provider of global mobility management and workforce development solutions. “People are finding that they may not be in a position where they can move, [as] the real-estate market has taken some of the equity out of their homes. They’re also not willing to move to the new location either, [for the] same reason. And companies are realizing that they don’t need to relocate someone; they can send them on an assignment and have them back in nine months.”

Of the 40 percent of respondents who have rotational assignments, 43 percent expect an increase in this type of job assignment in the future. As defined by the survey, a domestic, short-term assignment is a single, short-duration relocation in which the employee moves from home to the destination location and back again, whereas a rotational assignment is a series of short-duration assignments.

These posts can provide employees with a bevy of development opportunities. Organizations are using them for career development, knowledge or skills transfer and project work.

I’m not surprised to see an increase in these kind of development assignments. They are kind of a compromise between a full scale job change with relocation and a project assignment. The conventional wisdom on full job changes for leadership development used to be that it should be about 18 months minimum, in order to have time to learn the job, make a contribution, and harvest the development. So the conditions would need to be right for this kind of assignment to work – shorter learning curve, ability to “hold” the person’s position until they return, supportive manager, etc…

Given the challenge or getting high-potentials to relocate, and ever increasing shortage of leadership talent, I think we need to consider challenging the conventional wisdom and give a shot.

Your thoughts?