Career Development Opportunities

Secondment

Secondment

A secondment is the name given to temporary work that is assigned to an employee in a different area from which they are already working in. Secondments provide employees with an opportunity to experience a different part of an organisation or a different organisation altogether, and there are benefits to both the employee and the organisation.

This guide sets out the points that all the parties involved in a secondment arrangement need to consider. There may be local or organisation-set processes already in place so this guide can supplement information already provided. The employee is referred to as such, the current place of work is the employer and the department or organisation to which the employee is seconded is referred to as the ‘host’. Secondment does not really lend itself to having a programme in place at all times, more the process should be established and used as necessary.

Benefits of Secondment

EmployeeEmployerHost
Understand how other departments or organisations and other technical staff work
Increases employees understanding of other areas of the organisation
Provides an understanding of how other organisations work.
Appreciate how other roles support the organisation
Increases awareness of similarities and differences between roles.
Host employees appreciate how other roles support the organisation and learn the differences and similarities across the roles.
Learn from real-life experiences of colleagues or employees from the host organisation.Chance for employees to share their experience with other departmentsHost gains a direct insight into the experiences of the employee. These experiences can be shared across the host organisation/ team.
Appreciate other needs and priorities outside the established roleRaises the profile of staff within the host organisation and publicises the work that they carry out.
Chance to enhance and develop both technical and non-technical skills or to gain one specific skill.
The skills acquired by the employee are directly transferred into the original role and team.
Skills are acquired without a significant financial cost.
The host team gains fresh skills and ideas from the employee without the significant cost of formal recruitment.
The opportunity to try something new without leaving the organisation or relocating.The employee does not leave the organisation. No recruitment issues or costs and enhanced staff retention rates. It may help the employer to avoid redundancies by temporarily re-assigning employees.No recruitment costs.
Provides a temporary resource to cover a temporary project, employee sick leave or other temporary demands on the organisation.
Provides access to opportunities not available in the current roleContributes to staff morale and motivation as development opportunities are automatically provided rather than managers having to devise/develop opportunities.Employee is enthusiastic and focussed on achieving objectives. This may result in increased productivity.

Types of secondment

Secondment can either be carried out internally (within an organisation) or externally to a different organisation.

Internal secondments. These can be within a department to a different role or across departments to roles that may have similar skill requirements. Internal secondments can be taken up simply by an employee applying for a vacancy that is advertised as suitable for secondment or by the employee actively arranging a secondment opportunity.

External secondments. These provide benefits to all three parties. Each experiences exposure to, and develops an awareness of, different work practices. All parties must be clear about their objectives, responsibilities, expectations and accountabilities during the process. Voluntary sector – Being seconded to work in the voluntary sector allows employees to experience a totally different work context. It can be used to develop links with the community and provide the voluntary sector with skilled employees that are usually paid for by the employees organisation. Volunteering is a valuable skill to have on an employee’s CV.

Establishment of a secondment

All types of secondments need to be considered carefully in the context of the business needs, resources, commitments and the need to backfill a post using a fixed-term contract. Individuals may show an interest in secondment due to the following:

  • They have applied for an internal secondment that has been advertised internally
  • They have applied for an external secondment in response to another organisation’s advertisement
  • They may have been offered an external secondment opportunity by another organisation through cooperative working or networking channels

In all cases, individuals should be encouraged to discuss the opportunity with their line manager in the first instance. Developing a work environment in which secondments are encouraged is therefore a useful basis for such discussions.

If an incoming secondment opportunity has been identified, follow the points outlined in the ‘role of the host’ section below. It may be that the employee has already been identified due to the existence of collaborations.

I would like to take up a secondment role, where do I start?

  • If there is a formal secondment process in place within your organisation, contact the programme manager and follow the process.
  • Decide what you would like to gain from the experience. This will dictate where you are seconded to, or which secondment vacancies you apply for.
  • Outline any specific personal objectives, and/or objectives required by your department. Apply for either an advertised secondment post or arrange a post with the appropriate department. Use networks or forums as a source of secondments.
  • Discuss timeframes and work commitments with your line manager. Decide whether you would like to carry out the secondment full-time or part-time. Decide on the timeframe for the secondment.
  • Ensure any individual circumstances or challenges are considered.
  • Arrange any cover with your line manager and ensure there is a formal handover of duties. Complete any contract documentation and ensure that the secondment is formally documented.
  • Maintain contact with your employer by arranging meetings as necessary. Allocate some time to provide feedback to your colleagues about the experience. Consider whether any new ideas need to implemented into your workplace.

Role of the employer

The original employer remains as such throughout the secondment and retains overall control of the employee.

  • Work with the employee to arrange and manage the secondment if the employee has initiated and arranged the secondment themselves.
  • Ensure that any secondment is correctly documented and agreed prior to the start date of the secondment (secondment contract).
  • Work with the employee to outline objectives of the secondment.
  • Provide a named individual who will manage the secondment
  • Inform HR at the earliest opportunity of the possibility of a secondment.
  • Plan resources and staffing to manage the ‘absence’ of the employee.
  • Manage any other staff that may feel resentful of the employee.
  • Maintain regular contact with the host employer and employee.
  • Ensure that the employee is included in departmental communications, training etc. and take active steps to welcome them back at the end of their secondment period.
  • Ensure that the employee receives appropriate training and is included in performance-management programmes.

Role of the ‘host’

  • Ensure that any secondment is correctly documented and agreed prior to the start date of the secondment (secondment contract).
  • Maintain regular contact with the employer.
  • Provide appropriate induction and training for the employee and ensure that they are included in any management development programmes.
  • Provide a named individual who will manage the secondment.
  • Work with the employee to outline objectives for the secondment.
  • Allow the employee to ask questions and confirm their understanding of processes.