Intranet Job Rotation: Spreading the Knowledge

By Paul Chin

Originally published in Intranet Journal (30-Jun-2008)

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"We're here to protect democracy, not practice it." It's a saying often associated with military culture; and unfortunately, some intranet team members have adopted this same attitude when it comes to working with others in the team.

Intranets are used to improve internal communication and collaboration, so it stands to reason that those charged with intranet governance would put that theory into practice themselves. But sadly, for a variety of reasons, the ideals promoted by the system don't always transfer over to the team managing it. Instead, some intranet team members see fit to embrace a counterproductive, military-like ethos: "We're here to encourage collaboration, not exercise it."

Managing an intranet's team members and their various roles, however, is just as important as managing its content. Rather than putting blinders on, it would do team members a lot of good if everyone involved in the management of the system had a better understanding of their colleagues' role—and even to step into their shoes for a while.

Implementing a job rotation program—where qualified and willing intranet team members are moved through different intranet roles (either temporarily or permanently)—can have positive effects on both the intranet governing body and the system itself:

Increases Empathy Toward Colleagues

Far too many people live in a me, me, me world. Put them in a competitive corporate setting and this attitude can be amplified tenfold: "Drop what you're doing, I need it yesterday", "I don't want to hear any excuses, just get it done", "Your job doesn't seem that difficult, so why is it taking so long for you to do this?" They pull up a cozy chair at the center of the universe and can't see beyond their own immediate needs.

These selfish attitudes are brought forth by a lack of empathy toward another person's situation, and a lack of awareness of what others in the intranet team do. This will eventually cause resentment and passive aggressive behavior within the various intranet teams. If team members were given the chance to walk a mile in their colleagues' shoes, they will gain a better understanding and appreciation for other's unique challenges.

Encourages Knowledge Sharing

Technology-based knowledge sharing only works if the organization already has a culture of human-based knowledge sharing. But there are many factors that prevent employees from sharing what they know with others: Job security, personal gain, competition or rivalries with others, treating knowledge as a form of power, fear of not being recognized, fear of accountability, adopting loner attitudes, and thinking that they will be wasting their time by helping others.

People can become very territorial about their jobs, refusing to allow others to enter into their private cocoon. Their first instinct is to keep everyone at an arm's length and not divulge too much information. This gives them a sense of security and importance. An unfortunate byproduct of this behavior is that team members will end up creating pockets of knowledge. The intranet then turns into a contest of who knows what.

But when intranet team members are broken out of their cocoons and enter into new roles with other intranet team members that they have never worked with, knowledge sharing will occur naturally as a function of their new role. A job rotation program can break down protectionism attitudes and help team members realize that every intranet job is "a job", not "my job".

Expands Skill Set and Creates Backups

How many times have you encountered situations where not only is a single intranet team member responsible for a given job, but a single intranet team member is the only person who actually understands how to do that job?

If your intranet is of any importance to your day-to-day operation, leaving a vital role in the hands of a single person doesn't make much sense. That person might decide to transfer to another department or leave the company entirely. You will then be left with a big hole that can't be filled quickly. Some poor soul will have take over the vacated position and learn the job on the fly—in a production environment. This can lead to mistakes that will adversely affect the system and productivity of the user community.

An intranet job rotation program creates talent backups. There will be others who have experience in the vacated role and will understand what needs to be done to keep the system running properly. There won't be any delays or service interruptions caused by intranet team members having to overcome a learning curve since it would have been overcome during the job rotation period. Depending on what the particular situation may be, the replacement person can take over the role permanently or fill the gap temporarily while another permanent person is brought up to speed.

Reduces Boredom and Increases Job Satisfaction

Variety is the spice of intranet life. Doing the same thing everyday over a prolonged period of time can get extremely tedious. Regardless of how conscientious a person has been in the past, repetition will eventually lead to boredom, apathy, and neglect. And the worst part is that not only will individual team members lose interest in what they're doing, but this negative attitude has a tendency to affect (or infect) others around them as well.

An intranet job rotation program can help break up the monotony and allow intranet team members to experience new things, expand their knowledge and professional skill set, and work with new people. Most importantly, it allows them to gain valuable and practical exposure to the entire intranet as a whole.

Closing Thoughts

An intranet job rotation program, however, isn't guaranteed to succeed. Success is highly dependent on intranet team members' willingness to participate and whether there are enough qualified personnel to rotate through the various jobs. Forcibly displacing strained team members it will do more harm than good.

It's also important to note that team members should be rotated to another position within the same job "family". Moving someone from a business analysis position to a content management position makes sense, but moving someone from a business analysis position to an IT development position doesn't.

If intranet team members are to be rotated to a position outside their field, you must make sure that there's adequate supervision, and that the person is qualified and willing to learn. If you rotate someone who's not confident in his or her ability to adapt to new things, you risk the integrity of the intranet.

The goal of an intranet job rotation program is to allow team members to gain a better appreciation of all the roles required to keep the system on its feet, and to gain some practical experience outside their own responsibilities. When done correctly, improved communication and collaboration won't simply be an idea promoted within the user community, it will be the foundation by which the intranet management team lives by.

Copyright © 2008 Paul Chin. All rights reserved.
Reproduction of this article in whole or part in any form without prior written permission of Paul Chin is prohibited.