Job Exchange Programs- A Different Spin On Employee Development


September 6, 2009

It’s September and for most kids that means the start of a new school year full of change.  A new teacher, meeting new friends, playing with new kids at recess, a new school bus driver.  Kids have such excitement and motivation to start the new adventure.  Wouldn’t it be great to have this feeling at work?  How can we bring that same excitement and enthusiasm or “fresh start” to work?  What can HR do to encourage this behavior? 

Depending on the type of company you work for, there may not be much opportunity to change things up.  For example, in manufacturing environments, you may have a union contract to adhere to or it may be challenging to move people to a new production line or new shift.  In a professional environment, the client may need or want a specific work team to remain in place for consistency of service quality.  However, to the extent possible, one way HR can encourage smaller-scale “fresh starts”  is by working with managers and leadership to create a job exchange program.

What is a job exchange program? 

A job exchange program works much like a foreign student exchange program.  An employee basically switches to another group, department, city, or any other division in the company.  There, the employee is “hosted” by the receiving office and gains exposure to the culture, employees, and clients of that office.  It can be a situation where two employees truly “exchange” positions for a set period of time- anywhere from a few weeks, to months, or longer.  It can also be a situation where an office or group needs help during a particularly busy time and they enlist assistance from other parts of the company.  Although the latter happens in companies now, I do not know of many organizations that capitalize on capturing the results of their employees working in a different location or group.

What can the HR team do to help capture the results ?

  • Publicize job exchange as a formal learning and development opportunity on the company website for potential candidates.
  • Does the company have an internal blog?  Interview the employees who have participated in the job exchange and  promote their experience to the rest of the company.
  • Use video interviews as a way to capture the experiences of the participants.  The videos can be used on the company website, in presentations, as recruiting tools, and more.
  • Host webinars or lunch-n-learn sessions where participants in the job exchange share their experiences “live” with colleagues.

There are many more creative ways to promote this beneficial program in your company. If you work in a company that currently has a job exchange program, I’d love to hear about it.  If your company doesn’t have this type of program and you think it would or would not work, I’d love to hear that too.


  • I love the lunch and learn sessions you mention above – it takes the idea of informational interviews one step further and permits many to benefit from the experiences. Great idea!

  • We don’t have a formal program but did a 9 month experiment with an employee that served as a tremendous opportunity to build bridges across international offices. The employee was able to provide perspective from our office and vice versa. He was also able to jump start a new discipline in the office. There were a lot of kinks but I think the overall program was a success and if fine-tuned could be mirrored in other offices. Great post!

  • @Lisa- Thank you for your feedback. I think there are so many things HR can do to share great experiences and I’m hoping that some of these spark action.

    @Allyson- Thank you so much for your comment. I love hearing that your company tried this informally. I think it’s such a good experience to offer employees. Loved hearing about the results you saw and what the employee provided in terms of feedback.

  • This same idea hit me few days back. I googled it and landed on this blog. It is nice to know some other person have had the idea before me. 🙂

    Is it possible to have such job exchange program?

    I think it will work for big big organizations only. If organization is small then they will not think of exchange their capable person with unknown person. Or it will be new hiring process all together. It will also depend upon how much open or truthful the person will be to new organization about their capability and interest.

    Anyway it is very interesting idea. 🙂

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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