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Job Rotation

When asked what they want out of their job, a majority of Canadians say they want work that is challenging and interesting. One way that employers can meet these aspirations is through more flexible forms of work organization that provide more opportunities for workers to use their skills, do a variety of tasks, and have more influence over their work. An example of this flexible approach is job rotation or cross-training, that is, training employees in a range of tasks and rotating them through different positions


Job Rotation: Rare in Firms of All Sizes

Source: Statistics Canada Workplace and Employee Survey (1999) - employer survey.

Job rotation and cross-training can benefit both employees and employers. Workers learn new skills and face less boredom from performing similar tasks over and over. Greater variety and a wide range of tasks make work more interesting and challenging. Job rotation and cross-training can also benefit employers. Job rotation is believed to boost innovation by enabling workers to apply knowledge of one task to others. Moreover, exposing employees to other types of jobs within the firm promotes a better understanding of what others in the firm do and how each job contributes to the whole. Finally, a multi-skilled workforce can more readily adapt to changing markets.

As the above chart shows, relatively few employed Canadians engage in job rotation or cross-training. While 15 percent say they "occasionally" participate in such workplace practices, only 6 percent report doing so on a "frequent" basis. This form of flexible work organization is slightly more common among workers in large firms. For instance, those employed in firms of under 20 employees are least likely to be engaged in job rotation or cross-training, with 84 percent of them indicating that they never do so, compared with 80 percent of workers in firms with 500 or more employees.


By Region

Job Rotation: Rare in All Provinces, Especially Quebec 

Source: Statistics Canada Workplace and Employee Survey (1999) - employer survey.
As the chart shows, the prevalence of job rotation and cross-training varies somewhat by province. Whereas, about 20 percent of all employed Canadians are occasionally or frequently involved in job rotation or cross-training schemes, these practices are most frequent in Alberta (28 percent) and least frequent in Quebec (11 percent).

By Industry

Job Rotation: More Common in Some Industries Than Others

Source: Statistics Canada Workplace and Employee Survey (1999) - employer survey.

No doubt some of the regional variation noted above stems from differences in industrial mix. As the chart below shows, there are substantial differences in the use of job rotation or cross-training by industries. These practices are fairly common (with about one in four occasionally or frequently participating) in manufacturing; finance, insurance, real estate; and forestry and mining industries. Job-rotation and cross-training are least common in the education and health care professions (13 percent), a reflection, perhaps, of the highly specialized skills required for many of the jobs in those fields.

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