Given the recent commitment by the Queensland Budget to spend around $314 million on skills and training over the next four years, now, more than ever, is a good time to examine the advantages and disadvantages of secondments.

Many of our clients and candidates within the Public Sector use secondments for the purpose of upskilling and training. While many have differing views regarding the true meaning of secondments, the common understanding within the Sector is that it is an arrangement entered into where the employee remains an employee of the ‘home’ Australian Public Service (APS) agency or an outside employer but is ‘lent’ for a period, by:

  • an APS agency to another APS agency;
  • an outside employer to an APS agency; or
  • an APS agency to an outside employer.

This can be for a variety of reasons, such as a one-off placement to help the host agency meet a short term need, or, and this seems to be an increasing reason, an ongoing formal exchange program for personal development purposes.

Feedback, from both employees and managers we work with, has been mostly positive when it comes to secondments for the purposes of training and upskilling.  Interestingly, many are noting the increase in secondments are being favoured as a means for continual development of staff’s skills to remain relevant and competitive within their field.

On the positive side secondments can keep employees engaged by giving them experiences and opportunities to learn a new skill.  Managers can also benefit when the employee returns to their substantive by having their new skill-set brought back to the team.

Some of the disadvantages of secondments are a lack of motivation when the employee returns to the substantive position as they see this as a demotion.  They are not engaged and therefore do not perform as well as they could or would have in the past.

Traditionally, some managers resist secondments as they see there will be an immediate gap in the team and time will be needed to spend training up a new resource. Some managers resist the opportunity for one of their employees to go on a secondment as they are focused on the short term disadvantage of having to train a new employee or increase the capabilities of the existing team.

If handled well, secondments can be beneficial for both managers and employees.  We have found the below tips to be effective:

  • Have a meeting with the employee regarding the secondment and the reasons they want to move from the team for a period of time. Do they just want to the opportunity to train in a new department? Are they disengaged in their current role?
  • From the manager’s perspective, assess if the skills that will be learnt from the secondment will be beneficial for the team?
  • Discuss the learning objectives with the employee. What are the skills and experience they want to take from the secondment?
  • Hold a debriefing meeting after the secondment has finished. What has the employee learnt? Has the employees objectives been met?  Are there some duties that can be added to their job description?

What tips and hints would you add for engaging your employees in regards to secondments? Have you found value in upskilling your staff through secondments? We would love to hear from you.

Anna Fett and Skye Veivers in Davidson Corporate