Transfer at Work Is a Career Opportunity

Upsides and Downsides Exist When an Employee Transfers to a New Job

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A transfer at work is an approach to helping employees develop a career path. A transfer provides experience in other areas of an employee's current department or in a new department within the business.

A work transfer is a way to help an employee gain wider and broader experience within the business. It is more often available than a promotion because fewer employees inhabit each successive layer as they are promoted up the organization chart.

A transfer will not generally result in a higher salary, although it can especially if the transfer is a promotion or if the other employees doing the same job make more money than the transferring employee.

As managers look for ways to help employees continue to develop their skills, experience, and knowledge about the business, a transfer is an option to consider. When working with a performance development planning (PDP) process, along with promotions, a transfer provides an opportunity for an employee to learn and grow.

Thus, it is motivating for employees. A transfer to a different job at work is a sign that the organization cares about and will provide opportunities for the employee's development, one of the five factors that employees want to obtain from work.

In fact, research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) indicates that career development is a huge part of what helps employers retain their most superior employees.

So, if you're serious about retention, a job transfer is another opportunity that you can provide for career-savvy employees. 

Advantages of a Transfer

A transfer provides a career path for an employee when a promotion is not available. It provides advantages for an employee. In a transfer, the employee:

  • Gains new knowledge and skills by performing a different job that requires new skills and provides different responsibilities.
  • Overcomes boredom and dissatisfaction with his or her current job by having a new and different job with changed responsibilities and tasks.
  • Receives a new challenge, a chance for the employee to expand his or her accomplishments, reach, impact, and potentially, influence different aspects of the workplace and organization.
  • Experience a change of scene and work environment which challenges the employee to adapt and learn to manage change. (Increases the employee's ability to deal with ambiguity.)
  • Will learn about different components, activities, and jobs in the organization and how work is accomplished in different departments or job functions. (This will build his or her organizational knowledge and ability to get things done. It will also increase the value that she provides to the organization.)
  • Prepares for a promotion or broader organizational role, by expanding his or her skill set and responsibilities, and gain broader knowledge about the total organization.
  • Gains visibility with a new group of coworkers and managers. Visibility for a good employee brings potential opportunities. The more people who understand the value that she brings to the organization—the better.
  • Allows the employee to accomplish all of the above while retaining his or her current salary, benefits package, and company perks. A job change to achieve these same benefits might result in the loss of needed and appreciated compensation, benefits, and time-off options such as the number of weeks of vacation available.

Downsides of a Transfer

It's tempting to say that there are no downsides when an employee transfers to a new job, but that isn't true in all cases. So, let's consider the potential downsides while celebrating the above positives.

This is going to sound as if the flip side of each positive is a potential downside but consider these potential negatives in an employee job transfer.

  • The employee has to learn a whole new job. When an employee has been comfortably and happily performing in their current position, this change can require a lot of energy investment, learning, and adjustment.
  • The employee needs to develop a new network of customers and coworkers with whom he can successfully work. The new network has different ways of accomplishing work and getting things done. He will need to learn their way of doing business and adjust his behavior to the whole new network of relationships.
  • A new boss may or may not work effectively with the transferred employee. There are bad bosses out there and what if he is one of them? In the former position, the employee had learned to work with the boss he had. In any case, a new boss requires an adjustment.
  • What if the employee doesn't like the job, the work or his coworkers? He must succeed or he will likely be ineligible for additional transfers and promotions. Alternatively, he can leave the company.
  • The employee will need to work hard, work longer hours, and more to prove that he deserved the new position and that the organization gave the right person the opportunity.

For the employer, the major downside is that the employee will not produce as successfully until he or she learns the new job. The employer will also have to replace the employee with another employee.

To counter these concerns, consider that a good employee who has been successful in the past will learn quickly to contribute in the new position. If the employer has worked to develop succession planning, the employer has the right employee waiting to take the transferring employee's job.

Please note that the word transfer is often used interchangeably with the term, lateral move, although a transfer can also involve a promotion whereas a lateral move does not. As such, in the business world, though, the employer would likely call the move a promotion.