By Emily Gray, Executive Director of Global Occupier Services
Secondment is gaining traction within the personnel, human resources – and more recently, commercial real estate – industries. According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, secondment is a “temporary movement or loan of an employee to another part of an organization, or to a separate organization.”
Through a secondment assignment:
- A host company’s employee is immersed in a client firm’s organizational culture, obtaining new skills that can ultimately benefit the host company.
- The host company gains unique access to a client firm’s operations and principles, leading to a greater understanding of the client firm’s needs, objectives and goals.
- The client firm has a short-term or mid-term employee steeped in industry knowledge. The arrangement can often be cost-effective for the client firm, which doesn’t need to hire new personnel.
The legal and accounting professions have relied on secondment strategies to strengthen client relationships and build employee skills. Secondment activities are proving useful for commercial real estate companies, as well.
A successful secondment requires the input of, and preparation for, three parties. Without cooperation among the following, the arrangement won’t be effective.
- The host company must be willing to loan an employee, for a specific set time, to a client firm.
- The client firm must provide the employee with an adequate workspace, as well as access to corporate culture and knowledge.
- The employee must be willing to work with the client firm, and to take on different tasks.
Best Practices Reduce Challenges
Lack of preparation or focus on proposed outcomes is a sure path to secondment failures. The following best practices can ensure a successful secondment program.
Ensure everything is spelled out. There are many things to consider when it comes to such an arrangement, not the least of which is how long the secondment will last, and how it will end.
Perform employee due diligence. The best workers for secondment assignments are those who are curious, outgoing, who want to advance and are open enough to accept different organizational cultures.
Guarantee frequent contact with the host firm. This is important, not only for the employee to share information with the CRE host firm, but also to let the employee know that he or she is still an important part of the host firm.
Develop a plan for employee reintegration. The secondment employee will need to be eased back into his/her role at the host company upon the assignment’s conclusion. Re-acclimation and debriefing are important.
Conduct a post-secondment post-mortem. A follow-up meeting between employee, host firm and client firm can provide invaluable information concerning what was effective, and necessary improvements.
Secondment activities are not for every organization. But, such arrangements can be extremely beneficial for all involved, provided in-depth preparation occurs, and best practices are in place.
Emily Gray is the Executive Director of the Global Occupier Services group at Cushman & Wakefield.