Keys to a successful job rotation program

Keys to a successful job rotation program

Working at Pivotal Software I started to hear from designers who express interests in a job rotation program. One of the many reasons is because Pivotal has several groups that function very differently. The R&D design group functions as the in-house software design group; the Lab design group functions as consultants, and the Marketing design group functions as a design agency.

Job rotation gives the employee an opportunity to develop skills outside their normal workflow. Job rotation is one of the many important tools an employee can use to help them further their skills and careers. Typically in a job rotation program, the employees can make lateral moves but can gain skills eventually further their professional career whether they want to be an individual contributor (IC) or a people manager.

Job rotation also benefits the employer. By encouraging job rotation, the employer can learn about an individual’s strength. The employer can also train an individual with new skills on the job through job rotation, in return receive a flexible and knowledgeable workforce that can be sourced throughout the company. Job rotation also keeps the employee motivated.

However, to create a successful job rotation program requires careful planning.

Pivotal Design Rotation Planning

A group of designers and design managers gathered information from external companies and conducted interviews within the design groups. We mapped out a company-wide design rotation program. Here are four keys to effective job rotation.


Our designer rotation program starts with interviewing the designers to discuss what is their personal expectations and learning goals. We learn about their strength and their weakness.  We identify the root cause of their desire to participate in the rotation program. Whether it is to learn a new skill, or for an eventual promotion or advance their career options, or to avoid boredom. Then discuss with their managers to identify opportunities to facilitate their learning. We also balance the need for each business group. DIscuss the opportunity to create backup help for each business group.


We set out to check with design managers and other people managers to identify interests in facilitation the rotation program. Then match the development plan for the designer. We carefully match the project, group to the needs of the designers, and map out a step by step scaffolding program to onboard the designer.


We understand that a successful rotation needs to be built on the existing skills. The following two charts are what we used as the skill matrix.

Skill Matrix Design Core Skills Skill Matrix Design Applicable skills


We understand the importance of creating a mentoring system to facilitate the rotation. Several ideas had risen from the program.

  1. Design managers paring with the designer for onboarding
  2. Design manager spend time during one on one to check with the designer
  3. Pairing designers with veteran designers from the group to kick off D+F, then slowly roll off the veteran designer
  4. Create regular cadence for pairing across groups
  5. Identify a buddy system from the skill-share self-identification charts

As designer rotates to each new group, he or she is assigned to another design mentor and design buddy who has the responsibility to teach and answer questions.

At the end of each rotation, we ask the designer to meet with us for a mini retro. We identify what worked well through the rotation, what they want to improve, what suggestions they might have, to help the program continue to iterate.

In summary, we outline the two-way communication in the program:

What we can provide to you

  • An opportunity to learn from different service/groups within Pivotal
  • Build and grow your skill sets
  • Match with a mentor or mentee to facilitate your professional and personal growth

What we need help from you

  • Communicate your interests to us and your manager
  • Keep us honest about the program
  • Advocate for the business value of design
  • Be an evangelist for our Pivotal wide rotation program

It is a win-win situation for designers and the business.