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Glossary: HR & Recruiting Definitions

What is a secondment?

The definition of a secondment is when an individual who is working for a company temporarily takes a different position. This can be within the same department, in a different department, or in some cases a different branch of the business. On rare occasions, the secondment may be in a different business altogether.

Secondment definition

A secondment is a period of time an individual spends performing a role that is not their primary function within the company. There are two types of secondment, an internal secondment and an external secondment

Internal secondments are much more common than external secondments. This is as they involve the individual remaining within the business, whereas in an external secondment the individual will usually work with a partner company or a client.

What are the benefits of a secondment?

Secondments give an individual the chance to gain a wider understanding of a business and its functions. An individual may perform a secondment within a department that their primary role works closely with, in turn increasing their understanding of how this department works and how best to communicate with them in the future.

A secondment is also a great way for an individual to upskill as they will begin training or improving skills they don’t usually get to use on a day to day basis. Offering a secondment is also a great way to improve an employee’s soft skills, as their communication and people skills will benefit from interacting with new teams. These benefits are all gained without the employee having to leave the business, which can help with employee turnover

Offering a secondment as part of an employee benefits package is also great for employer branding, as candidates will be aware you take their development seriously.

How long does a secondment last?

As secondments are typically temporary, it can be hard to know how long one should last. This will depend on the reason for the secondments. If it is simply to gain a brief understanding of another team, this can last for a few weeks up to a month. Gaining a deeper understanding of the team will, naturally, last longer.

If a secondment is being performed to gain a new skill, this will mean they last longer. This type of secondment can generally last from six months up to two years, although this will depend on the technicality and difficulty of the skill being taught.

Alternatives to a secondment

Not all situations will require a secondment. If an employee wishes to take a period of time away from work for leisure reasons or to achieve personal goals that don’t pertain to business goals then a sabbatical may be more appropriate.

If, however, an employee wants to learn a skill which would be helpful for the business but you do not have a department which could teach them this skill then our articles on hard skills training and soft skills training might be worth a read!


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