A Transfer at Work Is a Career Opportunity

Woman receiving a promotion in business meeting

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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.

Transfers Build Experience

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

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.

Transfers Motivate

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

Research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) indicates that career development is a huge part of what helps employers retain their top employees. So, if you're serious about retention, a job transfer is another opportunity you can offer career-savvy staff members. 

A transfer will not necessarily result in a higher salary. It can if the transfer is really a promotion, or if the other workers doing the same job make more money than the transferring employee.

Advantages of a Job Transfer

A transfer provides a career path for an employee when a promotion is not available because the employee:

  • Gains experience by performing a different job with new responsibilities that require different skills
  • Overcomes boredom and dissatisfaction with their current job by having a new and different job with changed responsibilities and tasks
  • Is challenged with a chance to expand their accomplishments, reach, and impact, and potentially influence different aspects of the workplace and organization
  • Experiences a change of scene and work environment, requiring them to adapt and learn to manage change, thereby increasing the ability to deal with ambiguity
  • Learns about different components, activities, and jobs in the organization and how work is accomplished in different departments or job functions. This builds their organizational knowledge and ability to get things done, which increases their value to the organization
  • Prepares for a promotion or broader organizational role by expanding their skill set and responsibilities, and gaining broader knowledge about the total organization.
  • Gains visibility with a new group of co-workers and managers, which brings more potential opportunities
  • Grows without leaving the company, thus retaining salary, accrued benefits, and company perks. A company change might, for instance, require starting off with fewer available vacation weeks

Downsides of a Job Transfer

It's tempting to say no downsides exist when an employee transfers to a new job, but that isn't always true. For every positive, there's a potential negative flipside because the employee:

  • Must 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.
  • Needs to develop a new network of customer and co-worker relationships. The new network has different ways of accomplishing work and getting things done. The employee will need to learn this way of doing business and adjust their behavior.
  • Might not work effectively with the new boss. There are bad bosses out there, and even if this is a good one, any new boss requires an adjustment.
  • Might not like the job, the work, or their new co-workers and must succeed or become ineligible for additional transfers and promotions. The employee could opt to leave the company.
  • Must work hard, work longer hours, and do more to prove they deserved the new position and that the organization picked the right person.

For the employer, the major downside is that the employee will not produce as successfully until they learn the new job. The employer will also have to fill the employee's former position.

To counter these concerns, consider that a good employee who has succeeded in the past will learn quickly to contribute to 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.