When an employee climbs the career ladder, the rungs below may be burning, particularly if the employee struggles and his reputation suffers. In FIRST, Break All the Rules, authors Buckingham and Coffman describe the conventional career path as especially unforgiving, discouraging everyone from taking bold career steps. People need a safety net so they can test their skills and not be afraid that their careers are in jeopardy. They need to know that the “rungs below” are not burning.
The authors emphasize that great managers encourage learning and want to promote active self-discovery. In order to do that and provide a safety net, trial periods can be the answer. If people genuinely want to try something new and have the talent, a six month trial period can be the answer as long as there is clarity about the details. This includes the duration of the trial, what criteria will be used to assess fit and the number of meetings that will be held to discuss performance. It must be clear that the employee will be moved back into the previous role if either of you are not happy with the fit.
Since the focus is to drive performance by aligning talent to the role, a trial with a safety net is a benefit for the manager also. If it proves that the employee is not the right fit for the role, the employee will be able to close that door and move on with new insight and self-knowledge without negative impact. If the trial is successful, enhanced engagement, loyalty and productivity will be the reward going forward.