Cross Functional Movement: Lows and Highs

Most organizations have a wealth of internal talent that desires development, cross-functional movement and advancement opportunities — talent that largely goes untapped.

Jaspreet, was very enthusiastic, after working for 4 years in a company she got the opportunity to look forward to a promotion, which would add value to her CV too as she has been working as a Quality Analyst in a BPO. The IJP on the intranet was flashing, which mentioned about the position in Employee Relation department a division of the HR department.

She applied, sent her CV, was called for an interview and was finally selected as Sr. Executive employee relations. Her boss the Head of quality department refused to relieve her from her duties and actually behaved in a very bad manner, there was no other problem, she informed him about the move and with his permission only she applied for this IJP. Since he was upset, Jaspreet informed the HR manager and explained her problem. Both the Heads discussed it privately and since the discussion was behind closed doors they never talked about it to her. Jaspreet, got the nod finally and joined her new department but it has been 3 years since then and the Head of Quality does not talk to her either. The cold vibes they exchange can be seen by one and all. The Head of Quality does not take any initiative in HR related things, be it Friday activities or any other employee engagement initiatives by the HR. He keeps it pending and postpones it till the time he is reminded again.

Through the grapevine, the message one gets is loud and clear and i.e. IJPs induce problems in the organization.

Have no idea what was the exchange of words between the two but the temperatures soar when both are present in one room which often happens during the monthly meetings.

I still wonder what is the problem in this case, why he (Head of Quality department) behaved the way he did, without any concrete reasons. Was he insecure? Or scared? But it all comes down to one big question, why?

Cross functional movements in many companies meet such a fate only; reasons may be different but unless the organization culture does not imbibe such initiatives the success ratio will always be in the doldrums.

What can we (HR) do in such scenarios? here are the solutions:

Organisation Culture: The sole responsibility cannot be handled by the HR people only, it is through team effort and the Top management needs to be involved too. A culture can be built, where people become more open for such job rotations or cross functional movements. Succession planning, retention, talent management, can be acquired through proper opportunities for development of internal employees, and one option is surely cross functional opportunities.

Prepare people for changes: What if we had a process and a system to inventory internal employees’ competencies and we held regular talent review meetings to discuss career movement and development for current employees? If all this could be done on a regular basis, No Jaspreet would have to ever feel the embarrassment. The review meetings can give you most of the things in black and white and it is either the HR department or the supervisor who can recognize the talents across the organisation. So, prepare your team leaders in order to make it successful and make sure that the human resource team is trained and prepared to assist leaders and employees with questions.

Grapevine: A very interesting incident happened, I joined the company and it was my 3rd day and very few people knew I was the newly appointed Director of HR. In the elevator this group was discussing an IJP we had rolled out, and the discussion was about how the new Director has already selected a person and IJP- was just a formality. And so I asked them whose name had the new Director recommended, so they all said, Bhavna. They also said that Bhavna was in fact the Director’s relative, which was obviously news to me as I didn’t even know Bhavna before that day.

Hence grapevine and rumors need to be taken care of when cross functional movements are to be decided upon, the matter should remain hush- hush before the formal communication goes out.

Proper structuring and planning: Generally Cross functional opportunities fail because of they are poorly structured and the planning is not done in time and in an orderly manner. Brainstorm, identify high potential employees, conduct review meetings, meet them at regular interval, create their IDPs (individual development plans) and then make a move.

Here is another example: Once this person was selected through IJP and was notified that the movement will take him to a level higher than the current one, very enthusiastically he informed his team members about the promotion and the functional movement. And when he was all set to join this new position in a different city he was told that the function was different but because he did not have prior experience in that area so he would have to join at the same level. So, then he just left the company.

These are just few solutions for a healthy movement across functions, cost factor, behavioral training, competency development training, and office politics-some of the things which are very important.

Share your experience, of your organizations, what are your initiatives in this area and how to implement Cross functional movement without much hassle.

  • ARSofi

    Hi Archna
    how r u?

    Cross-functional teams work best when they work on a specific problem and then go away. However, some cross-functional problems are not so easily solved. In response to this, companies may change their organizational structure to work on these cross-functional problems. This may seem like a radical solution to some, but consider this: organizational structure is a major influence on communication flow. If everyone needs to cross organizational boundaries to get their work done, and much conflict results, organizational structure should be changed.

    One way of doing this is to install matrix management. In this kind of structure, people drawn from a number of departments work on a particular project, similar to a quality improvement team. These projects don’t just focus on a problem, but on a more general process, such as a contract with a specific customer to do a specific job, with a project manager overseeing its performance. It sounds like a neat idea, but there is one problem. Who fills out the performance reviews of members on the team, their project manager who knows their work best, or their supervisor? The ambiguity of who reports to who can cause major uncertainty in team members with their ultimate loyalty to those who give them a raise.

    Other companies blow up the functional stovepipes altogether. Usually as part of some redesign effort, they melt the functional stovepipes, and go to a more product- or customer- oriented structure. This may be done on a company-wide basis for those organizations with a small set of distinct products or services, or can be done at each location or plant the organization possesses.


  • Archna Khurana Sharma

    Hey Sofi,

    Thank you for important contribution to the title, here I have just talked about Corss functional movements in companies, working on cross functional teams is for shorter period where as the movements are for longer durations.

    Cross functional teams carry out a project or special tasks, where as in Cross functional movement the person gets the new area to work on, new skills are instilled.

    Matrix Management is a complexed process, in the next article we will talk about cross functional teams, their success and how matrix management can help solve issues.

    Thanks again for such valuable contribution.

  • Rahul

    Good insights in nutshell. Thanks for the article.

    We all know cross functional movement is one of the mode of internal recruitment and one of the major drawback is heart burn and pliticking of the issue. But these behavioral imperatives will always be their no what matter how much tweaking we do with the structures. I think, as you mentioned, culture is the key along with set parameters. Like I know in one organization low raters are not allowed for IJPs.

    Also, IDP is really a nice idea to get good success in such initiatives.


  • Archna Khurana Sharma

    Thanks Rahul…

    There can be better solutions, which can come with experience and new techniques. Let us see what others have to contribute here..

  • Dineshgupta1974

    Dear Archna

    In Indian context cross functional changes are limited as well success rate is also not so good….

    One of the probable reason is Training & Development……

    We always ask the candidate where do you see yourself after 3 years ,5 years & so on , But actually do we provide them real training or path how they can became or reach the dream position, whats the challenge ,role & responsibilities of his /her dream position……..

    If we organize the Level Next training or career training programs that may help our business world……

    Whats your opinion on this?

  • Archna Khurana Sharma

    Hey Dinesh,

    Thanks for your time and efforts..i really liked that in organisations we generally do no plan for all the employees, but there is a shift coming now, where companies are doing serious planning for their valuable talents….so hope it will bring some relief.

    Succession planning and career planning are the need of the hour…we HR people can make the difference. :)

  • Bharthivazral


    The system needs to be absolutely transparent in any cross functional movement in the oranisation. Its imminent that the Sr. managers in all department adhere to the same process & dont deviate for their selfishness.

    There has to be a process defined & implemented. So that employees dont suffer at the end of it.

    People leave managers & not companies….


  • Archna Khurana Sharma

    Hey Bharthi,

    Indeed its the same problem everywhere, lack of transparency and non adherence to the processes.
    Thank you Bharthi for your time and efforts. Hope you like the other article on Processes as well.
    Have a good day!!

  • Narendrar27

    hi welcome to india and indian team

  • Archna Khurana Sharma

    Hi Narendra..

    I have been in India, working in Indian corporates…and there are companies who have a well structured cross functional movement planning as part of either career planning or succession planning.


  • Hbalaji

    We have to have sufficient time with us to plan such succession planning which should be in line with the company’s growth plan / vision rather.

  • Archna Khurana Sharma

    And where will the time come from??? people will come and go, but the companies cannot stop functioning because of them. Succession planning actually will take care of employee turnover, career planning and growth prospect…not to forget it will be of great help for personal development and can work as a retention tool.

    Just manage some time….for this


    Archana I do agree. But the succession plan should have the support & co operation.

    The time I meant is for reverse mentoring. If a reverse mentoring happens, then the real succession plan will work. Hence, mechanically we cannot thrust the plan. Hope you would agree.

  • Thanks for the informative article Archna Ji. Could you please post what IJP stands for ?

  • Nemendrapachghare

    Cross functional movement is not a new concept and we are using, applying and implementing the same with different nomenclature and ie Job Rotation.
    Incumbents Skill sets and desire decide the strategy for cross function movement in an organization and sometimes it may be need based too.
    In one of the my organization an employee having degree of LLB was not allow to handle the work of Legal matters in spite of his request and was posted to do the job of technical work involved and was handling the same in a dignified way.
    Later on, he got promoted under cross functional movement strategy and has been deputed as Office Superintendent, prior 4 to 5 years of superannuation and has to deal legal matters as one of the portfolios. In this case if his request has been approved at earlier days, both organization and individual get mutually benefitted.
    But as mentioned above proper structure and planning is needed as in above case incumbent is a victim of improper structure and planning.
    Every IJP is routed through department head and its responsibility of HR to convince and assured the parent department HOD about the substitute, because in cross functional movement gainer is IJP incumbent and looser will be the HOD if not done so.
    For implementing cross functional movement strategy we need to consider the organization structure too. Cross functional movement in the support service departments is easier and easily acceptable too, as skill sets can be developed/ improved trough learning and development because it includes procedures rather than technologies.
    But it’s tough task for HR to implement the cross functional movement for the jobs below middle management level as compare to senior and top management level and much harder in the case of job profiles containing technology applications.
    Here HR has to work out proper structuring and planning and it will be the issue of establishing a talent pool for various departments in the organization by training, guiding and mentoring the individuals.
    To facilitate the same a model can be designed for inter departmental and intradepartmental cross function movement.
    For the job profiles containing technology applications we need to consider the trainees for cross functional movements for inter and intra department where as middle, senior and top management level personals can be considered for the inter departmental cross function movements.
    As suggested by AR Sofi one should try for the matrix management but it has its own pros and cons.
    Thus through cross-functional movement, we can tap the wealth of internal talent that desires development, and advancement opportunities.

  • Archna Khurana Sharma

    Hi Naval…IJP is Internal job posting, it can be posted through intranet, or noticeboard. The first choice for some positions in Organisation is to the internal employees, so we post IJP. Thank you for your appreciation…

  • Archna Khurana Sharma

    Hi Nemendrapachghare…

    Great insights….. Thanks for sharing…