Secondment Guidelines


These guidelines apply to all staff members at the University


To provide necessary information to assist managers to ensure high quality secondments within the University


The University encourages secondments to provide development opportunities for staff members and to assist the University with managing its resources and achieving its strategic objectives. Individual skills and knowledge may be enhanced by secondments. Secondments also have organisational benefit including exchange of information and ideas, promotion of organisational relationships and investment in organisational effectiveness


  • What are the prime objectives of secondments?
  • When would we use a secondment?
  • When are secondments not appropriate?
  • How do we organise secondments?
  • How do we mitigate the potential risks of secondments?
  • How is a secondment evaluated?


What are the prime objectives of secondments?

The objectives of a secondment are to contribute towards achieving the University’s strategic objectives and to provide development opportunities that may have been identified in development discussions.

Specifically this involves:

  • promoting greater mobility of staff members within the University, to increase collaboration and understanding of the entire University and its complexities
  • linking secondment opportunities with the competency framework of the University and the learning need of individuals
  • encouraging staff members to share expertise
  • increasing the transparency and openness of secondment opportunities
  • effective use of expertise and resources for projects

When would we use a secondment?

A secondment may be appropriate when a staff member is expected to acquire new skills consistent with their agreed career/professional development plans.

For example, the person

  • has developed theoretical understanding but has little practical experience
  • has practical hands on experience but needs to put this into a strategic or conceptual context
  • has expertise in an area of speciality
  • has project management training or experience in smaller projects and could take on a project management or leadership role
  • will be “stretched” by an acting up role, for example experiencing higher levels of leadership and accountability
  • will benefit from working in a different or more complex role in another area of the University

Sometimes a secondment will be a good choice because opportunities arise that have not necessarily been previously agreed in a career of professional development plan. They may allow a staff member and department to acquire insights into other departments, to transfer knowledge, and to contribute to University-wide outcomes.

Secondments can also be used to fill a department’s short-term capability requirements, for example

  • to build internal capability by:
    • resourcing projects
    • bringing in specialist skills
    • transferring knowledge
  • to fill positions during a staff absence, eg parental leave
  • during a period of organisational change, when business requirements are being determined
  • to provide back-up cover while a vacancy is being advertised and filled

When are secondments not appropriate?

Secondments should not be used:

  • as a means of “shifting” a performance problem
  • for use as a trial before making a permanent appointment or for individuals to use as a trial before applying for a job
  • when other learning interventions for the individual would be more suitable

How do we organise secondments?

The secondment arrangements are tripartite, taking into account the requirements of the staff member, the home department and the host department.

Secondments are not to be seen as a quick fix. Careful consideration is needed at each stage of the process to ensure that all parties are satisfied with the result. Of particular importance in the secondment is that the development needs of the staff member are likely to be met.

Advice should be sought from:

  • Finance, about cost recovery expectations
  • Human Resources, to ensure the secondment agreement meets all requirements including policies and obligations

How do we mitigate the potential risks of secondments?

A secondment may pose potential risks. However, there are strategies to address the risks and at the same time increase the quality of the secondment experience for all concerned.



The home manager is reluctant to let the person be released on secondment due to:

  • Concerns about filling the secondee’s position
  • Work pressures
  • Accumulation of annual leave

Enable other staff to demonstrate unutilised skills

Use internal secondments to replace secondee

Use an external secondment or contractor

Ask for the secondee's input on how to best back fill their position

Suggest an exchange from another area of the University

Before confirming the secondment the home manager should discuss with the secondee how accrued annual leave will be used


The secondee is not satisfied on return to their previous position due to:

  • Concerns about returning to a position at the same or similar level than before their secondment
  • Benefits of their experience on secondment not being realised

From the outset of the secondment, manage and plan for the secondee’s return, ensuring expectations are clear

Identify how to build on the secondee’s experience gained during the secondment, so that the likelihood of the secondee returning and being  satisfied increases.

Keep in touch with the secondee during the secondment and brief them on what is expected.

Build on the experience gained on secondment by expanding the secondee’s role into more complex or higher profile work areas if possible.


Secondee does not come up to speed quickly

Ensure the secondee is inducted in a structured way

Clarify the work objectives and outcomes required

Provide coaching/mentoring or a buddy

Provide management support


The project in the host area changes or is no longer viable

Discuss options with the host manager

The secondment may need to be terminated


The secondee does not return

Keep the secondment duration to a reasonable length. The longer the duration, the less likely the secondee will return

If the secondee does not return, maintain contact with them. They may come back at a later date with better skills and experience


How is a secondment evaluated?

It is important that the secondee and the host department formally evaluate the secondment at its completion. Evaluations highlight the lessons learned from the secondment, and any potential improvements in the secondments process.

The following questions give you an idea of what should be discussed at the evaluation.


Questions to consider

Host Manager

Was the secondment the appropriate means to meet the business need?

Did the nature of the work change? In what way?

What the secondee a good fit for the business need?

What worked well with the secondment?

With the secondee?

What didn’t work so well with the secondment?

With the secondee?

What would you do differently with the next secondment?


Home Manager

Was a secondment the appropriate development initiative for the individual?

How did the back-filling arrangements go?

Did the secondee enhance their competencies and performance as a result of the secondment?

How has the home department used the experience gained on secondment?

What worked well with the secondment?

With the secondee?

What didn’t work so well with the secondment?

With the secondee?

What would you do differently with the next secondment?



Was the secondment worthwhile for you?

Was it a successful development opportunity?

Do you use what you learnt on secondment in your current role? If so, how?

Has your home faculty/department built on the experience gained as a result of the secondment? If so, how?

What worked well with the host faculty/department? With the home faculty/department?

What would you do differently with the next secondment?



The following definitions apply to these guidelines:

Secondment is an arrangement between two academic units where a staff member is temporarily transferred to another position in the University

Staff member refers to an individual employed by the uinversity on a full or part time basis

University means the University of Auckland and includes all subsidiaries

Document management and control

Owner: Director Human Resources

Content manager: Associate Director, Talent and Recruitment

Approved by: Vice-Chancellor

Date approved: 8 December 2014

Review date: 1 March 2018