Employees who specialize in a skill are apt to be able to focus better, work easier and produce more of the same product. If your business is broken down into several different jobs instead of having employees complete two or more tasks, they will complete one task during their shifts. Specialized employees provide you with quality over quantity, but there are some disadvantages of specialization, as well.
Risk Reduction: An employee who performs the same task repeatedly by specializing in it is less likely to make a mistake. They are familiar with the pitfalls and issues that a nonspecialist performing that task would not know. For instance, someone who makes deliveries to the same places every day will know the roads and potential traffic issues better than someone who doesn’t drive that route all the time.
Solidarity: A big advantage of specialization is that employees feel a certain camaraderie with others in their department or skill set. It allows for a feeling of “we’re all in this together!” that bolsters morale and, in turn, improves performance. Even if an employee is a lone specialist in what they do, it still brings a feeling of immense pride.
Saves Money: Training one person to do a particular job saves money and time in training. Transferring or moving employees from a task they are skilled in to a task they are not means potentially wasting a lot of resources. The advantage of specialization in a task is that there is a virtual guarantee of not having to expend money to perform the same task over again because the specialist knows it very well.
Accurate Time Management: Time wasted is money wasted. Training multiple people to do many tasks can result in all of them being at least okay at doing it, whereas a few people specializing in the task means it will be done more quickly and with greater ease.
Complacency: Repetitive routine runs the risk of monotony, and boredom often leads to complacency, so much so that mistakes can happen. New tasks and routines engage the brain and body, forcing a concentrated focus. The disadvantage of specialization means taking the chance that complacency could lead to missteps, which can cost the company money and compromise safety.
Isolation: When employees specialize in just one aspect of the company’s goal they may not feel connected to the whole process, to say nothing of feeling disconnected to coworkers. An innate satisfaction comes from understanding an entire procedure. Specialization can lead to a feeling of isolation, of being divided from the whole. A decline in work ethic is the danger here.
Inflexibility: If an employee who specializes in a task or procedure is not available when it must be done as soon as possible, then someone who is not as adept at it must take over. A nonspecialist performing a specialist’s job can lead to problems. This is a huge disadvantage of specialization. Taking the time to teach a newbie the ropes in an emergency results in a loss of time and money.
The advantages and disadvantages of employee specialization are usually two sides of the same coin. What brings a company together can also divide it. Careful risk assessments and keeping your finger on the pulse of employee morale can guide a company into being most profitable.