Note that while I work as a public servant, this is entirely my own initiative and what I post here does not necessarily reflect the view of the government, my office or my position therein.

The stretch assignment is defined by Bersin by Deloitte as “a project or task given to employees which is beyond their current knowledge or skills level in order to ‘stretch’ employees developmentally. The stretch assignment challenges employees by placing them into uncomfortable situations in order to learn and grow.”

Used wisely, stretch assignments can be a great opportunity for both employee and employer, and provide a valuable chance for development and a potential springboard for advancement.

Used unwisely, stretch assignments can be a dumping ground and can cause over-reliance on a high performer to carry beyond capacity for extended periods, resulting in exhaustion and disillusionment.

I put forward the following advice, from someone who has had his share of stretch assignments, both good and bad:

Stretch assignments should be managed strictly like projects with scope, time and cost.

Time: Defined duration, start and finish.

Scope: Defined deliverable for employer (work to be completed); defined deliverable for participant (skillset to be developed).

Cost: Defined priority against existing work.

Effective and intelligent use of stretch assignments can provide an opportunity to support employee development and realize some short-term work deliverables.

Thanks for reading and have an awesome month.

Craig Sellars
Craig Sellars is a passionate Canadian public servant and biologist. Connect with Craig on Twitter @CraigSellars.