Companies use cross-training to hone and improve their employees' skills, making them faster, more well-rounded, and ultimately more successful. Of course, this benefits the companies that implement the training, but it also helps the workers. Cross-training your teams makes them more dynamic in their capabilities and better able to work around challenges. Workers who get cross-training often find their work varied and stimulating, enhancing morale and engagement.
However, not all cross-training efforts are successful. Sometimes, administrators fail to create and follow a clear plan that ensures that cross-training is adequate, relevant, and thorough. As a result, some programs lack direction or a formal way to measure progress, leading to underwhelming results.
If you'd like to implement a cross-training program at your company, keep reading. This guide will tell you everything you need to know.
What Is Cross-Training?
Cross-training employees means teaching workers duties that generally fall under different roles or departments. Approaches vary widely across industries and companies.
You might establish a program for cross-training employees in just a few key areas. You could also cross-train workers in every aspect of another role.
The program you create for cross-training employees will depend on your organization's needs. Of course, you should also create these training programs with your workers in mind, as they can benefit from being cross-trained.
Why Cross-Train Employees?
Managers once implemented cross-training at work to prepare top workers for management positions. These upwardly mobile workers needed to do many different jobs to lead effectively. They learned what to expect from the people they would eventually be managing through cross-training.
Now, there are many reasons for cross-training at work. Sometimes, it's simply a way to deal with staffing shortages. The more people know, the better prepared to do work if someone leaves or is unavailable.
Cross-training employees also prepares them for lateral moves. Cross-training is key to helping cover needs in another department or implementing changes that involve multiple teams.
What Are the Benefits of Cross-Training Employees?
There are many benefits of cross-training employees. Here are some of the things your organization could gain when cross-training at work is a priority:
- Easier to ensure that workers complete necessary tasks
- Identify team talents and capabilities
- Allow motivated workers to explore new roles
- Improve retention rates
- Prepare for shortages and crises
- Foster empathy, understanding, and communication
- Save money by meeting temporary productivity needs internally
- Identify redundancies
Workers benefit from cross-training, as well. They will:
- Learn beneficial and marketable skills
- Do work that is engaging and interesting
- Earn promotions from within
- Avoid burnout
- Explore new positions and create a plan for professional development
- Ensure better job stability
When workers have adequate cross-training, knowledge stays within the company, even when someone leaves. There's no danger of just one person knowing how to do a mission-critical task or being the only person with critical information.
Why Does Cross-Training Fail?
Regretfully, some efforts at cross-training employees fall flat. Before you begin, be aware of these common issues.
Employees feel threatened or territorial
Some workers may feel that their exclusive knowledge and abilities give them job security. To them, cross-training may feel invasive, even threatening. These team members may resist training that breaks down information silos they perceive as key to their value.
Further, workers may worry that their jobs are in danger or think you're punishing them for inadequate performance. It can also be inconvenient and frustrating for a busy department to take on a new person for cross-training.
Fortunately, this is something you can remedy with effective communication and planning. Cross-training should be implemented in a way that doesn't leave anyone short-handed or overwhelmed with the task of training.
Workers don't always want cross-training
On the other side of the issue are workers resistant to being cross-trained. Some perceive cross-training as simply a way to give them more work, often without a raise or promotion. Others may enjoy their work and have no natural desire to make lateral moves.
Again, communication is vital. However, it's crucial to treat these concerns as valid. The question, "Why cross-train employees without providing compensation or other incentives?" is a legitimate one for workers to ask.
Consider what you plan to do after cross-training is complete. Will workers be taking on these new duties permanently or only in the case of an emergency?
Who Are the Best Candidates for Cross-Training?
Some employers believe that cross-training is something they should provide to all workers. This approach is helpful in industries where turnover is high. Also, cross-training every worker is quite beneficial in retail, where it is common to have hectic times.
However, it takes time and resources to cross-train employees properly. That being the case, it makes sense to focus these efforts on delivering the most significant ROI. If you only want the best workers for cross-training, look to the following team members:
- Bright employees who feel bored and unchallenged
- Workers in departments or positions in danger of being eliminated
- Employees who have expressed an interest in other departments
- Team members who have complained about a lack of employee development
- Workers who are pursuing training or further education and want on-the-job experience
Don't forget about workers you are considering for management positions. They will benefit from cross-training, and so will their employees.
Remember, cross-training isn't just for the rank and file. Company leaders can develop a real sense of empathy and understanding if they undergo cross-training.
When Should You Avoid Cross-Training?
Some roles aren't suited for cross-training. These are positions that require detailed, in-depth knowledge. Also, jobs that require specific certifications or licensing may not be a good fit for an employee cross-training program. For example, work relating to legal compliance is probably best left to only the most qualified workers.