What is cross-training, and why should every organization do it?
Cross-training employees involves training a team member for work that is outside of their current role. Simply put, if you trained Sue to do Jenny’s job, you would also train Jenny to learn Sue’s job.
There are many benefits of cross-training employees for both team members and employers. When done well, it creates flexibility for your business and equips employees with new skills.
Of course, effective cross-training requires strategic planning. In this quick guide, we’ll break down:
- Benefits of cross-training
- Types of cross-training
- How to make your program successful
Benefits of Cross-Training Employees
So, what are the specific benefits of cross-training employees? While it calls for time and effort on the front end, cross-training can lead to a more productive and positive workforce.
Cross-training can be a powerful way to expand your personnel coverage. Cross-trained employees can fill in for others who are absent or on temporary leave. No more stressing when a team member has a personal emergency! You’ll avoid company downtime and disruption to services or production. It also allows for more flexible scheduling, which, in turn, leads to happier employees.
Employees can add new skills to their arsenal when their role is diversified. Those who want to grow and advance also enjoy being challenged, so offering them new projects and responsibilities can achieve this.
Cross-training employees will ease them into new areas, thus increasing their comfort and confidence. Empowering team members with great potential is also a great way to hone their leadership skills for future opportunities!
Improved Morale & Performance
On a related note, challenging employees with new tasks and showing them you trust them leads to job satisfaction. They will become more engaged and productive, knowing they have a bright future with your company. This confidence will benefit your employee and your company, encouraging them to take initiative.
And with higher job satisfaction comes higher employee retention rates. You’ll have more opportunities to promote/hire from within—meaning lower recruiting and hiring costs!
Foster Teamwork & Positive Relationships
Additionally, cross-training employees positively impacts workplace relationships and morale. It encourages employees to get to know one another better and build rapport. They’ll also gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for one another’s work and the organization’s overall roles and functions.
Strong teams are more productive teams! Cross-training ensures employees are in sync and creates smooth workflows.
By showing employees that you value them, you’ll gain their respect in return. Offering new opportunities for learning and growth goes a long way in fostering respect for leadership. This leads to increased company loyalty and reduced employee turnover.
What Can Cross-Training Look Like?
There are three primary ways to cross-train employees. How you cross-train will depend on your company’s organizational structure, goals, and the employees’ skillsets and interests.
Job Enlargement: Horizontal Expansion
Sometimes, cross-training entails a horizontal expansion of an employee’s job duties. Job enlargement means giving them additional tasks on the same skill and responsibility level. This provides more diverse activities and prevents boredom. It can also help improve efficiency by delegating tasks appropriately.
For example, a client relationship specialist may work with one specific group of clients. But due to company growth, they take on additional clients, perhaps in another category or division. While the specialist’s general job responsibilities stay the same, they are taking on a higher volume and may need to cross-train on the ins and outs of the new clients to deliver the best service.
Job Enrichment: Vertical Expansion
Ideally, cross-training employees involves job enrichment. This is more of a vertical growth, meaning an employee is given more advanced tasks and responsibilities. It is the process of adding motivators to a team member’s current role to increase job satisfaction and productivity. Job enrichment often involves upskilling, giving them more control, and including them in meaningful meetings and decisions.
Let’s say your agency has a marketing coordinator who typically takes project briefs from the marketing manager, conducts research, and performs content creation. They may also communicate with clients and other departments.
To foster job enrichment, you encourage the marketing coordinator to take a more strategic role by asking for more of their input and providing more autonomy. Perhaps you let them develop and/or guide the content strategy. In doing so, you’re supporting their growth and future career path as a potential project manager or content strategist.
Job Rotation: Cultivating Well-rounded Leaders
Cross-training doesn’t only have to occur at the staff level. In fact, the most effective leaders are those who have a deep understanding of all the roles and departments in their organization.
Many companies focus on developing well-rounded leadership teams through job rotation. This involves a manager working in various roles, projects, and departments until they’ve been immersed in all aspects. This form of cross-training fosters more competent and empathetic leaders.
Tips for a Successful Cross-Training Program
Now that you understand why cross-training is important and the different types, you’re ready to develop your own program! Follow these tips to create a cross-training plan that fosters your organization’s growth.
Identify Cross-Training Opportunities
Where and when does cross-training employees make the most sense?
- First, look for competency gaps or areas where your staff is lean and could benefit from cross-training.
- Consider where would it free up time and improve productivity.
- Understand each employee’s skill set and abilities before deciding who will cross-train and where.
Make It a Collaborative & Transparent Process
As you develop your cross-training program, be sure to make it a team effort by:
- Discussing cross-training opportunities with relevant employees to pinpoint their skillsets and interests.
- Encouraging employees to look for these enrichment opportunities on their own and take initiative.
- Gathering feedback regularly to determine what’s working and where there is room for improvement.
Develop an Official Cross-Training Program
Finally, make it official!
- Work with your leadership team to create a company-wide plan.
- Include how they will be cross-trained with details on when, where, and what training method.
- Schedule employees to work in cross-trained roles consistently to keep their knowledge and skills fresh—at least monthly.
Strengthen Your Business by Cross-Training Employees
As we’ve discussed, there are many benefits of cross-training employees for companies of all sizes. Employees with diversified roles will make a bigger impact on your company and most likely stick around longer. Plus, you don’t have to stress and scramble due to staff shortages. Overall, cross-training is a great technique for growing your business.
No two organizations are alike, so every cross-training program will look different. With careful planning and effort, you can determine what team members should cross-train and how.
If you’re ready to start cross-training employees and strengthen your team but not sure where to start, learn more about our outsourced HR services or contact BlueLion today at 603-818-4131 or firstname.lastname@example.org! Our HR specialists will be happy to help you develop a program that suits your organization.