Wrapping up our week of revisiting some of our most popular Training Daily Advisor topics, we review a key component of employee development that benefits both the individual worker and the entire organization: cross-training.
In today’s ever-shifting workforce, employee development is crucial to keeping good employees from leaving for greener pastures. Cross-training is one advantage you can give employees that benefits both them and your organization. In today’s Advisor, we’ll look at these mutual benefits.
How Does Cross-Training Benefit the Organization?
- Cross-training involves teaching workers job duties other than the ones they normally perform.
- It develops skills and knowledge so that employees have more to offer the organization.
- It helps you cope with absences and leaves by distributing an absent employee’s work to coworkers who are already trained to perform the work competently.
- Cross-training allows for greater flexibility in scheduling work, as you are able to assign workers who can perform a variety of tasks where they are needed most at any given time.
- It ensures that there is always more than one person who knows how to operate equipment, find necessary information, deal with problems, etc., so that production is not affected.
- Cross-training enriches jobs and creates greater job satisfaction, which reduces turnover.
- It may lead to innovation and greater efficiency as employees approach new tasks with different perspectives, expertise, and talents.
- Cross-training prepares workers for promotion and ensures smoother, more successful successions.
- It can also reduce costs by allowing you to keep a lean workforce and to reduce the need for temporary workers.
How Does Cross-Training Benefit Employees?
- Cross-training helps employees develop knowledge and skills, preparing them for advancement and promoting career development.
- It makes employees’ jobs more interesting and challenging, thus improving morale and motivating them to learn more and be more productive.
- Cross-training increases cooperation and communication among employees, enhancing teamwork and positive work relationships.
- It increases employees’ knowledge of the organization and helps them see a bigger picture.
- Cross-training increases confidence and competence, reducing errors, improving problem solving, and encouraging initiative.
How Do You Decide Which Tasks to Cross-Train?
- Functions and tasks that are connected in some way are good candidates for cross-training; for example, sequentially, where an employee performs a task that precedes or follows the task for which he or she is being cross-trained.
- Focus on skills and knowledge that are most in demand in your work group or department.
- Make a list of potential cross-training tasks and review it with employees to get their input and suggestions and to find out which tasks each worker would like to learn.
- Talk to other supervisors and discuss cross-training opportunities for your employees. For example, if your work groups or department are performing complementary or related functions, cross-training employees will give them a better understanding of one another’s needs.
What Are the Steps in a Cross-Training Program?
- Once you have selected jobs for cross-training, work with the employee(s) who already perform the task to develop a job training outline and written training guides and aids. Experienced employees are the most knowledgeable about their jobs and should have a lot to contribute to your cross-training program.
- Sit down with those you are planning to cross-train and explain the reason for the training, what they will be learning, required standards of tasks they will be learning, etc. Answer questions about your cross-training program and ask for input from trainees.
- Schedule cross-training for times that are convenient for employees and production.
- Plan to cross-train several employees to perform each task so that you will always have someone available when necessary.
- You can perform cross-training yourself or delegate it to the employee already experienced in performing the task (which is probably the better option, given all your other duties).
- You will need to evaluate the learning yourself, however, checking that cross-trained employees are competent to perform new duties.
- Provide refresher training from time to time if cross-training duties are not used frequently.
How Can You Maintain and Improve Your Cross-Training Program?
- Look for cross-training opportunities whenever there are changes in staffing, equipment, procedures, workflow, scheduling, etc.
- Encourage employees to suggest ideas for cross-training.
- Cross-train new employees but only after they’ve had a chance to master their own job.
- Make sure you give all employees an opportunity to participate in your cross-training program.