Cross-training is a widespread technique in sports to develop strength and flexibility for your body, and it can also do wonders in the overall health of both the companies and their employees. But, what are cross-training employees? Human Resource Management defines cross-training as “the process of developing a multi-skilled workforce by providing employees with training and development opportunities to ensure they have the skills necessary to perform various job functions within an organization.”
People would generally summarize its necessity as “if an employee is absent for a short or long term, it’s important for the business that there are other people in the company who can take over his / her tasks.”
Cross-training involves teaching employees a variety of skills, including those not required to perform their duties. It helps keep things going when there is a short-term workforce shortage or disruption. But managers need to evaluate the cross-training pros and cons before applying it as a management strategy in their companies.
Benefits of Cross-Training Employees
1. Employee Development
Cross-training can be beneficial both to the company and to the employee. It is a natural way to train employees for managerial positions as it gives the necessary opportunities to the employees to see the bigger picture. Cross-training can also uncover some people’s hidden talents and abilities. “Companies may see an employee not only be able to learn and perform new duties but emerge as a leader and motivator to others.”
And when we say employee development, it is even possible to include cross-training in an employee development plan to ensure that the employee understands how it will affect their career growth. This also “helps employees to see that your company is genuinely interested in their development.”
Want to know more about employee development plans? Check our article here.
2. Communication Within the Company
Empathy or putting yourself in someone else’s shoes can be defined as examining and understanding their experience at an emotional or personal level. And what better way to enhance this skill in your organization than cross-training? Cross-training helps employees to appreciate each other’s jobs and recognize all the duties of their co-workers that they may have overlooked before. In essence, cross-training can be a great way to improve communication in the company through empathy, experience, and building skills.
3. Uninterrupted Productivity
Last but not least, and maybe the most crucial benefit of cross-training, is that it keeps things running smoothly. According to a Forbes article by Chris Cancialosi, “organizations that cross-train are better equipped to recover quickly from disruptions and handle transitions gracefully. This means they can deliver seamless service to their customers, even in times of disruption”.
Now that we’ve had a look at the benefits let’s go through some potentially negative aspects associated with cross-training.
Potential Downsides of Cross-Training Employees
If the management doesn’t do the internal communication well enough to keep the employees informed about the benefits of cross-training, the insecure ones regarding job security can resist sharing the skills with others. This also may lead to lower productivity. According to a LinkedIn article, “If employees see other individuals being trained to do their jobs or they are asked to train others, they may feel resentment and a need to undermine company interests through sabotage.” Cecillia Barr notes that “employees might take it the wrong way if someone new is brought in to start learning their job or taking on some of their responsibilities. The natural conclusion could easily be that they aren’t doing their job well.” So, once again, it’s essential to communicate about the benefits of cross-training before implementing it as a strategy. Some people are hired to do what they do, and no matter how you speak about it, they wouldn’t feel eager to experiment cross-training. So, a compulsory cross-training program may not be a good idea, and not everyone has to or should be cross-trained. The extra work associated with cross-training can upset employees and hurt the overall dynamics of the workplace.
We have covered the basics of cross-training, and if you decide to implement it as a strategy, here’s how to create a cross-training plan in 6 basic steps.
Create a matrix – First, you have to create cross-training matrix document with a list of all the positions in a department and the names of the people. From this list, you have to be able to see who is doing unique tasks in each role. Now, make another column and list the persons who can be trained to do the special tasks. Out of these special tasks, you need to find out which are the crucial ones.
Identify the skills and the people – The crucial tasks are all related to skills. Now it’s time to highlight the skills required to perform these tasks. This means your document will also include the skills to be developed, and you can check each person on the levels of skills. From this list, you can come up with the names of the people for cross-training.
Find out how you can develop those skills – You can use the 70 / 20 / 10 module (70% experience related- on the job training tasks, 20% from other colleagues, and 10% formal training, click here for an article) to develop the skills needed, or you can use the next generation people development platform such as Journey to create skill-based assignments for your employees.
Plan a training session based on the skills – For each employee on the cross-training list, you will make a plan based on the skills. Again, you can check the top 10 skills for future jobs according to the World Economic Forum here.
Communicate your intentions – As we’ve said earlier; proper communication is crucial if you want to do cross-training (especially from other colleagues) to avoid any adverse outcomes. And, it’s crucial that it isn’t compulsory training for the employee, but rather it’s something they want. It can only create a win-win situation for both the company and the employee.
Suppose you plan to use trainers from your own company and ask them to teach how they do a specific skill-related task to another employee/colleague. In that case, it’s vital to train the trainer and inform them about the benefits of cross-training and how to transfer their knowledge flexibly.
Following these steps can help you come up with an excellent cross-training plan for your company. Remember, cross-training is for any company and any position. For employees, it is a way to become more skilled and valuable within the company. For companies, it is a way to keep things running when one or more key employees are absent, a way to duplicate your skillset. Plus, you may even uncover the hidden talents within your organization.