In the world of professional sports, cross-training is an essential practice in order for athletes to maintain high levels of performance, avoid injuries associated with overuse and prepare their bodies for the challenges ahead.
In the world of workforce management, the same rules apply. Cross-training employees means teaching them the skills required to perform job functions outside of their main roles and responsibilities. As a result, companies reap the benefits of enhanced employee performance, better teamwork and a stronger organization overall.
Consider the following benefits of cross-training your employees:
- Reduce the risk of injury: Cross-training employees helps ensure business runs smoothly even when there’s a shortage of staff due to illness or vacation. Giving employees the skills needed to fill in for absent employees not only helps maintain productivity throughout the organization, but it also sets the groundwork for a faster, smoother transition should the opportunity arise to be promoted or transfer to another role within the company.
- Avoid burnout: Doing the same thing over and over isn’t only boring, it’s a recipe for worker burnout. Teaching employees new skills re-engages their interest in their jobs by giving them a break from their normal routine and enticing them new and interesting challenges.
- Enhance teamwork: Cross-training enables your employees see the work that goes into other roles within the organization, As a result, they will have a better appreciation and understanding of the work their colleagues do and ultimately be able to collaborate better across teams and departments.
- Promote loyalty: Research indicates that what today’s workers want most are recognition and career advancement opportunities from their employers. With cross-training, they get both. Giving your employees the resources to learn new skills and take on bigger responsibilities demonstrates your faith in their abilities and your concern for their professional success and career development.
Tips for implementing a cross-training program
- Do it early, and do it often. Don’t wait until there’s a need to cross-train employees. Start cross-training now so you have the flexibility to move staff around and cover extra duties at a moment’s notice.
- Set a goal. For any business initiative to be successful, you have to start with a goal. Ask yourself, “What do I want to accomplish with cross-training?” and be specific. Make sure everyone involved in the program understands the goals of the program and how you plan to measure success.
- Find what works for you. When it comes to how you administer the training, there’s no one way to do it. Consider what will work best for your organization and your employees. Training can take place through an on-the-job buddy system, a mentoring program or, if employees are comfortable with it, from supervisors. Another option is having employees take classes through a pre-existing internal training and development program.
- Provide balance. Your employees will get the most benefit from cross-training if they aren’t distracted with the notion that they’re neglecting their primary responsibilities. You may need to scale back some of your employees’ projects during training so they don’t get burned out trying to take on training in addition to their full-time workload.
Do practice cross-training at your organization? What methods have worked for you?