Tips for Developing Employees through Cross-Training

Many businesses are needlessly limiting their employees. John handles the sales; Mary handles the phone, while Sally keeps the books. This is efficient, at least until one of them gets sick. Or quits.

If John is absent—even for a day—the sales process will come at a screeching halt. Mary and Sally can’t sell a thing even if their lives depended on it. All of a sudden, your once efficient team is crippled.

This is why you need to continue developing employees through cross training.

Cross-training is an efficient way to stretch your workforce, ensure continuity and provide employee development and training to your team. If you look at it, it’s a win-win for everyone.

Tips for Maximizing Productivity and Ensuring Business Continuity through Cross-Training

1.     Remember that Cross Training is a LONG term process

It starts way before the first day of training. Employee development and training requires serious planning, and tons of decisions have to be made beforehand, like which people to train and who will train them. Consider all possible hiccups before proceeding with the program.

·         Should the training be open to all employees?

·         How can we choose who is eligible for the training? Do we base it on skills, tenure or past work experience?

·         Is it even feasible given the business’s current workforce size and workload?

1.     Give Employees a Reason to Participate

For the possible cross-trainees, why would they want to train in another skill? The prospect of more work doesn’t always appeal to everyone. Explain how new skills will help their career and make them more valuable to the company.

For the employees who’ll train them, why would they ever want to share their knowledge to others? Fear of getting displaced is natural. Explain that they’re not training their replacements but their ‘duplicates,’ so they can go on vacation or leave without worrying about work.

Employees won’t always believe your assurances, of course, so you can offer vacation time, a bonus, or a temporary SME status to the trainers.

1.     Combine Theoretical Training with Hands-On Experience

The best way to learn a new skill is through application. After trainers teach the basics of the new skill, they can go back to work and buddy up with other employees. This will immerse them into the actual work, an experience no classroom lesson can replicate.

Beware though, that immersion training can interrupt both the trainees and the buddy or trainers workload. And in some cases, a one day on-the-job experience isn’t enough. Do this when there’s no looming project deadline, or during the lazy months of your business cycle, so there’s no pressure for everyone involved.