Cross-training Employees: A Small Business Survival Tool
Cross-training can be a win-win situation for you and your employees. But this can only happen with a plan. Here are some ideas.
Benefits of cross-training staff
Cross-training provides greater flexibility in scheduling, especially when dealing with unexpected workload and staffing issues. It also helps employees develop expertise in other areas and increases their awareness of the company’s roles and functions — helping them better understand where they fit into the big picture. Last, this heightened collaboration can lend to preventing internal fraud as it may thwart potential thieves since they’re aware that another employee may view their files and activities at any time.
For employees, some of the biggest advantages include:
- Learning new skills
- Working more efficiently and effectively with other departments
- Feeling more invested in the company
- Enjoying growth opportunities
Create your cross-training plan
How you implement cross-training will depend on the size and nature of your business. Consider prioritizing the departments that need and/or want the training the most. These departments may be understaffed or have many new employees. Look for functions that are currently dependent on a single person’s knowledge. These areas should be a focus of your cross-training program.
As you implement a cross-training plan, here are a few tips to help you prepare:
- Document your key processes. You cannot cross-train if you don’t know the process. These written processes will turn into training documents as you implement your program.
- Communicate to your team. Get everyone involved before you start a cross-training program. Help your team understand why the company is cross-training employees. Reasons may be to prepare for organizational growth or new industry standards, or to adjust to a changing structure around roles and responsibilities. Then continue to communicate with your team with status updates and team meetings about progress and next steps.
- Present cross-training as an opportunity. Your employees may be resistant to cross-training if it feels like it’s an obligation or a threat to their roles. You can help them feel motivated by highlighting the benefits, like honing different skill sets and having a better understanding of how their contributions positively impact the business.
- Start with a small pilot program. Test the waters with a select group of employees to get a better understanding of what works and what needs to be tweaked. You can then expand the program later as you gain insight and experience.
- Determine cross-training hours. Figure out how much time can be dedicated to cross-training for each team to still run efficiently. This may include carving out a few hours each day, or setting aside full days for a certain period of time to focus on cross-training. If your business is seasonal, ramp up the training during your low seasonal period.
- Listen to feedback. You may learn that some employees have already started practicing cross-training on their own. You can use this kind of valuable feedback to fine tune the program.
Keep in mind that some employees may resist having to train others, and productivity may suffer in the short term. But remember the dual benefit of cross training to both your business and your employees!
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