Cross-Training Programs for 2014

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As companies try to stay lean and mean, many are adopting cross-training programs to make sure they're getting the most out of their workforce. Employers beware: you will have some employees who will be gung ho about learning a new set of skills, others who will drag their feet and complain about taking on extra work, and others still might confuse the quest for staff flexibility with a red flag about layoffs. However, if you are considering a cross-training program, the benefits greatly outweigh any pushback or complaints along the way. Down the road, it may be possible for you to have fewer workers and a more efficient business or you may have the ability to shift employees to different departments to fill in for workers who are out sick or on vacation. And all of this can lead to significant savings. 

 What is Cross-Training?

Cross-training is the process of teaching employees to do jobs other than their own. For example, a staffing agency may train a person who was hired to answer incoming calls how to accept walk-in candidates, address any cursory questions, and begin the placement process. Then that employee can do all of those tasks, and isn't limited to one area. That benefits both the company and the employee.

How Does this Training Help Employees?
Cross-training employees helps them by giving them a larger skill set. The more they can do, and the better they can do it, the more valuable they are to the company. Being valuable to a business can provide job security. While there are no guarantees, any employee who is cross-trained is a better asset than one who is not. If you are an employee and you want to make yourself virtually indispensable to the company you work for, make sure that you're cross-trained to do as many tasks as possible. Your versatility will be highly valued.

How Does it Benefit Management?
Having cross-trained employees is a large benefit to management. It allows a manager to shuffle the employees to where they are needed the most that day. Additionally, if one employee calls in sick, another employee can take over that person's duties. The management of a company will see more efficiency and a better work environment when all employees are able to pitch in and help out with all duties and responsibilities. It makes a manager's job easier, and also fosters a community spirit within the company that can encourage employees to enjoy what they do. Happy employees are more productive, providing further benefit to management and to the company as a whole.

How to Make Cross-Training Work at Your Company

Take Inventory. Identify who knows what at your department or company today. And for pete's sake, don't turn it into a huge documentation projects, just get a quick assessment.

Prioritize and Set Goals. Decide which skills/knowledge are a priority. High priority means you can't do business without it and you have only a few experts. Set dates when you need other people competent in this knowledge.

Share the Knowledge. There are many ways you can start to spread that critical expertise around your workforce: mentoring techniques, viral teaching, social media, even lunch-and-learn sessions can work. How you cross-train depends on your level of urgency and budget, but don't leave it to chance. Use a structured approach and follow up to make sure its working.

High quality cross-training not only keeps your organization's performance high, it allows you to spread work around in lean times so valuable employees don't burn out, make mistakes or even decide to leave your employment. As your company shuffles business priorities and staffing over the coming year, good cross-training will keep your workforce agile and ready to handle anything you throw at them.

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Guest March 26 2017
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