Now more than ever, workers are taking on multiple job responsibilities. With staff shortages and career changes becoming the norm, your team has to be flexible and ready to take on tasks that don’t usually fit into their job descriptions.

While it’s great to have workers who know the ins and outs of their jobs, it’s also easy to make the mistake of leaving them — and only them — to do what they do best. What if your employee takes a long-term leave or finds another position? Is your staff prepared to fill the gaps? If the answer is no, then cross-training may be the answer. It is an excellent way to train your employees to jump in where needed.

How To Start Cross-Training

The first thing to remember is that you don’t have to teach everyone how to do all the work to 100% capacity. That’s idealistic, but start small by identifying key objectives. Some examples are:

  • The accounting team teaches your administrative assistant how to run critical reports
  • The creative team pairs with IT to learn low code to keep your software product on schedule
  • The procurement department spends time learning about the shipping and receiving system

Start by reviewing job descriptions. If employees don’t have them in writing, now is the time to do that. What does each employee do daily, monthly and quarterly? What are the strengths the individual brings to the position? What functions are essential to keeping your doors open?

Taking the Next Steps

Next, look at the various strengths of your employees and work to cross-reference those skills. Some departments may pair well by the nature of their jobs, but don’t limit them to working only with each other if you find talent elsewhere.

Is your warehouse manager good with numbers? She can learn some accounting tasks. Do you have an HR employee with a creative streak? He may enjoy helping in the marketing department.

Decide how you plan to carry out the training. You can choose what options work best for the employees and circumstances:

  • An employee shadows another for a few hours a day
  • You appoint an instructor to teach several people at once
  • You use online training to give workers the basics

In most cases, you’ll need a combination of training methods to be effective.

Managing Obstacles

Your workers might not buy into the idea of cross-training at first. They may be comfortable doing their own jobs or feel apprehensive about taking on new roles.

If you meet with resistance, it’s a good idea to help them understand the benefits of cross-training. Explain that it makes the company resilient when things don’t go as planned. Tell them you plan to provide the support they need to learn new skills, and you won’t leave them hanging. Make sure you follow up with them throughout the training to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Benefits of Cross-Training Employees

There are many advantages to cross-training your employees. It increases your productivity when a team member is absent. You probably can’t afford to slow down or stop work when someone is out. If you have others who can step in, you don’t have to.

You can advance your flexibility and resilience through cross-training. Your business throws you enough curve balls; by teaching staff members to perform multiple job responsibilities, you can take that one off your worry list.

Cross-training can lead to fresh ideas. People can bring unique perspectives with them as they learn new roles. These views can result in new or improved processes.

There’s another benefit to cross-training — it’s a team-building activity. People who aren’t used to working together collaborate; new relationships can form as they learn to understand each other’s job functions. Cross-training has the potential to increase morale.

In today’s business world, cross-training makes sense. It keeps your company moving smoothly during times of absence and worker shortages. Consider implementing a cross-training program as part of your strategy going forward.