Why Cross-Training Your Employees Is Crucial to Success

Published November 11, 2021
employee being cross-trained on forklift

In the business context, cross-training is the process of encouraging or requiring employees to learn how to do jobs other than their own. Cross-training can be highly beneficial to companies and employees alike. Find out how and why cross-training can be critical to the success of companies and their most valuable asset (the people who work there).

Examples of Employee Cross-Training

Cross-training is a specific type of on-the-job training. There are many examples of cross-training in the business world. Any time an employee spends work time learning how to perform a job at their company that is different than the posiiton they are currently in, that worker is participating in cross-training. For example:

  • An administrative assistant learns how to do the work of an office manager
  • An assembly worker learns how to package products for shipping
  • An inventory specialist learns how to use the procurement (purchasing) system
  • A worker on one production line is trained to operate a different line
  • A production worker learns how to perform quality control audits
  • A collections call center representative is trained to handle customer service calls
  • A safety specialist learns how to perform human resource management functions
  • A copywriter learns how to produce broadcast advertising spots
  • A publicist learns how to maintain the company's blog

Key Benefits of Cross-Training Employees

Cross-training can lead to positive business results while also helping a company motivate and retain top employees.

  • When a company has cross-trained workers, they have people prepared to fill in when staff members are on vacation, sick leave, or parental leave.
  • If a company experiences a temporary surge in one department, employees who have been cross-trained can help meet the immediate staffing need.
  • Employees who participate in cross-training get to develop new skills, which can help boost their overall effectiveness and motivation.
  • Because people want to work for companies that invest in their growth and development, cross-training can boost employee retention.
  • Companies that support cross-training may be able to attract top job seekers who are looking for work opportunities where they can maximize their skills.
  • Employees who master new skills via cross-training become more versatile, and may even be candidates for lateral moves within the organization.
  • If a company needs to reduce staff in certain areas, it may be possible for employees who are cross-trained to move to other teams rather than losing their jobs.
  • When employees learn how to do their colleagues' jobs, they develop a broader understanding of how their role fits in with other functions in the company.
  • As a result of training with and learning from each other, employees from different departments can build stronger professional relationships.
  • When employees have strong relationships with colleagues in other departments, that can help improve cross-departmental cooperation.

Potential Drawbacks of Cross-Training Employees

While cross-training is generally considered to be a very positive thing to do, there are a few potential disadvantages to consider. A few of the most common drawbacks are listed below, along with tips for overcoming them.

  • Highly specialized employees may lose some of their focus when called upon to participate in cross-training. This can be overcome by allowing employees to focus solely on one area at a time. For example, you could incorporate a two-week cross-training sprint into every quarter, with team members fully immersed in cross-training during that time only.
  • Some employees may view cross-training as extra work that is being dumped on them without additional pay, rather than seeing it as a development opportunity. If cross-training is a voluntary employee development opportunity rather than something that is mandatory, this issue can be avoided.
  • Employees may realize there are other jobs they like better than their own and become dissatisfied where they are actually assigned to work. Make sure employees know how they can find out when job opportunities become available, and verify that they know how to apply. Consider giving cross-trained employees priority consideration for jobs that they have already acquired the skills to perform.

Boost Business Results With Cross-Training

Cross-training is an interesting approach to employee development that can offer significant benefits to everyone who is involved. Because development opportunities are so important to top employees, companies that are seeking to boost their ability to recruit, retain, and engage talented team members will be well-served by offering several types of workplace training programs. Cross-training is one of the easiest and least expensive talent development programs to implement, and it can truly be crucial to success.

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Why Cross-Training Your Employees Is Crucial to Success