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Why Cross-Training Employees Is So Important


There are few things more irritating for an employer than being suddenly asked to do a task outside of their job description because of an absence or resignation. Managers may not be able to control how often that happens, but they can make such a scenario for employees easier with cross-training.

Regardless of whether you run a small business where employees may need to wear many hats or a large company where everyone has a defined role, cross-training is an incredibly beneficial tool for you and your employees. Here are a few of the key benefits as well as tips for establishing a cross-training program.

A More Flexible, Cheaper Workforce

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of cross-training is that it can save labor costs. Onboarding costs can become significantly smaller, as it is often easier and faster to teach someone within your business how to do a task instead of an outsider. Instead of having to keep an extra employee on hand in case of an absence, you can rely on a workers who know how to everyone else’s jobs.  

But while cross-training can result in reduced labor costs, I would argue that there is “good” and “bad” cross-training. It is one thing to reduce costs by increasing flexibility. It is another to use cross-training as an excuse to hire one person to do the jobs of two or more people. That is just a quick route towards burnout, low employee morale, and higher costs in the long run through constant turnover.

Higher Morale

While bad cross-training can result in low employee morale, good cross-training can keep it high for a few reasons. The first reason is that as the Houston Chronicle notes, cross-training means that there is more variety in an employee’s daily workload. They are less likely to become bored and feel challenged by the greater array of assignments.

The second reasoning is that cross-training shows employees that you are invested in their future growth. By learning multiple skills, such as cheap guitar training, they will be better positioned to advance in today’s economy and know they are being recognized for their talents. On your end you may also find that an employee you hired for one job may be better suited for another task, improving your company’s efficiency.

Training for Management

You probably have heard of the Peter Principle, which states that employees are promoted to the level of their incompetence. But a major reason why it happens is that employees are not sufficiently trained for the burdens of management. They may not know how their entire department functions and are only aware of the small corner in which they work.

Cross-training is thus a valuable counter to the Peter Principle and making sure that valuable employees are groomed for management. Managers should use cross-training as a way to introduce prospective managers to as many skills and as many people as possible. You want your manager to be a familiar face and not viewed as an outsider by regular employees.

Cross-Training Tips

There are additional benefits to cross-training on top of those already mentioned, but how do you bring those benefits into your business?

The Balance has some useful tips, but biggest key is to have proper planning and communication. Begin your cross-training program by identifying which parts of your business could use the additional help, and which of your employees could benefit the most from training. Discuss cross-training with your entire staff while making clear how it will benefit everyone. Ask for advice and feedback from employees, HR, and other managers.

If done correctly, cross-training is a terrific method to have your employees be flexible, motivated employees ready to fill in for one another at a moment’s notice. Now instead of being irritated, they will feel interested in dealing with tasks slightly out of their normal routine.

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