Training employees to perform tasks outside of their usual roles is good for them and good for the organization. Here are a few reasons why.
Q: I think my organization should do more cross-training of current staff to help us promote from within more frequently. Should we try it?
A: You’re on to something that many organizations have overlooked as an engagement and retention strategy. Cross-training employees in the skills they need to perform tasks outside of their usual roles can help develop employees, make them more promotable, and increase the team’s productivity.
It can also be a morale booster, which ties directly to engagement and retention. Many organizations have eliminated layers of management as a cost-cutting measure, so there are fewer ways to rise through the ranks. When employees feel their organization offers no path upward for them, they’ll often look for other places to work.
But if you can offer them the chance to learn a new skill or process, you might be able to keep them longer—and you may even find that they have potential you weren’t aware of.
If you can offer employees the chance to learn a new skill or process, you might be able to keep them longer—and you may even find that they have potential you weren’t aware of.
Organizations usually cross-train staff so that one employee can fill in for another who is out on leave or so that staff can be shifted to different tasks as needed. Instead of bringing in temporary staff to supplement your team during your busy season, why not try to cross-train your employees to fill those gaps?
The best way to cross-train is to have an employee shadow a colleague for a short time to learn the part of the job you want them to absorb. To prevent the person being shadowed from feeling threatened, be sure they understand that cross-training is a way to increase productivity—not eliminate staff.
Like anything else, cross-training sometimes has a downside. As you employ cross-training as a strategy, be careful to not overload individual staff members. Watch for burnout and monitor productivity so that you don’t create a new problem as you try to resolve another issue.
The primary goal of cross-training is to build your staff’s skills. But it also has another benefit: When employees know what other team members do and understand their roles in the organization, they collaborate better and make better progress toward achieving your organization’s mission.