Cross Training: Why it’s Important to Your Company’s Success and Bottom Line

Cross Training: Why it’s Important to Your Company’s Success and Bottom Line

I think it’s safe to say we’ve all been in a position where we’ve had to wear multiple hats at once, maybe even hats we weren’t supposed to wear, but were suddenly put on us. Organizations today can lose money and even fail if they lose an employee at a critical time. That said, it is essential to cross train your employees to better enable them to take on different tasks and prevent this type of major setback.

Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of O2E Brands, the umbrella company for 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and other businesses, gives his employees five weeks of vacation because he is prepared for the time they are gone, according to a recent Fast Company article on how to take a guilt-free vacation. How is this possible? Cross training.

“You cannot avoid engaging in cross training without leaving your company vulnerable to events beyond your control,” said Jerry Osteryoung, professor Entrepreneurship and Finance, Emeritus, at Florida State University, in an Area Development article.

As with all aspects in life, things change. People go on extended vacations, have children, relocate, or simply move on to other opportunities. While it may seem that your organization is comprised of employees who have the knowledge and skill to perform their daily tasks, have you prepared and equipped them to handle other responsibilities they weren’t hired to do?

Successful organizations understand the need to be flexible and train employees on a wide range of skills to prepare for both the planned and sudden fluctuations of every workforce. Employees should be trained to handle more than their daily job tasks in the event that they need to fill a position for a specific period of time. This allows employees to get a more in-depth perspective of the organization and a better sense of what other positions entail.

“When people are familiar with what the rest of the company is doing, it breaks down the typical ‘us versus them’ attitude,” said Kurt Bleicken, CEO of GreenPages, in an Inc. article.

A well-designed cross training program can improve employee retention and engagement, increase productivity and reduce turnover.

A couple months ago, Etsy announced their progressive, six-month, fully-paid parental leave policy. Last year, Netflix announced it would give its salaried employees up to a year of paid parental leave to take as needed. While those are very lenient policies, all organizations have some type of parental leave or vacation policy in place. Regardless of constant workplace fluctuations, cross training is the solution to ensuring your company runs smoothly.

I came across an article on Forbes.com that discusses the idea of the T-shaped individual and the importance of having employees that are not limited as experts in their field, but also have the ability to collaborate across several different areas. In essence, cross training creates a workforce of T-shaped employees that will provide:

  • Durability
  • Agility
  • Flexibility
  • Efficiency
  • Teamwork

The key takeaway is to create an agile workforce, one that adapts to the changes that may arise and is better able to handle any gradual or sudden transitions. A successful and effective cross training program means creating an organizational culture of teamwork, establishing clear goals and expectations, measuring the level of success and being open to feedback.

Employees who are trained to wear multiple hats, other than the one they were hired to wear, can create a sense of flexibility within a work environment. Sometimes, this flexibility can lead to greater job satisfaction and opportunities for professional development. Employees who participate in cross training not only further enhance their knowledge and skills, but can potentially help them find other positions within the company they may be better suited for.

My next blog will further discuss how to create and implement a successful and effective cross training program.

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