5 Reasons Cross Training Employees is Essential, During COVID-19 and Beyond

Last Updated on October 13, 2020 by bigfish-admin

Imagine this: Your company’s controller is hospitalized due to COVID-19, and they are the only person within the company who can operate your accounting and payroll software. They are also the only person with check-signing authority, aside from the owner, who is on lockdown in another state. During this time, payroll still needs to be processed, and unpaid bills are piling up. What do you do? 

While the health of your staff should be your top priority, this situation highlights the importance of cross training your staff to handle critical tasks. 

Cross training might conjure images of adding yoga to your running routine or training legs instead of arms at the gym. However, in a business environment, cross training is about increasing your company’s productivity and bottom line while broadening the knowledge and skills of your employees. Cross training goes far beyond showing everyone how the copier works when the administrative assistant is out for the day. 

Imagine cross training as a stool with four legs. If one of those legs breaks, falls off, or is removed, the chair doesn’t function the way it used too, or even at all. It’s the same with your business. If you have an organization where each individual is trained on one single thing, you open yourself up to risks. What happens if someone goes on maternity leave, suddenly becomes sick, quits unexpectedly, or gets fired? Now you’re scrambling to fill the gap. Let’s face it: This is inefficient and leaves your company at risk. 

Let’s talk about why cross training is so crucial to the success of your company.

Cross Training is a Win-Win

Cross training doesn’t need to mean spending hours in a board room or zoom meeting with employees staring at a PowerPoint screen, eyes glazed over, pretending to learn boring new material. Instead, think of cross training as a new opportunity. Use it as a discovery plan for both yourself and your employees. Employees will develop new skills, and you will simultaneously discover their interests and strengthen the functioning of the company. 

Studies show that when employees feel they’re working at a dead-end job, productivity and motivation decrease significantly. Giving employees a new task, responsibility, or opportunity can provide a new sense of purpose and protect you from avoidable turnover while encouraging them to work hard. Seriously, what’s better than that? This is a Win- Win.

Attract and Retain by Cross Training

Gen X, Gen Z, and Gen Y (and, increasingly, other generations) desire high satisfaction from the work they’re doing. They want feedback, the ability to learn on the job, and the opportunity to advance within the company. Asking employees to tell you which aspects of the business they’re interested in learning shows them that there is opportunity for both professional development and career growth. 

Investigate your employees’ professional interests along with the skills they want to further develop, and use that information to find opportunities to cross train them with veteran staff. You might even discover some new leaders. When employees know they have room to learn and develop professionally, the company becomes more attractive. 

Cross Training Cultivates a Collaborate Work Environment

There is nothing more powerful than creating a culture where employees not only respect their coworkers, but effectively collaborate with them as well. Putting your employees in the shoes of their peers will help them understand what takes place in others’ day-to-day work. 

Does your customer service team really understand what goes on during the implementation process for a client? Does your sales team understand marketing, or vice versa? Once they do, chances are, they will exhibit more patience and understanding when problems arise between teams, and they will work together on finding solutions. Through your cross-training efforts, communication and collaboration between departments will improve and company efficiency will increase. 

Cross Training Boosts Company Agility

Regardless of company size, you are probably always looking for ways to reduce overhead costs. Successful startup companies have mastered the challenge of operating with lean teams. 

This type of operation requires that everyone be cross trained and able to step in where needed. This benefits the business model by revealing hidden employee strengths, increasing employees’ skillsets, and providing a springboard for company promotions and advancements. 

 Cross Training Creates T-Shaped Employees

A T-shaped employee “has a deep knowledge/skill in one area and a broad base of general knowledge/skills,” according to Info Geeks. This is the ideal employee for every business, regardless of industry. T-shaped employees will constantly thrive in the workforce, especially during a period of crisis like COVID-19. Let’s use the restaurant industry as an example: Your bartender may be a master at crafting drinks, managing the bar, and working under pressure on a busy night. However, what happens when they’re out sick, don’t show up to work, or just need a vacation? Do you have another server who can step in? A T-shaped server employee can be your backup for these types of situations. They may not be the expert in the role they’re stepping into, but you know they can get the job done. 

The T-shaped employee who steps in can be moved around the floor as things change, and you know they will adapt. It’s best to invest time into cross training and developing T-shaped employees before a moment of crisis happens. Discover your employees’ interests and pair them with others from the departments they’re curious about. By doing this, you are creating an environment that empowers your employees to teach and learn from one another. 

In 2020, it has become obvious that cross training employees is necessary. Cross training can help mitigate some of the challenges your business has likely experienced during the coronavirus pandemic, from necessary furloughs to business shutdowns to exposed or infected staff. Get ahead of these crises and prepare a strategy for the future by implementing cross training in your organization today.  

Big Fish offers surveys that you can send to your employees to discover what they are interested in learning more about within your organization. This may be the perfect time to do so, since they may be working from home. Of course, there is a fine line between overloading your employees and reaping the benefits of cross training, so tread lightly. Offer 10-15 options of skills that employees can choose to learn, and allow each employee to pick their top two. The skills may be something as simple as operating the front desk to understanding a new product your company is offering or managing PTO requests for the HR director. The possibilities, along with the benefits to your team and organization, are endless. If you need help implementing a cross training strategy, or just want more information, Big Fish is here to help! 

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