Cross Training Employees

    Paula Fulghum

    Cross-training is a method used in workplaces where individuals are trained on how to carry out more than one job role. This method seems to be popular, especially for small businesses to have back up plans for absent workers or days with a high amount of work to be done. Training employees to be able to carry out more than one job role can be helpful to managers and beneficial to employees themselves. This method can be useful in many different organizational settings where multiple jobs are relatable.

    If employees are trained to be able to complete more than one job, then an unexpected absence of an employee is not a huge deal. Employers can simply pull someone in to help with the responsibilities of the missing employee, depending on whether or not that work is urgent. This also gives employees peace of mind if they have to miss a few days of work for sickness or vacation. Individuals won’t have to worry so much about having a huge pile of waiting when they return. Employees can also gain a wide variety of skills. Managers can give employees a chance to try new challenging roles or simply expand their skill set. Having a wide variety of skills is undoubtedly useful in a multitude of work environments. As an example from a home health care company, the owner hired nurses to work in office positions of supervisors, plan of care writers, or medical supply managers. These nurses were as well skilled to visit patients if there was an unexpected shortage of patient care nurses. These back up plans can really help to save companies money, instead of hiring additional employees. Employees will most likely also benefit from not having to experience problems of boredom if an individual doesn’t have work to do, but can help with a larger task.

    All of these benefits seem obviously valuable; however, it is also important to make sure that there isn’t so much cross-training that an employee’s role becomes ambiguous or the multiple roles conflict with one another. Some individuals may prefer to work one job, and not have interferences if their job is very time consuming to begin with. Cross training that particular employee may make he or she feel resentful, as if “they didn’t do enough already”. So it is important to think before deciding who to cross-train, or whether or not all employees should be cross-trained. While having employees with multiple skill sets as a resource in the case of an absence or overload helps the company, it may be contradictive if the employees become less productive overall because they feel so overwhelmed by the work. The last thing a company wants is to have all of the employees feeling stressed and overloaded from having to occupy multiple roles, leaving their primary duties to take on others.

    If cross-training sounds like a positive step for your company it can be implemented fairly easily. Employers definitely need to highlight the benefits of this idea, so employees don’t simply think they’re having to a do a ton more work. Show employees that being trained to do more than one thing will be great for them because they don’t have to feel guilty or anxious if they have to miss work, and they get to learn new skills to broaden their experience. Implementing cross-training practices can be done in the beginning of employment with new employees at their initial training, or later in the employment process. Teaching employees a little at a time can go a long way to prepare them to be able to handle multiple roles in the organization. Note, that managers and supervisors must make sure employees have sufficient training and practice to actually carry that role before letting them cross-over to that job in a real workday. Companies don’t have to make a drastic change to institute this type of practice, but gradually merging skills of workers to be able to do a variety of tasks can positively impact the efficacy of employees and the profits of the company.

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