The Best Backup Idea – Cross-Training Your Employees

Business goes off-track when a key employee quits or takes a long vacation. Most businesses operate with limited team members, making each employee a vital part of the mix. In such a case, when one employee is unavailable, there’s no one else to take over his responsibilities and take the work forward, resulting in poor productivity, which is really bad for business. So, what’s the solution? Ask any HR consultant and pat comes the reply – training and development of the employees. Every organization must take up cross-training in the workplace so there’s always at least one employee who could take over the responsibilities of another in his absence or share the workload when required. This is a foolproof employee backup plan in the constantly changing business environment where an employee might need to take up a new role out of the blue.

Really Helpful? Is It?

Cross-training employees as a part of the training and development program of an organization has immense benefits for corporations, especially those with smaller teams and a limited workforce. It helps build stronger teams because employees get to know the challenges faced by their colleagues in their respective job roles. This motivates them to be supportive of one another, increasing work efficiency.

As Jerry Osteryoung, professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance, Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship, points out, “Benefits of cross-training include corporate readiness when there is a need to fill the shoes of an employee; providing more variety in employees’ work, which typically results in happier and more productive workers; and the interaction of employees, which builds a sense of teamwork within and between departments as each employee becomes more aware of what other employees and departments do.”

Despite its utility, cross-training is a magic leadership tool that most managers and supervisors, unfortunately, tend to overlook or underestimate. In fact, what many fail to realise is that cross-training outweighs the results of other methods aimed at enhancing team performance. With cross-training, you get back up staff without hiring new employees and risking productivity.

Okay, Got It. So, How Do I Get It Done?

As a manager or an HR professional, that’s exactly what you could be thinking. Developing a cross-training program for employees isn’t that difficult if you get certain nuances right. A cross-training program cannot be designed and implemented at short notice, that too during a period of crisis. It needs to be incorporated into your training and development strategy and managers need to be made responsible for the cross-training of their team members. However, some aspects need to be taken care of before initiating such a program and those include the decisions on the eligibility of candidates for cross-training, for which roles cross-training is required or if all the employees need to be cross-trained in all departments, whether it will be voluntary or mandatory and the protocols that need to be set in place for the implementation of the program, etc.

Step-Wise Please!

The first action that is mission-critical to the implementation of a cross-training program is the drawing up of a list of tasks and functions that are vital for the business’s daily operations. These tasks need to be prioritised so that essential tasks can be included in the training program and the organization benefits from seamless operations in case of an employee’s absence in these critical roles.

Once the tasks are decided and prioritized, it will be possible to match the tasks which require cross-training coverage with the employees who are to be trained. Instead of simply training one employee to handle another’s task, it is better to train a number of employees for various components of a task so they can pitch in together and responsibilities are shared.

Throughout this process, managers need to be ready for some resistance because some employees may give a less enthusiastic response, especially employees who feel that the whole process involves training their replacements. However, employees shouldn’t be made to feel that the company is developing their replacements, but rather they should be made to feel that their jobs are highly critical and therefore there is a need for backup in their absence. Further, they should be made to understand that such training helps both the employee and the organizational growth as employees improve their performance and have higher satisfaction with their jobs. Taking regular feedback from team members on all aspects of the cross-training program will be of immense benefit to make improvements in the program and get employees’ whole-hearted participation.

Here’s the influential PowerPoint, just in case you are curious! The best backup idea across training……