Why Cross-Training Employees Makes Sense

Cross-Training Employees: Why It Makes Sense

When you use the words “cross-training” many business executives and staff immediately think of sports. We have visions of the triathlete who is simultaneously honing their swimming, cycling, and archery skills, so they can compete in some extraordinary challenging event at the world level.

In fact, it is a word that is coming out of North American boardrooms more and more these days, as corporations find themselves having to deal with the new realities of rapidly changing markets and increasing production and service challenges.

In business terms today, cross-training is used to describe the process of training employees so that they can do several jobs within an organization. On a production line, for example, a person is able to move from their original position to another completely different skill. In a food operation, a front-line order taker must also be able to handle short order cooking skills, clean tables, and order supplies.

What it means for the Human Resources professional is crafting job descriptions much more loosely to allow for such an eventuality and finding ways to motivate whole generations of employees who believe they can refuse a task on grounds of “it's not my job”.

If you run a restaurant, for example, and you have a wedding booked, but five out of fifteen of your staff suddenly find themselves stricken with flu, you may have to call on your bookkeeper, your maintenance person, and one of your line cooks to come forward and help wait on the guests. If they have no training, your inability to deliver the service will be obvious; but if the bookkeeper has also been trained as a bartender, the glitch will go completely unnoticed. The trend has spread around the world as well. The Japanese car manufacturer Toyota insists that each employee is able to work competently on a variety of car models on one assembly line.

The “Jack or Jill of all trades”, a relic of the past in an age of specialists, is now the most coveted of employees again.

From a Human Resources perspective, there are a number of advantages that can be discussed in the process of overcoming employee resistance. For example, when one employee knows how to do another's job, they immediately have more empathy for what is involved. The process builds a deep understanding of the various components of the company.

Secondly, cross-trained employees appear less apt to suffer burnout and stress related illness, because they are often energized by the process of changing what they do regularly. They no longer suffer from the “same-old, same-old” mindset when discussing their day.

Do you believe that cross-training employees will become the norm in modern day organizations or will specialized employees still be the most sought after? Share with us your thoughts and opinions. 

Close