What is Cross Training?
For me, I like riding my bike but need to throw in a run sometimes to break up the monotony. You’re probably thinking, “That can’t be the cross training you’re talking about. What does that have to do with my business?”
The cross training I really should be talking about is the process that will keep your employees well trained and keep the critical functions in your business humming along regardless of who is out sick or on vacation.
Cross training is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as: “to train (an employee) to do more than one specific job” and is critical to your business for a few reasons:
- It helps your employees understand the process and procedures in other parts of your business.
- It forces you to document critical parts of your business.
- It helps you be covered if a critical function is short-staffed or if someone that is performing a critical function is out of the office or leaves the company.
- It is a critical part of any good Business Continuity Plan.
I’d recommend the following steps to kick off your business’s cross training program
- What are my Critical Business Functions? – Make a list of all your important business functions. These are the things that you and your key staff do that are required to keep the doors open and business running. Examples: Payroll, Accounts Receivable, Sales, Customer Support, etc. (You can also use this list to start your Disaster Recovery Plan. Check out The Ping: Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Planning 101 for more info.)
- Where do I need to Cross Train? Identify the tasks performed within these critical functions and identify which of these rely on one employee. These are going to be the tasks you want to document and cross train other employees on as soon as possible.
- Who would be a good candidate? Identify who in your company would be a good fit to cross train in these tasks. Ideally you want to pick employees that are really interested in learning something new. They could also be employees from the same team that perform slightly related tasks. There are many factors to decide who will participate in your cross training program so ultimately it just depends on what fits for your company. Important Side note: I believe it’s important to try to reduce the workload on your participating employees during the cross training process. Otherwise you’re most likely going to get a rushed or half-completed result and potentially the people involved may feel resentful about the entire process.
- What information needs to be included in the cross training? Document the task or tasks that you’re cross training on. In order to accomplish this I like to ask the person that is doing the cross training to document the steps involved in a task while the other person performs the task. They can then review and proof the steps together and then trade performing these tasks and reproof the steps until they feel their documentation is solid.
- Maintain the training, keep it current. Have the person that cross trained actually perform the tasks on a regular basis. This ensures that they are familiar with the steps involved in the tasks and it keeps your documentation current. It also keeps your business ready for when the person that normally performs these tasks is unavailable.
- Good Job! Recognize and reward the employees that have new skills and/or responsibilities. They have really helped your business out by taking on these additional responsibilities.
Cross training has so many benefits to your business that it doesn’t make sense not to have a cross training program. The problem always seems to be getting started with the right method for your company. If you don’t think these steps will work in your specific business but you are interested in cross training, why not put the question to your key employees? It’s likely they agree with you and have some ideas on what information they need to train other team member(s) on.
If you have any ideas or input on cross training or anything else that you think would help your fellow business owners and managers be more successful then please send them our way. We’d love to hear what you think.
Your UniVista Team
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