What Is Cross-Training?
Cross-training in the workplace involves the practice of training a person to do someone else's job, whether that be within the same department, within other departments, or at other levels of responsibility.
Benefits of Cross-Trainingin the Workplace:
In a busy IT department, you may find that certain people have unique skills that are in a lot of demand, and therefore get assigned a disproportionate amount of work in comparison to their teammates.
While there may be enough employees within the IT department to get all the work done, some of those staff may be overworked and may consequently fall behind in their tasks because they are being assigned so many duties. The other employees, on the other hand, may become bored because they are not getting assigned enough work.
Cross-training can fix this by giving other workers a chance to learn some of those in-demand skills and taking some of the load off the overworked employees' shoulders, thereby reducing backlogs without having to hire extra staff.
Other reasons to cross-train include:
- Preventing risks to the company associated with having only one person know how to do a particular job, which can become a problem in the case of illness, vacation, retirement or other circumstances that cause absence.
- Preventing people from getting so specialized in one area that they hoard all the work or refuse to learn something new.
- Improving communication and promoting a team atmosphere and a sense of ownership and understanding of the things that go on in other areas of one's own department, in other departments, or at other levels of the company.
- Providing opportunities for rotation and promoting peer oversight so as to more easily pinpoint areas of inefficiency or corruption.
- Boosting morale and motivation by giving employees a mental break from what they're always doing and offering some variety.
- Giving employees a chance to grow and learn new skills without having to leave the company or go back to school.
Barriers to Cross-Training:
Some employees may be reluctant to cross-train for a number of reasons:
- They like being irreplaceable and feel like they won't be as important to the company if someone else learns how to do their job.
- The extra time it takes to cross-train someone may seem like a waste for employees who are used to working at a certain pace or have deadlines to meet, and would rather just do it themselves.
- Some people may be intimidated by the idea of mentoring or teaching others.
- Some employees may be comfortable with what they're doing at the moment and may not really be interested in learning someone else's job, or they may fear that if they acquire more skills, that will result in more duties piled on their plates.
True cross-training, however, is not designed to jeopardize a person's position in the company. Even if it takes time at first, it is supposed to alleviate everyone's workload in the end and is not to be used to dump extra responsibilities on people.
And for those employees who fear they are not good teachers, one-on-one cross-training is not necessarily ideal in every single situation; sending an employee to a training course may be more appropriate.