Cross-Training Employees: Benefits, Drawbacks & 11 Best Practices
Do you ever struggle to fill open positions or deal with a workforce that lacks flexibility? Cross-training employees might be the answer you're looking for.
By teaching employees new skills or competencies outside their usual job responsibilities, you can create a more versatile and resilient workforce that adapts to changing circumstances and takes on new challenges.
But before diving headfirst into a cross-training program, it's essential to understand both the benefits and drawbacks of this approach.
If you decide that crosstraining is the right strategy for you, you can use our best practices for success.
💪 What is cross-training in the workplace?
Employee cross-training is a process in which employees receive training to perform tasks and responsibilities outside their usual job duties.
As a result, participating employees gain the skills and knowledge needed to perform other organizational roles.
You can implement cross-training within the same department or across different departments.
The purpose of cross-training is to create a more versatile and flexible workforce that can adapt to changing business needs.
Here's an example:
Suppose you have a retail company with several departments, including sales, marketing, and customer service.
You have noticed that during peak sales seasons, such as holiday shopping, there is often a bottleneck in the customer service department due to a high volume of customer inquiries and complaints.
You implement a cross-training program to address this issue and improve customer service during peak seasons. This program involves training employees in the sales and marketing departments on basic customer services skills, such as handling customer complaints and inquiries.
By cross-training employees, you can ensure that there is always adequate staffing in the customer service representatives department during peak sales seasons. It can also help to break down silos between departments, promote a culture of collaboration and teamwork, and improve overall customer satisfaction.
🏆 8 Benefits of cross-training employees
An employer always looks for ways to improve efficiency and performance.
One strategy that can provide a great return on investment is cross-training your employees.
Here are some of the benefits of cross-training employees.
Employees expand their skills sets and competencies
Cross-training employee programs can help your workforce develop new skills and competencies that benefit them and the organization.
Employees are hungry to develop their skills and advance their careers.
Need some proof? Lack of career opportunities is the most recurring reason why people quit their jobs in the last year.
Promotes internal hiring and mobility
By developing a pool of cross-trained employees, you can fill vacancies more quickly and efficiently.
You can promote career mobility by allowing employees to move into new roles or departments. This way, you can retain employees looking for horizontal job changes and decrease voluntary turnover.
Great return on investment
By training and investing in your employees' professional development, you are investing in your company's future.
Cross-trained employees are more versatile and can take on different tasks and responsibilities, leading to cost savings in the long run.
You won't need to hire new employees to fill gaps in the workforce, and your current employees will be able to work more efficiently.
🔍 Learn how to conduct a skills gap analysis and proactively address changing training needs in your organization.
Employees can collaborate better
Employees training in different areas can better understand their coworkers' needs and challenges.
Plus, cross-training can help break down silos and improve department collaboration. Employees can work together more effectively and efficiently when they better understand each other's job roles and responsibilities.
By encouraging cross-training, you can foster a culture of teamwork and collaboration in your organization.
Increases employee motivation
When employees get the opportunity to learn new skills and take on new challenges, they are more likely to feel valued and invested in their work.
Cue increased job satisfaction and improved overall employee motivation and morale.
Increases workforce sustainability
When employees train multiple competencies, they are better equipped to handle changes in the company's needs.
For example, suppose one department is experiencing a busy period. In that case, cross-trained employees can help alleviate the workload. So, your employees will be ready to fill in gaps when needed and work more effectively as a team.
As a result, you will also prevent burnout, which can be costly and disruptive to your business.
Improves efficiency and performance
Employees develop diverse skill sets through cross-training, enabling them to take on different tasks and responsibilities as needed. Also, gaining new skills can allow them to approach their jobs differently, leading to a more efficient and productive workforce.
💡 Are you looking to boost performance in the evolving workplace? Don't miss out on these nine performance management trends.
Makes your company more agile
When your employees can take on different tasks and responsibilities, your company can be more adaptable to market or industry changes.
Cross-trained employees can also help to identify areas where your company can improve, which can help you stay ahead of the competition.
😔 6 Disadvantages of cross-training employees
Cross-training employees can bring many benefits to an organization, but it is essential also to consider the potential drawbacks.
High-time and financial investment
Cross-training can require a significant investment of time and money. Training employees in new skills and tasks takes time and may require additional resources such as training materials or equipment.
Another financial consideration is the cost of lost productivity when employees spend time away from productive work (while training).
💡Tip: This investment can pay off in the long run, but it's essential to be ready for the upfront costs.
Employee and manager resistance to change
Some employees and managers may resist change, especially if they are comfortable in their current roles. As a result, it can be challenging to convince them of the benefits of cross-training.
💡Tip: Clear communication and focusing on positive outcomes can help overcome resistance.
➡️ Discover everything you need to know about change leadership to lead through change effectively.
Harder to standardize this process
Cross-training employees can result in more difficulty in standardizing than traditional training programs.
For example, each employee may have different learning styles and require different skill levels of support.
💡Tip: Ensure you have a clear training plan and offer ongoing feedback and support to ensure that all employees receive the same quality of training.
Difficulty evaluating performance
It can be challenging to evaluate employee performance when performing tasks in a new role that they have yet to master.
Cross-training employee programs can make it challenging to set clear goals and expectations and provide meaningful feedback.
💡 Tip: With good communication and ongoing support, employees can gradually develop the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in their new roles.
Loss of focus
When an employee trains new skills and takes on additional responsibilities through cross-training, it can be challenging to maintain the same focus and dedication to their primary job responsibilities.
As a result, the productivity and quality of work in their original role might suffer.
💡Tip: Carefully consider the needs and goals of your employees and the business. Will the gain in skills mitigate the temporary drop in productivity?
Employees who need to take on new responsibilities and learn new skills through cross-training may feel overwhelmed, stressed, or frustrated.
In some cases, employees may feel that they have too much on their plates or that their primary role becomes irrelevant.
As a result, they might feel dissatisfied and disengaged, which can hurt overall morale and productivity.
💡Tip: Be transparent with employees about the goals and expectations of cross-training.
Explain how cross-training fits into the organization's broader goals.
Provide clear guidelines and support to help employees manage their workload and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Can someone be too specialized to be cross-trained?
Even if someone is highly specialized in their current role, they can still benefit from cross-training.
Cross-training can broaden any employee's skill set, make them more valuable to the organization, and provide career growth and development opportunities.
But it's vital to approach cross-training with a clear plan and realistic expectations.
It may take more time and effort to train someone who is highly specialized. Still, even highly-specialized individuals can become more versatile and effective with the proper support and training.
It's also essential to communicate the benefits of cross-training to employees and managers and address any concerns or resistance. By highlighting the positive outcomes and providing ongoing support throughout the training process, you can help to overcome any initial resistance and create a successful cross-training program.
🆚 Cross-training employees pros and cons in a nutshell
💡 11 Best practices for cross-training employees
Cross-training employees can provide a multitude of benefits for both the employees and the organization as a whole.
Look for and learn from existing training programs
Before creating your cross-training employee programs, look for existing training programs in your organization.
No need to reinvent the wheel and start everything from scratch.
For example, you can save time and resources by reusing existing training materials.
You can also contact other organizations to learn about their cross-training programs and best practices.
Present the benefits of cross-training to managers and teams
As with any large-scale training initiative, you need buy-in from managers and teams.
Present the benefits of cross-training to get everyone on board. By highlighting the positive outcomes, you can help to overcome any initial resistance and create a successful cross-training program.
Documenting cross-training procedures can also ensure that the program is effective.
Who does what? And when? And what should they gain from the program? How will they use specific skills in their roles?
Answer these questions and leave no space for interpretation.
We also recommend documenting roles description and responsibilities to ensure everyone understands their role in the cross-training program.
Your goal here is to prevent confusion and ensure the program runs smoothly.
As with any new initiative, starting small and expanding using main takeaways is an excellent strategy to ensure adaptation and success.
Begin by identifying a few key roles or departments to focus on, and then gradually expand the program over time.
Identify employees to cross-train
Identifying the right employees to cross-train is critical to the program's success.
Look for employees who are motivated and have a strong work ethic, as well as those who have expressed interest in learning new skills. Also, keep an eye on roles that are losing relevance for your organization.
Motivate your employees to participate
To ensure that your employees are motivated to participate in the cross-training program, providing incentives and recognition is essential. Rewards and recognize those that complete cross-training programs.
According to a study, 25% of employees say that appreciation and recognition from their managers make them stay with their current company.
Keep training current
Keep cross-training current and up-to-date, including regular evaluations of the program and updates to the training materials and procedures. Doing this will ensure employees learn the most relevant and up-to-date skills and specialized knowledge.
For example, you wouldn't want to train SEO skills based on old practices. It will do more harm than good not to keep up with the latest updates to Google's algorithms.
💡 Check out these 15 best practices for training your new employees effectively.
Expand the program
Once you have a successful cross-training program, it's important to continue expanding the program over time.
For example, if you started with one department, it's time to expand to the others.
Use the most experienced teachers
We are big supporters of incorporating social learning into your crosstraining programming.
For the best results, use the most experienced teachers and look for employees with strong communication and collaboration skills.
Implement a job rotation program
In addition to cross-training, implementing a job rotation program can help knowledge retention. You want your employees to have the chance to put their newly-acquired knowledge and skills into practice.
Collecting feedback from both the employees and the managers involved can help identify any areas for improvement and ensure that the program is meeting the organization's needs.
💪 Need help with templates tailored to your organization's needs? Check out these training plan templates and examples.
➡️ Ensure engaging learning experiences with Zavvy
Too often, companies invest in employee training programs without a clear strategy or measurable goals, wasting time and resources. Therefore, with Zavvy, you can rest assured that your company's training programs are designed with clear goals and outcomes in mind.
Zavvy is more than just helping you with training - it's a comprehensive solution for employee growth and development.
With features like social and cooperative learning, self-directed learning, notifications, and Slack/MS Office integrations, Zavvy offers a seamless learning management system. Here are some of our highlight features:
- A quiz feature that encourages knowledge retention. Plus, you have complete control over pass rates and the number of retakes allowed.
- A survey step to collect feedback on learner satisfaction.
- Admins can also embed multimedia content into training journeys, making the learning experience more interactive and engaging.
- We enable deep personalization, providing learners with recommendations based on their feedback.
- We offer both an internal and external training library of courses so that employees can continue their learning journey beyond the company's offerings.
With Zavvy, companies can bridge the gaps between employee growth, performance, and training, all in one place, ensuring that employees and managers get the most out of available resources.
So why waste time and resources on ineffective training programs? Get a demo today!
How do you motivate employees to cross-train?
Employers can motivate employees to cross-train by communicating the benefits, offering incentives, providing resources, and involving employees in the process to make it more engaging and rewarding.
While some employees may be more resistant to cross-training than others, it's important to remember that everyone can learn new skills and take on new responsibilities.
What is another word for cross-training employees?
Another word for cross-training employees is "multiskilling."
This term refers to the process of teaching employees multiple skills or competencies outside of their usual job responsibilities to increase their versatility and ability to work in different roles or functions within the organization.
What is a cross training example?
Cross-training refers to the process of training employees in tasks, skills, or competencies that are outside of their usual job responsibilities.
One example of cross-training could be a retail company training their sales associates to also work in the stockroom, so they can assist with receiving and organizing merchandise when needed.
Another example could be a restaurant cross-training their waitstaff to work in the kitchen, assisting with food preparation and cooking during busy times.