There are a multitude of benefits to cross-training people on job functions. Here is a short list of some important ones.
Link between Training and Satisfaction
Several studies over the past 50 years have established a strong link between training and satisfaction. Organizations that continuously train their people have higher motivated employees and less absenteeism. Cross-training also helps with the retention of younger generation workers.
Improved Bench Strength
Every time an employee is out for an illness or vacation, it is a simple matter of moving people around to cover the lost function. Having several back ups for each position generates the flexibility to operate efficiently in today’s frenetic environment.
When people train others on their function, a personal bond is struck that is intangible but powerful. It is really a large teambuilding effort to install a cross-training program in a company. People actually enjoy it and rightfully feel the additional skills have something to do with job security. Interestingly, in organizations that do not cross-train, many people are protective of their knowledge, thinking that being the only one who knows procedures makes them appear to be indispensable.
Reduction in Turn Over
An organization that focuses on cross-training suffers less from employee churn. Why? Because people have more variety of work and higher self esteem. They have more fun at work and tend to stay with the organization. Also, the opportunities to learn new things add to the equation. Basically, people operate at higher levels on Maslow’s pyramid in organizations that cross-train.
Leads to Higher Trust
Trust is directly related to how people feel about their development. In organizations where people have a solid training program for the future, people know management cares about them as individuals. The discussions to develop the plan are trust-building events because the topic is how the individual can improve his or her lot in life.
Of all the ways an organization can improve employee skills, cross-training is the least expensive. The reason is that training can be inserted during the little slack periods within the operating day. Training keeps people occupied in growth activities when there is little else to do. The real cost to the organization is much lower than it appears on the surface. When compared to the benefits, the return on investment (ROI) is fantastic.
Keeps the Saw Sharp
The best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. In order to explain what you are doing, you have to understand it very well. Also, in the process of training someone else, the trainee may suggest better ways of approaching a task, so the process is being honed and refined all the time.
If your organization does not have an active and specific cross-training process, get one started. It generates many advantages and no significant disadvantages. If you have a program, ask yourself if it is fresh and vital. Are you using this technique well or giving it lip service?
About the Author
Bob Whipple is CEO of Leadergrow Inc., a company dedicated to improving leadership in organizations. The preceding information was adapted from his book, Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind. You can contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org or 585-392-7763.