How Important Is Cross Training Employees?

February 14, 2009

Q. I’ve considered cross training many of my employees, but it can be costly and take away from each other’s real time activity. Please share any thoughts you may have on this subject.

A. The time has never been more right to initiate cross training in any organization. In fact if you are just now thinking about it, you are probably a bit behind the curve. I have always been a proponent of “continually train your replacement” because you never know when an opportunity is going to pop up and there will be no one ready to step into your shoes. You should be training ahead of you and behind you as well.

When insecure managers and employees hear that statement, they will respond with, “…if I train him/her to do my job then they won’t need me!” When confident and secure managers and employees hear that statement, I get responses like, “….sounds like it would make my job easier; or there will be no excuse for me not getting a promotion if I have my replacement ready to continue on in my place.”

Cross training in 2009 is paramount to survival! Allow me to share a story with you to demonstrate this concept.

An executive for a major telecommunication company that I’ve known for many years told me last week that he had been ordered to attend 100 hours of classroom and hands on cross training from the wireless arena he is in, with the landline and data group. When I asked why, he said this order has gone to all wireless people to get cross trained because the union on the landline side has ordered a strike in March 2009 of 50,000 employees!

He went on to say, “with the state of the economy as it is, our top line management is upset and doesn’t plan to take this laying down, so we are cross training several thousand other employees to step in and take control. It’s like the potential strikers don’t realize the importance of their jobs, and how it will affect tens of thousands of other people not only in and around the telecommunications theater, but the customer base as well.”

This defined cross training under these time constraints are very costly and should have been done over time to keep people ready and spread the costs over a period of time. But the good news is, they are doing something about it. You should do something about it in your organization as well. If you are living under a rock or believe this will never happen to me, remember that the graveyard is full of people who only got shot once! Is your company ready? Are you ready?

Cross training has many benefits including employees offering a different prospective of any given job, cost saving ideas, a work force that is ready for anything that comes their way and a great morale builder because employees want to feel wanted and needed. Most employees want to do an exemplary job; most employees only want a chance; most employees will excel when given the opportunity to share their ideas. Don’t micro manage employees but rather embrace their abilities and your retention will improve, quality will improve and the overall strength of your company will improve.

As always, I wish you a tremendous week. Call or write if I can be of any assistance to you.

George F. Mancuso
Gman Business Resources, Inc