Employee training is an established part of your HR routine.
Upfront training during the orientation phase is a standard procedure for most small business employers. Business owners who understand the value of human assets take it a step further and provide aggressive, ongoing training opportunities for their staff.
But what about employee cross-training? The possibility of training workers to perform multiple roles never occurs to many business owners. Rather than training their existing workforce to fill two or more roles in the business, leaders sometimes erect a firewall around their thinking and train each employee to perform a single, limited job function.
Forward-thinking businesses are waking up to the idea that employee cross-training has valuable benefits for companies of all shapes and sizes. But the benefits of cross-training may be most significant for small businesses where even a single lapse in coverage can bring operations to a standstill. Here are a few of the benefits a cross-training approach can deliver to your small business.
- Seamless coverage. What happens when an employee in a small shop takes a weeklong vacation or goes on a three-month medical leave? If you haven't cross-trained your staff, there's a good chance their duties won't be performed – at least not at a professional level.
- Broader (and deeper) skill sets. By nature, cross-training broadens each team member's skill set. But it can also provide opportunities for creating skill set depth. How? By giving each employee a better understanding of the big picture. When a worker understands how their position fits into the larger scheme of things, the worker gains insights about how improvements to one job function can result in larger gains for the organization.
- Collaborative impetus. Cross-training inevitably leads to greater levels of in-house collaboration. As employees learn each other's positions, they also learn how they can work together to improve systems and overall performance.
- Managerial flexibility. Managers love cross-training because it dramatically increases their managerial options. If an employee is underperforming, they can shift another worker into the role with a minimal amount of disruption. Conversely, if an employee shows exceptional aptitude in a different position, they can reshuffle the deck and place workers in areas that play to employee strengths.
- Operational consistency. Turnover can be disastrous for a small business workplace. But cross-trained workforces minimize the impact of turnovers and ensure operational consistency, even when a key employee leaves the company.