The Importance of Cross-Training in Improving Team Performance
If you’ve ever had a team member get sick or want to take time off during a critical project phase, you can appreciate the benefits of providing cross-training programs to your staff. When you have trained personnel always ready to take over work in the event of a crisis, schedules still get met. When you lack these resources, productivity falters. Cross-training activities enable your company to develop skills and knowledge throughout your company.
Cross-training events enable an employee’s ability to function effectively in a team environment. These exercises expand an employee’s knowledge and skills to perform multiple tasks. This usually improves productivity, quality and customer satisfaction, as well. Typically conducted by other team members who serve as mentors and coaches, cross-training activities prepare an employee to perform multiple or all team functions. Upon completion, for example, a salesman can sell multiple products and services, a trainer can teach multiple courses and a customer service representative can answer questions about multiple topics.
Adopting a cross-training strategy allows you to maximize your current workforce without having to hire additional staff. If an employee has a broad skill set, you can shift roles and responsibilities when work flows and ebbs from one process to another. Additionally, cross-training allows employees to experience all aspects of your company’s business and sets each employee up to assume a leadership role if required. Materials developed to cross-train current employees can also serve to transfer knowledge to new employees.
Cross-training your workers allows you to accommodate vacations, sick time and other absences without impacting your delivery dates. Performance levels remain constant during changes of personnel, because trained people complete tasks, not a temporary worker learning on the job. Cross-training provides career development opportunities for workers, as well. This improves employee morale, retention and motivation. Employees who switch jobs also tend to have higher job satisfaction because they get to spend less time on repetitive tasks. Everyone shares the tedious jobs.
Implementing a cross-training program to improve team performance requires a strategic plan. You need to analyze your operation metrics before training personnel in other tasks. Ensure that employees have the prerequisite skills and knowledge before providing cross-training opportunities. For example, do not require an employee to operate machinery without proper qualifications. After training, track and monitor performance levels to ensure newly trained personnel perform at acceptable levels. You may also want to provide incentives for employees to take on new challenges and tasks. Run contests and recognize individuals who learn new skills to enhance team performance. This sets a high standard for the team and may inspire other employees to take on expanded roles, as well.