Cross-Training: Essential for Small Business Survival
Have you considered cross-training your employees to ensure more than one person knows all key functions? Cross-training can be a win-win situation for you and your employees. Large companies often use it to prepare managers for future promotions. But in small companies, it can be the difference between success and failure.
Why companies cross-train
Cross-training provides greater flexibility in scheduling, especially when dealing with unexpected workload and staffing issues. It also helps employees develop expertise in other areas and increases their awareness of the company’s roles and functions, helping them better understand where they fit into the big picture.
For employees, some of the biggest advantages of cross-training include:
- Learning new skills
- Working more efficiently and effectively with other departments
- Feeling more invested in the company
- Enjoying growth opportunities
Create your cross-training plan
How you implement cross-training will depend on the size and nature of your business. Consider prioritizing the departments that need and/or want cross-training the most. These departments may be understaffed or have many new employees. Look for important functions that are currently dependent on a single person’s knowledge. These areas should be a focus of your cross-training program.
If you’re considering cross-training your team, here are a few tips to help you prepare:
- Document your key processes. You cannot cross-train if you don’t know the process. These written processes will turn into training documents as you implement your program.
- Communicate to your team. It’s essential to get everyone involved before you start a cross-training program. Help your team understand why the company is cross-training employees. Reasons may be to prepare for organizational growth or new industry standards, to cover functions when someone is impacted by the pandemic, or to adjust to a changing structure around roles and responsibilities. Then continue to communicate with your team throughout the program with status updates and team meetings about progress and next steps.
- Present cross-training as an opportunity. Your employees may be more resistant to cross-training if it feels like it’s an obligation or a threat to their roles. You can help them feel motivated by highlighting the benefits, like developing different skill sets and having a better understanding of how their contributions positively impact the business.
- Start with a small pilot program. Test the waters with a select group of employees to get a better understanding of what works and what needs to be tweaked. You can then expand the program later as you gain insight and experience.
- Determine cross-training hours. Figure out how much time can be dedicated to cross-training for each team to still run efficiently. This may include setting aside a few hours each day, or setting aside full days for a certain period of time to focus on cross-training. If your business is seasonal, ramp up cross-training during your low seasonal period.
- Listen to feedback. You may learn that some employees have already started cross-training on their own. You can use this kind of valuable feedback to fine-tune your official cross-training program.
Keep in mind that some employees may resist having to train others, and productivity may suffer in the short-term. But remember the cost of not cross-training. If you lose a key employee and no one else knows how to do their tasks, your business may have trouble finding a replacement.