It was payday and there was an error on Lisa's paycheck. She was concerned about the extra deductions and went to talk with the payroll specialist in the company. When Lisa entered the office, all doors were closed except the one to the HR Director's office. The HR Director informed Lisa that the payroll specialist was out the next two days and she didn't know where information was kept in her office. Lisa had to wait until the payroll clerk returned to work.
Does this sound familiar? You need to ask a colleague for help, they are not in, and there is no one else in the office to help? It's as if the world stops because he or she is out of the office.
Cross training is an effective method that can be used in any company, big or small, to increase productivity and keep the workflow streaming along smoothly.
Why cross train?
In many companies, support staff is cross trained to manage the reception area when the receptionist is absent or goes to lunch. The company wouldn't leave the reception area, where clients and customers are greeted, vacant and they wouldn't leave the switchboard unanswered. If they did revenue could be lost and customers would be unhappy. Employees should be trained to handle the load if the responsible party is unavailable for periods of time to keep the work flowing.
What are the benefits of cross training?
- All the bases are covered. If the employee who normally has the responsibility quits or is out of the office, there will be someone to temporarily perform the duties in their absence.
- Increase productivity. The more employees know about the job responsibilities, the more diverse they will be in completing the necessary tasks. In other words, work is not halted due to an absent employee.
- Gain knowledge/experience. Additional job responsibilities learned can be included on a resume.
- Opportunities for promotion/raises. During a performance review, shedding light on the instances when you have had to stand in for an absent employee and assist in completing tasks may be compensated in the form of a promotion, raise, or special employee recognition.
The alternative to cross training is to create an office manual. Each employee should document their responsibilities in detail so that if there is a time when they will be out of the office or leave the job, the next person can refer to the manual.
Comments about the idea of cross training
People have mixed feelings about the concept of cross training. Here is some feedback along with responses regarding the topic:
I don't want to be cross trained because that means more work for me.A. Unless you are specifically informed that you are taking on additional responsibilities on a permanent or indefinite basis, cross training is a way to keep projects and workloads progressing. If you are advised that you will be assigned new job duties, perhaps this will include a raise or promotion. Ask to get clarification.
My department is small; it's just me and my boss in the office. Cross training won't help our office.
Consider creating a policy and procedures manual. The smaller the office the more important it is to have procedures and policies documented, especially if you have been performing the tasks for a long period of time. If you are ever out of the office, a temporary employee can perform the job responsibilities with little direction from your supervisor.
I see cross training as a means to get fired or laid off. The more people know about your job, the easier it is to be let go because you are no longer needed.
There are many other variables that affect the outcome of being let go from a job - drop in revenue/company sales, loss of clientele, restructuring, or poor employee performance. Also, if you are the only person who knows how to do your job, when you return to the office, you will have to play catch up which means, more stress and longer work days for you.
Cross training is effective for teams and committees as well. Training team members in understanding each role/responsibility eliminates stagnate time because they are unable to complete the task or must leave the group. In an effort to not put pressure on a specific individual to complete their task and the other team member's task, it may be necessary to divide the work amongst the team. If they are all cross trained or have a policies and procedure manual to reference, their job would be easier.