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February 5th, 2024 · 6 min read

Cross-training employees: How to do it right

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What is cross-training in the workplace?

The importance of cross-training employees

Benefits of cross-training for employees

  • Improved productivity as they build a more expansive skill set which enables better problem-solving and critical thinking.
  • Increased agility and flexibility as they gain more institutional knowledge and become better suited to handle change. 
  • Improved capacity for collaboration and teamwork as they learn to navigate the dynamics of different teams.
  • Insight into other teams and areas of the business that might be of interest to them and gain applicable skills.
  • A healthy work-life balance and prevent burnout concerns as they can confidently take time off, with the reassurance they have backup support available.

Benefits of cross-training for companies

  • Maintain productivity since there will always be another qualified individual to fill in for a key team member if they get sick or leave the company unexpectedly.
  • Lower recruitment costs as you build the talent you need from within.
  • Improve business agility since employees are well-versed in multiple areas of the organization and can more easily adapt to change.
  • Fuel internal mobility by utilizing existing talent within your company to upskill or reskill into various job openings.
  • Foster engagement because employees feel supported by your investment in their growth and development.

Examples of cross-training in the workplace

Practical tips for how to implement cross-training in the workplace

  1. Make cross-training part of employee goals
    Participating in cross-training should be part of a greater employee goal-setting discussion. Doing so allows for structure, and gives employees something to work towards. An example of a cross-training goal could be shadowing one new person on a different team every quarter.

  2. Create a job rotation or shadow program
    Employees likely have an interest in learning more about other teams within your organization, but they may struggle to facilitate this without support. Introducing a formal job rotation or shadow program is a simple way to encourage employees to deepen their understanding of how different teams work and explore cross-training opportunities.

  3. Make it clear where cross-training fits within your greater L&D strategy
    Cross-training is just one part of a much greater L&D strategy. An employee might be involved in cross-training, while also taking courses through your workforce education program and participating in a mentorship initiative.

    Work closely with people managers to ensure they feel comfortable talking about cross-training opportunities with their direct reports. Employees should have a clear understanding of what cross-training is and how it can support their career aspirations. They should also know that they may need to supplement cross-training with other development opportunities to achieve their desired career goals.
  4. Apply learning to on-the-job scenarios
    Give employees the opportunity to put their new skills into practice through stretch projects or other types of work that don’t directly fall within their existing job responsibilities.
  5. Supplement cross-training with education
    Encourage employees to supplement their learning with education. This will allow them to expand upon the skills they’re building through training and can help them make more impactful career moves.

Cross-training employees: Giving internal mobility a way forward

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