Employee cross-training is the process of training employees for skills and job roles they weren’t initially hired for. Cross-training allows members of the team to switch between specific roles and even team types when necessary, which is useful if a team member is out sick or on leave. The benefits of cross-training, however, go far beyond filling in for employees who are away.
Cross-training is a clear investment in your team. It makes employees feel valued, challenges them in new ways and shows that your company offers opportunities for development. On the business side, the company benefits from building an adaptable, flexible and skilled team fueled by continuous improvement. It’s a win-win!
More and more, cross-training employees is becoming a necessity rather than a bonus. The workforce is demanding flexibility from their employers, and as technology changes more rapidly than ever before, it’s essential businesses build interdisciplinary teams that are adaptable to change and able to learn quickly.
Let’s dig into the benefits of employee cross-training. We’ll cover eight of the most important benefits, including tips for how you can make the most of a cross-training program.
1. Increased flexibility and adaptability
Let’s cover the big one first. Employee cross-training leads to increased flexibility and adaptability in your workplace.
Top talent, especially younger talent, is looking for flexibility in their work. They want to know you will support them in the ways they work best and that the company they work for, as well as the people they work with, are flexible.
PwC’s 2022 Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey found that younger workers are looking for flexibility, training, development, autonomy and transparency on social issues from their employer. The report concludes that companies “must tailor their workforce strategy to the unique needs of their workers.”
Flexibility is what employees are craving, and it’s a huge asset to your workforce, too. Adaptability is one of the top skills businesses look for in their hires today. That’s because the world – technology, culture, globalization, etc. – is changing at an incredibly fast pace.
By cross-training your team members, they develop their adaptability skills, sometimes referred to as someone’s AQ, (adaptability quotient). Adaptability is tied to several business assets, including increased problem-solving, better communication, willingness to embrace change and empathy.
Practically, employees can easily switch between roles, departments or projects as required. They’ll also be flexible in the face of change, evolving to the needs of clients, company growth and new trends.
Your team and business will be better equipped to handle unexpected changes in the workplace and beyond.
2. Increased efficiency
Cross-training helps to reduce downtime and delays, which will increase efficiency. Employees are better able to fill in for each other during absences, vacations or emergencies, so work doesn’t need to pause just because one person is missing.
The cohesion across teams helps everything operate more smoothly and efficiently, leading to increased productivity. Team members will trust each other to fill in because they know everyone on the team is just as qualified as they are. Trust leads to more efficient decision making, meaning work can move forward without any roadblocks getting in the way.
3. Improved employee morale and job satisfaction
Everyone loves working on a happy, healthy team.
When employees feel valued and appreciated, morale goes up, and morale is contagious.
Cross-training provides opportunities for career development, which leads to increased job satisfaction. It also provides personal and professional development, as employees are given opportunities to learn new skills and knowledge.
Employees are more likely to stay with the company long-term because they are happy and satisfied with their work. They’ll feel a sense of pride in what they do as they continue to build their skills.
This joint satisfaction for the work will keep employees happy where they are, reducing the huge cost of employee turnover.
4. Enhanced problem-solving abilities
Cross-training exposes employees to different ways of thinking, which enhances their problem-solving abilities. They’ll have different skills and different points of view to draw upon.
Any interactions with other teams and different job roles can bring new ideas and solutions to the table.
Plus, since teams aren’t isolated to their roles or specific team, they’re able to communicate and engage with a wider pool of people. This will encourage better communication and open dialogue across teams.
Cross-training encourages and supports a culture of continuous improvement and innovation because everyone is working together to learn new skills. Pushing these boundaries ensures the business, as well as each team member’s professional development, doesn’t stagnate.
5. Improved communication
Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings, workplace mistakes and even conflict – all of which aren’t good for an organization’s reputation or bottom line.
Cross-training allows team members to understand one another. Everyone has a bit of knowledge of what adjacent teams do, and they also understand the language each team uses. The ability to speak openly and clearly across teams improves communication for the entire business.
When employees communicate effectively, work can be completed faster and with fewer errors or unexpected roadblocks. Each team member can communicate what they’re working on, what they need and any issues that could arise.
Being familiar with the roles and responsibilities of their colleagues also makes employees more empathetic toward the people they work with, further enhancing communication and trust.
6. Promotes a continuous improvement mindset
Cross-training makes sure your business and your employees don’t stagnate. It ensures they continue to learn and grow, expanding their mind beyond the daily grind of their role.
An ongoing training program supports and encourages a continuous improvement mindset. Team members won’t settle for the status quo, and they’ll continue to want to better themselves and the business they’re a part of.
This way of thinking and working sparks innovation and creativity, which will help keep your company ahead of the curve and always ahead of your competition.
7. Reduces costs
Cross-training can reduce your costs in the long run since the whole team can fill in the gaps as needed.
You won’t have to hire a new employee to fulfill each individual skill set since everyone has a base knowledge surrounding the company’s needs. The ability to cover for a co-worker who is on sick leave, parental leave or what have you, is a huge asset and reduces cost since you can utilize the team you already have.
Plus, the other benefits we’ve covered, such as improved efficiency and communication, will indirectly save your company money.
8. Attract adaptable talent
Reliable, hard-working and skilled employees are hard to come by, especially in niche industries. Word about your company‘s culture and how you treat your employees gets around. By investing in cross-training, you’re investing in your team, and that’s something that’ll attract good employees.
You want to build a team of innovative, lifelong learners who go out of their way to solve problems. These types of people are very attractive to businesses that are flexible and prioritize personal and professional development. And that’s just what cross-training offers.
You can dazzle potential hires with the perks of cross-training, letting them know they won’t be siloed into one specific role. There’s room to grow, develop and expand their career if they choose to work with you.
Quick tips for employee cross-training
Now that you understand the rich benefits of employee cross-training, let’s cover a few key points that will help your cross-training program run with ease.
- First, take time to assess where your business currently stands with training and the skill sets of your employees.
- Identify key areas where cross-training can benefit the organization and its employees. (Use our guide to evaluating and improving employee performance.)
- Be clear to all team members about the benefits of cross-training. You can use our list above! Make sure they understand how the program will benefit them specifically.
- Gather feedback from team members so you can incorporate it into your plan. What do employees have to say about the strengths and weaknesses of your current training? What do they want to see more of? What are they interested in learning?
- Build a clear cross-training plan that outlines specific goals, objectives, people involved, and timelines.
- Ensure all employees receive proper training and support throughout the process.
- Provide a safe and supportive environment for employees to learn and practice new skills.
- Encourage team members to ask questions, seek feedback and provide input during the cross-training process and beyond.
By putting these steps into practice, you’ll be well on your way to building a top-notch cross-training program that’s tailored to the needs of your business and employees.
For more tips, read our guide to making cross-training a success.
Training resources from HR pros
Continue your own learning and training with HR morning. The HRMorning website is filled with tools and resources to help HR professionals just like you build happy, healthy, and well-trained teams.
Here are some resources we think you’ll find helpful:
- New way to engage employees: Understand their jobs better
- 5 best practices when training your Gen Z hires
- Post-COVID workplace realities—what HR can do now