Starting a cross-training program

Starting a successful cross-training program

As the job market tightens, many companies turn to formal cross-training programs to make sure they’re operating at top efficiency.

Since not all workers will be excited about learning a new set of skills, the steps taken to prepare employees for a cross-training program go a long way toward making sure it’s a success.

Here are some strategies employers can use to start laying the groundwork for a successful program.

Ease into it

When it comes to cross-training employees, the best bet is to take it one step at a time, one department at a time.

Jumping into a mass training can cause a lot of unforeseen snags – not the least of which is a confused and intimidated workforce.

Overcome fear of change

Of course, sometimes the reason a message falls flat is because workers don’t want to hear it.

Fear of change caused by a misunderstanding – like cross-training is a forerunner of downsizing – can sabotage even the most well-crafted training sessions.

If workers don’t understand why cross-training is necessary, it can lead to a lot of ugly rumors circulating around the workplace.

The more information workers have early on as to why the company is cross-training (e.g., to offer learning opportunities, prepare for summer vacations), the more comfortable they’ll feel with the new program.

This way supervisors won’t have to worry about facing down a barrage of questions or skeptical looks, and instead will have a more open – and even eager – audience.

Get supervisors’ input

Frontline supervisors tend to have pretty good insight into what makes employees tick. Make it a point to get supervisors and team leaders to share some of that insight before the first cross-training session.

Ask the top brass to sit in

Nothing can hammer home the importance of cross-training like seeing a member of the company’s top brass sign off on it.

So invite some of the C-level executives to sit in on any meetings announcing the new training program.

It’ll show workers just how important having staff flexibility is to the company.

Tip: If no one from the top brass can make it to a meeting, ask one of them if they’d be willing to send out a company-wide email voicing their support for the initiative. It won’t carry as much weight as actually seeing them in the room, but it’s definitely the next best thing.

Lynn Cavanaugh
Lynn, a member of the HRMorning staff, is an award-winning editor who writes about HR, benefits and compensation topics. Previously, she was editor-in-chief of Woman’s Own and American Woman magazines.