Human Resources News & Insights

Starting a 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.

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