It was a Monday, a customer you have turns out to be a mystery shopper, who turns out to be an investor impressed with your shop. He quickly asks for a presentation but your PowerPoint guy was out with a cold!

It was a Tuesday, you need multiple hard copies of a document to be sent out immediately to several people but your copier was down! Your office has a backup copier, but its toner isn’t in yet, and it’s not even on. Yes, your IT was out because of a bad takeout.

It was a Wednesday, your shop just go too many customers today because of a great review online, that’s great right? Oh no, your wait staff is in a frenzy because your managers are not out there, they’re in a conference out west.

These and so many little nightmares can be solved easily through Cross-Training, an invaluable tool that small and big businesses alike use to gain a better competitive advantage in the field.

What is Cross-Training?
When your company trains and teaches one employee, who was hired to do one job, a new set of skills to perform another job.

Why should my company cross-train employees? Here are 5 reasons:

1. Your employees gain new skills. Learning a new skill in the office means opening new horizons for your employee. They acquire new talents that the company can make use of in the near future, especially when the company gets bigger.

2. Duties become decentralized allowing for more flexible teams or departments. When your team is well-rounded, they are able to help each other out in times of need. When one part of the department gets swamped, cross-training allows your colleagues to assist and keep everything calm.

3. Leaves no longer cripple the office. Not cross-training employees means only one person can do the job, which means that person needs to be there — always! A sick day, a vacation? That’s like bringing the companies legs with them.

4. Employees have better chances of promotion. Cross-trained to do more than what you’re hired for, just means prepping you up for higher responsibilities (and pay!).

5. Smarter collaboration is now possible. If a person is the only one who knows the task, how would that person feel about criticism, no matter how constructive? When a lot of employees know how to do the task, they can offer better insights for its improvement.

How do I Cross-Train my employees?
Through careful and meticulous planning. There’s a lot of preparation needed for cross-training one false step could be disastrous

1. Begin your cross-training journey by knowing the parts of your company that need it the most. A good place to start would be a job or task that is very dependent on a single person.

2. Break down the task or job into smaller details. This will allow you to train in small aggregates of the load. You cannot train everything at once. Make sure to also establish parameters to check if the program is successful.

3. Announce the cross-training initiative to your employees. Let them know why the company wants to cross-train and what’s in it for them. Show them how you plan to proceed with the cross-training.

4. Once you tell everyone, listen to feedback. Encourage everyone for their feedback on the program. Eliminate the water cooler talks and hold meetings for your employees.

5. Start with a trial run, a first-shot program. Choose a small group of employees to test out your cross-training program. Selections in the office can sometimes be a source of pride for the employee.

6. Create the best schedule. Don’t let your numbers suffer just to train your employees, don’t burn out your employees. Don’t teach too little too. Find a balance to get the most out of the program.

7. Listen to feedback. No training is perfect, that’s where feedback comes in. Hear your employees’ voices and tweak the program that you launched.

8. Test and expand. Check your results and crunch your numbers. Was the program successful? Were your parameters met? Get ready to implement it on a larger scale!

Cross-training is quite beneficial for both the company and the employees. There is always some danger and issues when doing cross-training. Being open and listening to your employees as you decode your data allows the benefits to be more evident for all.

I leave you with a quote from Sir Richard Branson, who recently made news due to his Virgin Galactic success, he says — “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

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