Sports coaches use cross training as a tool to motivate and improve the performance of athletes. They find switching disciplines for a period gives a sportsperson a break, so that they return to regular training reinvigorated.
Elite army units use cross training to ensure that each member of a team can do any of the jobs required in the team, thus ensuring that fighting effectiveness is maintained even if some of the unit is incapacitated.
In industries, cross training refers to a situation where an employee swaps jobs with another employee for a certain period, and both are trained to competency in their new positions. The ideal situation is where every member of a team is capable of doing any other job in that team.
The benefits of cross training for a section or department include:
- Increased staff morale
- Increased productivity
- Lower churn rate
- Increased security
- Strong and weak links identified
- Better induction process
Increased Staff Morale: Giving your employee a new skill gives them a new perspective within the team. A new task interests them, particularly if they are involved in a consultation process. They help the colleague in their job and vice versa and bonds are established. Perhaps also there is a ‘plum job’ in a section, but is not so plum when someone else tries it and they return with a new appreciation of their old job.
Increased Productivity: How many times is there a bottleneck in a team, with one member working furiously, and others waiting for work? It’s not always the same member either. A cross trained team can cope with surges in work much better. With cross training, individuals in a team are trained to become a proper team – working and looking out for each other. Holidays and sickness have less of an impact on a fully trained team.
Lower Churn Rate: Take a section of a workforce, where everyone shares the workload. There is nobody snowed under in work, and nobody sitting bored; no times when one employee works late while the rest skip off home. It will be a happy section and a productive section that people will like working in.
Increased Security: There are two aspects at play here. Sometimes an employee makes a niche where they handle something in a particular way, maybe with a program only they can use, leading to the ‘Black Box syndrome’. If this employee falls sick, leaves, or is disgruntled, a whole department (or a company) can be forced to come grinding to a halt.
There are also sensitive departments, usually accounting, where as a policy, responsibilities should be divided and staff moved around to avoid temptation.
Strong and Weak Links Identified: There will be occasions when an employee blossoms in a new responsibility, but there will also be instances when an employee fails to perform no matter where they are put. A long-term goal of cross training would be to identify performing and non-performing individuals.
Better Induction Process: If (as recommended below) the retraining is carried out with the help of an eLearning system, there will be a clear and consistent methodology used for training new employees, whatever role they take up in the organization.
Cross training will not bring visible benefits overnight; it is not something that will rescue an ailing company. What it is, is a long-term plan for a company to increase its productivity by efficiently using its time and human resources. It needs to be continued as a feature of company life and not abandoned for short term reasons. If handled intelligently, it will bring large benefits to the employer in terms of increased flexibility and productivity, and to the employee in terms of job satisfaction.
Sports coaches use cross training as a tool to motivate and improve the performance of athletes. They find switching dis...