Cross-Training: The Best Offense is a Good Defense


When we are looking for ways to increase the efficiency of our business, sometimes the best place is in the most obvious one — internally. Regardless of how successful your organization is, there will be times when employees are sick, take vacation time or leave for other opportunities.

“Long gone are the days when employees are hired and then are in the same position at the same company for years and years,” says Ramon Ray of SmallBizTechnology. “It’s important that companies work hard to hire the right employees but also train them to be cross-functional.”

To avoid a deterioration of efficiency every time one of your key players is absent, focus on these four areas to establish a cross-training initiative:

1. Culture: Some employees hold onto their expertise because they feel it makes them indispensable. Create an environment that values employee’s ability to support each other. Express to them that their capacity to help their co-workers in times of need will benefit them when they need additional support.

2. Expectations: Make it a requirement that employees must have at least one person who has the knowledge and ability to step into their role at a moment’s notice. Require it as a mandatory element of the job description and provide the time to cross-train effectively.

3. Test: Simulate situations to make sure your cross-training initiatives are meeting your expectations. Remove a key employee for a de-sired time period; if someone is able to step into this person’s role, you’re covered.

4. Feedback: Provide a mechanism for employees to give you their opinions on the cross-training progress and then use the information to improve the initiative.

Many times the first place to look for “new” employees is your own company. Hiring and promoting from within not only increases morale, it also gives you candidates with track records you already know. Although a cross-training program may result in some short-term loss in productivity, it is a small price to pay for long-term improvement in efficiency. Think of cross-training as a financial investment for your company’s future.

For more information, contact the Association’s Training Department at 814/833-3200, 800/815-2660 or email Tracy Daggett at