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The Importance of Cross-Training

Regardless of the industry, businesses today cannot risk business continuity due to the loss of a key contributor. Monica Siciliano, Partner at De Novo HRC, notes “When you lose an employee, either through resignation or retirement, the company loses the institutional knowledge the employee takes with them. The company also incurs costs to recruit, hire, and train a replacement.” Of course, not every disruption is permanent, some are temporary, such as sick vacation leave. However, if there is no one on the team who can perform the job functions of an absent employee, the company must scramble for a solution and productivity suffers. Cross-training your employees helps ensure that losing a team member will not have significant detrimental impact upon your business.

Here are five reasons to include cross-training as part of your human resource management strategy:

  • Employee Growth and Development

Cross-training employees allows your workforce to expand and enhance their skills, knowledge, and abilities as they work on new projects and gain the necessary competencies to thrive in a specialized position or more senior role. Employees may enter your organization with a narrowly focused college degree and work history, but cross-training enables them to explore new opportunities and challenges beyond what they were hired to do. Employees with diverse work experiences and expanded skill sets become more valuable contributors to the business’ success.

  • Savings on Recruitment

One thing that all business owners come to understand is that recruiting new employees is expensive. But when you cross-train your current employees, you create an internal pool of talent for filling open positions. Cross-training helps employees to become better prepared to move up in their careers or transition into different roles or departments within the company. When a business hires internally, it not only saves time and money on recruitment, but also during the onboarding process, since the employees are already up to speed on the company’s mission, vision, values, policies, and culture.

  • Workforce Stability

Cross-training can help provide stability and valuable flexibility across teams during sudden resignations, sick leaves, long-term disability, sabbaticals, and the like. An organization without contingency plans for fulling key positions are vulnerable to disruption in the event of planned or unplanned absences, while cross-trained staff provides safeguards during vacancies, stabilizing workflow and productivity, and protecting the bottom line.

  • Reenergized Employees

Companies also benefit from cross-training when viewed through an engagement lens, by deepening employees’ understanding of the business. Exposure to different teams and departments allows employees to see how what they do impacts the business and how different roles contribute to achieving company goals. Conversely, when employees perform the same tasks day in and day out, they may get bored and feel as though they’re stuck in a dead-end job. When you implement cross-training, you can reinvigorate unmotivated employees, reassure them of their value to the company, and position them for upward career mobility within the company.

  • Workforce Agility

One of the most important aspects of successful human resource management is preparing your workforce to adjust and respond to changes quickly. With cross-training, you can expand your employees’ capabilities to temporarily jump into different roles or departments in order to provide extra support and balance the company’s workload during particularly difficult or busy times. Not only can this help you prevent overworking certain teams but also this may provide an alternative to outsourcing any extra work.

Cross-training should be looked at as insurance against the inevitable ebb and flow of business. No matter how great or successful your organization is, there will be times when employees are sick, go on vacation, or leave to pursue other opportunities. When those times come, it’s your duty as a business owner to make sure your team is prepared.


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