Mitigating Business Risk with Cross-Training
Cross-training to ensure more than one person knows key functional areas can be a win-win situation for you and your employees. Large companies often use it to prepare managers for future promotions. But in small companies, cross-training can be a great way to mitigate risk.
How you implement cross-training will depend on the size and nature of your business. Consider prioritizing the departments that need and/or want cross-training the most. These departments may be understaffed or have many new employees. Look for important functions that are currently dependent on a single person's knowledge. These areas should be a focus of your cross-training program.
As you implement a cross-training program, here are a few tips to help you along the way:
Document your key processes. You cannot cross-train if you don't know the process. These written processes will turn into training documents as you implement your program. So your first step is identifying key processes and procedures and having your current people that are doing these functions to get them down on paper or documented through short videos.
Communicate to your team. Get everyone in step before starting a cross-training program. Help your team understand why the company is cross-training your team. Reasons may be to prepare for organizational growth or new industry standards, to cover functions when someone is on vacation, or to adjust to a changing structure that's focused around roles and responsibilities. Then continue to communicate with your team throughout the process with status updates and next steps.
Present cross-training as an opportunity. Your employees may be more resistant to cross-training if it feels like it's an obligation or a threat to their roles. You can help them feel motivated by highlighting the benefits, like developing different skill sets and having a better understanding of how their contributions positively impact other parts of the business.
Start with a small pilot program. Test the waters with a select group of employees to get a better understanding of what works and what needs to be tweaked. You can then expand the program later as you gain insight and experience.
Determine cross-training hours. Figure out how much time can be dedicated to cross-training for each team to still run efficiently. This may include setting aside a few hours each day, or setting aside full days for a certain period of time to focus on cross-training. If your business is seasonal, ramp up cross-training during your low seasonal period.
Listen to feedback. You may learn that some employees have already started cross-training on their own. You can use this kind of valuable feedback to fine-tune your official cross-training program.
Keep in mind that some employees may resist having to train others, and productivity may suffer in the short-term. But remember the cost of not cross-training - if you lose a key employee and no one else knows how to do their tasks, your business may have trouble finding a replacement.