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Do you know how to crisis plan for your business?

Cross training is essential for business continuity, yet so many companies do not do it. How do you go about cross training employees so there is coverage for every role in case of emergency?

An heir and a spare. It’s the foundation of any well-planned monarchy but is there a takeaway here for businesses?

From a business perspective, ask yourself: What would happen if your top account manager became ill? What if it happened during a particularly important renewal period for your company? If you don’t believe in cross training your employees, I guess you’ll just let their absence slide, let the customers go, and hope for the best when your account executive returns to work. However, if you believe in cross training, you’ll have an employee or two that can step up to the plate, contact the customers whose accounts hang in the balance, answer their questions, and snag those renewals without really skipping a beat. In short, cross training allows your business to continue moving forward, despite any roadblocks that might crop up.

Cross-training is essential for just about every business, yet very few companies do it. Let’s examine the issue at hand, why it’s important, and what you need to do to get the job done!

What is it?
Cross-training is just what it sounds like, It’s training employees so that they are able to do the job – or the components of the job – of another person. It can happen among individuals or can be a more team-based activity depending on the needs of your company, the department, or the folks within it.

Why do it?
From the most basic standpoint, cross-training creates continuity in your company should you ever have a temporary gap to fill, but the benefits don’t stop there. Cross-training can also be a key component of any employee development program and promote a much-revered culture of learning. Giving your employees exposure to new skills, or even just new areas of the company, you encourage them to forge relationships and develop new skills that can render them more professionally well-rounded, which studies suggest helps drive engagement and decreases employee turnover. However, even the teaching employees can reap benefits in that they get to flex their teaching skills, potentially serve as a mentor, or even just think critically about the job in terms of what they love and what they themselves need to be doing to push themselves to the next level.

How do you do it?
Depending on your business needs, there’s more than one way when it comes to cross training. However, a basic program should at the most basic level include:

  • A student and a teacher: Cross training is typically accomplished through one-on-one training but can also be accomplished between a team of “receiving employees” and a single “teaching” employee or vice versa.
  • A time frame: The cross training should take place over a set period of time and can be as short as a few hours for simple task takeover or include a multi-day intensive with repeat check-ins on an as-needed basis to ensure that the receiving staff member remains capable and confident that they can step in should the need arise.
  • An agreement: Prior to any training taking place, both parties need to be willing participants in the cross-training activity. By this, we mean that employees shouldn’t be volun-told to do this and should instead view this as a welcome opportunity to stretch their professional roles. Also, this cross-training arrangement should be approved by all relevant managers and departments.
  • A series of objectives: While the set-up of cross-training may seem a bit informal, prior to the start of training, there should be an agreed upon set of objectives for the teaching staff member and the “student.” Both need to understand the objective of the cross training – as in, what they are expected to gain – and should be able to demonstrate competency in their newly acquired skills at the end of the training period and beyond.
  • A plan: Beyond the objectives, you also need to figure out how cross-training for the job will be most effective. For some roles, simply shadowing can be enough to show someone the ropes, but it can prove even more effective if the cross training includes a practical component whereby the receiving staff member has the opportunity to perform the task under the guidance of the teacher and then receive real-time feedback on their effort.
  • A check in: As we mentioned above, check-ins should be a key component of any strong cross-training program. After all, if you don’t use a skill in a few months, especially a new found one, chances are you’ll be more than a little rusty when you next go to do it. Teachers should view those that they have cross-trained as folks that will need updates should things change in the way they perform tasks or the environment in which they work so that the students can remain effective in the role.

While cross training is certainly something that is handled on a company-by-company basis, that doesn’t mean that you have to go it alone! If you’d like guidance on how to set up a cross-training program at your business, please call us at 800-400-1968 and we’d love to set up a time to chat about your unique needs and how Abel HR can smooth the process.

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