Cross-Training Really Works

Posted September 1996

At each and every training session we conduct, we stress the importance of cross training. We nag, prod, pull, entice, chide and generally make life miserable until you relent and ask a co-worker to join in the training of each and every software package we install. While this sometimes seems redundant, we’ve seen too many times how the loss of one individual cripples an organization.

And for you company owners, there can be no excuse for you not participating in every ounce of training offered. Because, while employees may come and go, you won’t. So lack of training will affect you the most.

Each and every task or duty needs a person who is primarily responsible for it. AND A “SECOND”. This “SECOND” person is charged with learning, and keeping in practice, for a given task or duty. Not the whole job description, just particular tasks or duties. These intertwining partnerships vary from task to task and can be used to effectively balance the workload under heavy times, and likewise act as protection against the sudden loss of an individual. An example; Jack may be responsible for handling customers receivables questions. But Jill would likewise be trained, and handling periodically, just enough of these questions to stay in practice. That way, if Jack left the company, or perhaps just wanted to take a vacation, Jill can fill in his stead. And Jack of course would be second in line for someone else’s duties.

In addition to creating necessary backups for people, these practices can also foster camaraderie and appreciation for coworkers jobs and stresses.

Well, we here at INFONETICS have been practicing what we preach. For the past couple of years we’ve been cross training, and hoping we’d never need it. The loss of two individuals this past month really put us to the test. In one case, we only got seven business days notice. The first thing we did was have a meeting to figure out who was the “SECOND” for each duty filled by the departing individual. We shifted duties, re-arranged schedules, and managed to cover all the open duties. In some cases, a portion of one worker’s tasks were slipped to their “SECOND” so as to free up time. And, in other cases, work being practiced by a “SECOND” was returned to its “PRIMARY” worker to maximize efficiency.

We all have more work to do until a long-term solution is put in place. And this means earlier mornings, later evenings, and some weekend work. But, fortunately we’ve not had to give up any of our overall ambitions and plans for new products or services to be offered. And as soon as long-term help is hired, we’ll all be singing the cross training tune again. Because it works!