After going through the entire employee search, interview and hiring process, it’s time to train your business’ new employee. Typically when someone is hired on a managerial level, they are cross-trained to perform a variety of tasks in multiple roles within the organization. Now it has become common for new, non-manager level employees to also learn skills required for various roles.
While cross-training employees can provide great benefits to any business, there can also be some downsides, making it an advantage and disadvantage. Here are a few pros and cons of cross-training employees.
The Advantages of Cross-Training Employees
If there is only one guy in the office who knows how to troubleshoot network issues, what will happen when he’s out for a week with the flu? You might as well close up shop if he’s not there. Having cross-trained employees would be beneficial in situations like this because when Jeff is out with the flu and your whole network is upside down, you’ll have Sarah as a backup. This may also come in handy when a position is vacated. Cross-trained employees can take on some of the responsibilities until the position is refilled.
Every business owner knows that sometimes unexpected disasters just happen. The reservation for 20 is on the books for tomorrow night, yet here they are a day early, standing at your door. Or your oven stops working and you need to find another way to get your specials ready for the dinner rush. When you need all hands on deck in dire situations like these, organizations that cross-train employees will have a better chance of bouncing back quickly from major disruptions. AND it speeds up the process because everyone works together as a team, making for easier and quicker recovery efforts.
You can’t talk about cross-training pros and cons without discussing the fact that cross-training employees can improve the way things are done because team members must understand the process before teaching the new hire the ropes. Sometimes as new employees are trained, they may even see a more efficient way to complete a task because they have a different point of view, making this a double cross-training benefit. It’s a learning process for everyone involved but, in the end, it increases your efficiency, which is a plus for any business owner.
Cross-training not only adds value to the business, but also to the individual employee. When an employee is given more responsibilities, he or she might see it as a manager putting more time and trust into that person’s personal and professional development. Employees might feel as if they have more to offer to the company than they originally thought, causing them to work harder, providing another cross-training advantage yet.
The Disadvantages of Cross-Training Employees
One disadvantage of cross-training employees is that taking responsibilities away from one employee and passing them onto another employee can break a person’s confidence. It could be even worse when those responsibilities are given to someone who just learned the skills required to fulfill them. Employees might feel as if they aren’t good enough for the job they were hired for, or that they might be easily replaced.
Quick Fix: Always consider intangible factors like the impact on employee motivation when cross-training your team. Ensure that your staff understands that cross-training is actually for their benefit, not a means to replace them.
While healthy competition is great for business and production, unhealthy competition can create major conflicts within a company, making it a major con of cross-training employees. If employees feel as if their jobs are being threatened, they might go to unethical extremes to make sure they keep their position. It could also lead to gossip circulating around the office, employees putting personal problems above their work, and possibly even blackmailing. If word gets out to the public about the internal turmoil, it may soil your company and brand.
Quick Fix: Do things to make your employees feel like a team so they work together in unison. Also, be careful not to pit one shift or one area of service against the other. Let them know that they’re all a valuable part of the process.
Many times, people are not 100 percent satisfied at work as it is. So generally, when an employee assumes more responsibilities, he or she might expect an increase in pay. If one person gets a raise while no one else does and word spreads around the office about it, the other employees might feel unfairly treated. They might begin to feel resentment towards their tasks, manager and maybe even the company.
Quick Fix: To lessen the negative impact of this cross-training disadvantage, check in with your employees regularly to see how they feel about their jobs. This enables you to deal with any bad feelings directly. It also makes it possible to understand how your actions may be making one employee feel less valued than another.
Loss of Focus
By cross-training employees, you lose specialized knowledge. Cross-training teaches employees a little bit about a lot of things. It spreads their understanding and capabilities over a wide range of skills and tasks. A person who was hired for a specific position who shares responsibilities with an employee from a different role might lose sight of their main focus.
Quick Fix: Although cross-training does tend to “water down” some more specialized duties, you can combat this by making sure employees have the opportunity to hone their skills. This can be accomplished by sending them to trade shows or trainings.
Cross-training employees is not the best tactic for every business. It can have positive effects as well as negative effects, making it both an advantage and disadvantage depending on where you stand.
Carefully developing a cross-training program, utilizing technology and keeping your company culture in mind can help your small business reap the benefits of this strategy. Ultimately, it will make the pros of cross-training stronger and weakens the cons of cross-training even more, leaving you with a better business as a result.