Under normal circumstances, an employee is taught or trained to do a (one) particular job. Cross-training is when that employee is taught or trained to execute different functions other than their initial job. This means that one employee ends up being equipped to perform many different tasks. Given the prevailing economic meltdown in Zimbabwe, cross-training is something that companies or businesses should consider. There are numerous benefits that can accrue to a business if they cross-train their employees – I shall discuss them later on in this article. The focus of my article will be to let you in on the dynamics of cross-training.

Principles And Approaches

The intended goals for cross-training employees can vary from business to business. Some of the outcomes are direct and intended whilst others are just inevitable. Some entities can cross employees with the aim of capacitating employees to be flexible enough to handle incidences of under-staffing. For others, the aim can be to prepare employees for major organizational shifts in strategy or trajectory. In some cases, cross-training can be done to prepare employees who have been earmarked for higher positions in the business or company.

These are just 3 major aims for which cross-training of employees can be done. The unique status quo of a business or company can best inform why cross-training should be done. Let us look, for instance, at the local operating environment. It would be highly likely that there is high employee turnover in most workplaces. I am quite sure you can see why cross-training given that scenario would be most needed.

When rolling out cross-training initiatives you must ensure that the whole task force is fully abreast with the concept. The reason why this is important is that some employees might feel like they are indispensable and thus would not want anyone learning their role. Some employees also do not like the idea of collaboration – something cross-training makes centre-stage. At best it is important to inculcate cross-training as a business or company culture rather than just an isolated event or activity.

Some suggest that cross-training is best done by making employees rotate their work posts and spending certain periods of time under-studying roles and responsibilities of other job posts. Most importantly, it must be seen to it that simulations (tests) & monitoring and evaluations are done regularly. That will make available a feedback framework that will inform any strategic decisions that may have to be done.


Cost Reduction

The cost reduction factor comes in several ways. One, hiring new employees can be costly and time-consuming (in itself, a cost). Cross-training effectively eliminates the need to hire since existing employees are just trained to do what is needed. That essentially means you can keep your staffing size quite lean yet enough for what is required. Cross-training can also be relatively cheaper since you are using existing employees as the training personnel. This is in contrast to having to pay for more expensive training initiatives such as courses, events and so forth. These are just some cost reduction elements but there are several more.

Increased Employee Capacity And Flexibility

Once cross-trained it means employees are equipped to carry out multiple roles and responsibilities. Any employee virtually becomes well-poised to occupy any higher post (even in top management). Why? Because they now have a comprehensive understanding of how the whole business or company works. If a need to fill a gap presents itself, someone will always be available to fill it. The other benefit tied to this is on employee morale. Cross-training cultivates a culture of collaboration and also makes employees feel valued because of being invested in by their superiors. All these results in the following:

Increased Productivity And Uptime

No more concerns when issues of employee absenteeism occur – production will still be on-going. Production not only gets enhanced but downtimes are also eliminated in the process. You see, cross-training makes all employees well acquainted with not only their tasks but also those of others. This results in a smooth and seamless streamlining of standard operating procedures of the business or company.

It is no secret that local businesses or companies are so concerned with cost reduction nowadays. The ailing economy makes that imperative and cross-training really help matters in that regard. Then other outcomes such as increased capacity increased flexibility and increased productivity add onto to that reduction in costs. Eliminating downtimes that come with incidentals such as employee sickness, employee turnover and the like is also crucial for your ultimate bottom line as a business. With that said, I would implore you to start cross-training your employees especially in light of the local economic situation.