Cross-training comes up a lot in the workplace. The idea seems to be on a constant cycle, where one quarter it’s very appealing and you’re not sure why you never did this before, and the next quarter it’s just not feasible no matter how you look at it. The issue with cross-training may be that your company is as constantly changing as your customers are. Nailing down an effective strategy to use with cross-training can be truly beneficial, though, and here’s why.
When you have your team cross-trained, you will be able to cut back on your agents’ down time and cut back on labor costs. It’s a win-win situation if you play it right. It’s an excellent way to keep your team agile and your business refreshed – with different people cycling through different positions, individuals are less likely to get burnt out on doing one same job day in and day out. Allowing your employees to learn more about the differing processes that each department does is also a great way to improve the service they can give to customers and the level of understanding and support that they can give to each other. It can really bring your team together.
So how do you do it? The first step to effective cross-training is to make sure your team has the tools it needs to succeed. Providing a reliable knowledge base that any agent can access to address any problem is a huge bridge towards cross training already. A good cross-training program will also monitor just how much a person can intake while still comprehending and staying fresh with what they’ve already been taught. To take an employee who works with software and throw them directly into the hardware part of the job may be too big of a leap for them to make. Ensuring that each agent stays in their related fields can give some sense of place and help the transition go more smoothly. It’s also important to keep your employees’ mindset in mind – does this person actually want to be cross-trained? If the answer is no, you will need to work carefully to maintain morale when going through with the training, or, in the event that employees can’t or won’t step into their new positions, it may actually be more effective to just drop the idea all together. The spirit of cross-training your workforce is to improve the situation, so if that isn’t happening, you’ll need to be sensitive to that.
Another downside that cross-trained employees can display is a lack of expertise. As the saying goes, a jack-of-all-trades is a master of none. The higher workload can also result in a higher stress level for the team, and in doing so, can actually decrease the amount of work that a person can get done in a day.
All of these factors are pivotal to take into account when considering whether or not to cross-train your employees. The good news is that you don’t have to be married to the concept—it may work for you to cross-train for a while, then drop it, or just cross-train a few select individuals who have a higher stress threshold and are interested in learning other sides of the job. Ultimately it comes down to you and your company, and what works best for everyone involved. Keep your hand on the pulse of your team and you can’t go wrong.