Cross Training Your Team Can Make it Better

If your company is a small one, you are well aware of the need for every team member to wear several different hats and be cross trained to pick up where another team member leaves off. But in bigger companies, that’s not always the case.

Often, in large companies, team members have specific roles and perform only those tasks designated for those roles. But in this day and age, it’s foolhardy for a company to operate this way. Cross training your team members to share job responsibilities and skills is much smarter.

But you don’t want your team members to feel taken advantage of either. So you need to sell cross training as the positive that it is — a way to increase skills to help the team achieve its goals and help every team member in the process.

Here are three things you can do:

  1. Make sure everyone “gets” the big picture. Help your team members understand how the work they do helps the company achieve specific goals. Often team members have a tough time seeing how they fit into the big picture of the company and this will help them understand.
  2. Explain the driver behind the cross training. I call this an explanation about the dump truck theory. In other words, if a team member got run over by a dump truck (yes, I know – morbid), the work of the team could be in jeopardy. If the work of the team was in jeopardy, it could potentially sink the company. And who wants that to happen?
  3. Cross training makes team members more valuable (and normally provides job security). Often people don’t want to learn new skills because they’re afraid. And they don’t want to teach others their skills because they’re afraid. In reality, the more each team member knows, the more valuable they are to the company (so it’s tougher to be let go in a down turn). To make cross training work, identify the critical skills that could stop the company cold. Set up a schedule of activities to train team members and give them an opportunity to grow in a safe environment before tackling the skills on their own.

What do you think? Have you implemented a cross training strategy in your organization? How is it working?

Denise O'Berry

Denise O’Berry — aka the Team Doc — has been working with teams and team leadership in the public, non profit and private sectors for over twenty years. She gets a lot of joy from working with teams and their leadership to help them improve and work through team issues. Not only does her advice come from the heart, it comes from years of experience working as a team member, team leader, manager and owner of her own company. She has truly walked in your shoes and offers help so you can be a better team leader. You can find more advice from Denise at her website Ask Team Doc and don't forget to follow her on Twitter @deniseoberry.

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