The Importance of Cross-training in Building a Culture of Collective Success

#Blog#Capability#Change Management#Learning Strategy#Organisational Learning#Professional Development

Finding the secret to success is like looking for the Holy Grail. If there was one magic formula to guarantee your company would continue to grow, you’d pay almost anything for it. However, building a successful organisation doesn’t need mythical solutions. It all starts with culture. 

If you build the right culture in your workplace, problems become mere speed bumps and mistakes become opportunities. When everybody pulls in the same direction, performance skyrockets. In order to build a great culture of collective success, a good place to start is by understanding the importance of cross-training employees.   

What is cross-training? 

Cross-training is extremely simple in theory. It’s the art of training your staff to fill multiple roles throughout the business. So, admin staff can cover a shortage in the sales team. Your accounts people can help with admin overflow. And so on, and so on. The importance of cross-training can’t be understated when it comes to growing a successful business.  

Your people are the foundation your company is built on, so it makes sense to make that foundation stronger. By equipping people with a variety of skills, you strengthen your entire workforce. This feeds your workplace culture and ensures that new staff walk into an established culture of collective success. 

Building a more agile workforce 

The term ‘agile workforce’ has become a bit of a buzzword in recent years, but there’s a lot of merit behind it. These days, businesses are challenged to achieve more with less. Whether it’s less staff or less equipment, every business wants to ‘trim the fat’ and find more efficient ways of operating. Building an agile workforce is a good starting point. 

An agile workforce is one that can be redeployed wherever demand is highest. So, rather than having a company full of specialists who can only do one thing, you end up with teams of people who are multi-skilled in different aspects of operations. When you need more staff for certain projects, you can shift people easily, and with the right training, you’ll be confident they can hit the ground running. 

Planning for the future 

The benefits of an agile workforce are obvious, but cross-training also has a lot to with the future. Succession planning is something that many businesses struggle with. Often, it’s because they don’t invest in training and development for their staff. All of a sudden, a person leaves and there’s a massive hole that needs to be filled. You can replace an employee, but it comes at a cost, especially considering the reduced productivity while your new employee gets up to speed. 

With a cross-trained workforce, you’ll find that you already have the most suitable people right under your nose. They understand the business, they’re embedded in your culture, and they’ve got the skills and experience to fill those gaps. Promoting within is great for staff engagement, but it’s also much easier to fill entry-level positions rather than those where you need a seasoned pro. 

Staff engagement benefits 

How important is staff engagement in your business? Well, if it’s not too important, it probably should be. Companies lose so much in poor productivity and staff turnover if your people aren’t happy. But how do you magically fix staff engagement levels? It’s not always that simple, but building a stronger culture is a good start. 

Cross-training helps to give your people more purpose. If you thought staff engagement was just about salary satisfaction and entitlements, you’re on the wrong track. Staff engagement often drops when people don’t feel challenged. If they don’t have opportunities to learn, try new things and they don’t see a clear career pathway, they tend to disengage. Help improve it with regular cross-training. 

Increasing team performance 

Have you discovered that secret formula to increase team performance? Well, it’s different for every business. In fact, there are so many things contributing to team performance, that it’s impossible to narrow it down to just one thing. However, culture is a great start to improving the team’s performance.  

Teams with great cultures just get things done. They go the extra mile when required. They don’t complain that tasks are ‘someone else’s job’. These teams achieve great results not just with their skills, but with their attitude. Cross-training your employees improves culture, and gives people the tools they need to get results no matter what. 

Provide genuine career pathways 

We touched on staff engagement before, and career pathways are a big part of that. The fact is, the world is full of very different people. Some are happy to stay in their current role, collect their pay, and go home. That’s totally fine, and they may be great at their job. But most people like to see a way forward. Whether it’s moving sideways to another department or moving upwards into leadership roles.  

Cross-training your staff lets them know that you value their contributions. You appreciate they can do more than what they’re currently doing, and you encourage development. This is a huge step in improving your overall culture and keeps people striving to better themselves every day. 

It also gives people a chance to explore different lines of work. Providing exposure to different roles within the organisation is great because it helps people work out where they want to be.  

A more meaningful development program 

Cross-training of staff gives you a unique opportunity to plan really meaningful development programs. While some companies just pay lip service to learning and developing, you can build a culture where development really matters. You can schedule specific people to cross-train in different roles, and you can really get them involved in their own development. 

This is also great for planning because you can see in advance where everybody wants to go. Booking training and development opportunities well in advance allow people to schedule their work around their training. Plus, if you partner with a great training organisation, you can multi-skill people with a huge range of short online courses. 

Collective accountability 

Have you ever worked in teams, or seen teams work when everybody has very specific roles to play? Sometimes this works well, but the world is never perfect. People get sick, people take leave, and suddenly you’re left with tasks that can’t be done. In an agile workforce, you don’t have these problems because everybody can pitch in and take up the slack if someone is unavailable.  

High-performing teams don’t get caught up with who’s job something is. They’ve got a collective goal, and therefore adopt collective accountability. They reach targets because everybody can perform multiple roles at any given time, ensuring projects are completed on time. 

Overall, a happy workplace is a healthy workplace. Cross-training delivers so many benefits, from nourishing people’s thirst for learning to provide genuine opportunities for advancement. This builds a culture where learning is important, and achieving team goals comes first. The old saying that a superstar team will always beat a team of superstars couldn’t be truer in the business world. In successful businesses, it doesn’t matter how many amazing, talented individuals you employ. It matters how versatile your teams are, and how your culture supports genuine success. 

Cross-training builds an unbeatable culture 

Plus, think of the health and well-being of your people. The benefits of a healthy workforce are widely known, so doesn’t it make sense to do everything in your power to achieve that? Workplace well-being isn’t just about keeping people physically safe and healthy. It also involves looking after their mental health, and building a great culture where everybody is valued goes a long way towards providing a healthy workplace.

April 8, 2022

By Dr. Denise Meyerson

Dr. Denise Meyerson is the founder of MCI and has 30 years' experience in vocational education. In that time, she has developed deep expertise in the design and delivery of a range of qualification programs to major corporates and to job seekers via in-person learning methodologies as well as innovative digital learning experiences.