Avoid A Hostage Situation Through Crosstraining

By Robin Stevens, Internal Operations Coach

Don’t let one person hold you hostage over your company processes, start cross training today. Cross-training is so crucial on many levels. It benefits individuals, the team, the department and the company, and has results that are both immediate and long-term. Below are some of the positive effects cross-training can have.

Deeper Understanding of the Work

Empower your people with knowledge as nothing enhances performance like knowing how things work and why. Cross-training gives people clarity on the big picture rather than just on their small piece of it. It can have a positive effect as they learn to appreciate each other’s work and recognize how interdependent they are. Cross-training can help a team member do their own jobs more efficiently because they have a better understanding of what’s needed and how to best manage their time.

No Service Interruptions

Cross-training will prevent you from having all your eggs in one baskets. A department where workers can quickly step into each other’s shoes can absorb the temporary absence of one or two team members without a noticeable drop in service. This is especially important if the work involves deadlines, needs to maintain good customer relations or serves as a crucial link in a process chain.

Staff Development

Cross-training has both short and long-term benefits. It requires little in the way of extra resources and is simple to grasp and relevant to people’s day-to-day experiences. Team members might not have occasion to apply their new skills for a while but the effects of knowing about each other’s work are immediate. For the longer term, cross-training can unearth individual talents and interests that aren’t apparent in people’s current roles and provide areas for future training and growth.


From time to time your business model may change and you may decide to change how processes are organized. Reorganizing doesn’t always involve job losses, sometimes it’s an attempt to raise output by slicing the same pie in a different way. Team members whose expertise has become highly specialized will face a steeper learning curve adapting to new structures than those with a head start from cross-training.

A change in perspectives

One of the great benefits of cross-training is that it allows people to step back and look at their work from a different perspective. Cross-training can give people a different view of their own jobs, as seen through others’ eyes, and about the department as a whole. This can be a springboard for creative ideas and discussions about how things can be expanded or improved.

Team Support

If team members have a unique role that only their manager understands, that manager will be their main (if not only) source of support for practical matters. Team members cross-trained in each other’s work can offer their team members more than just a listening ear when issues arise; they can give informed and practical suggestions.

The benefits of cross-training team members will be greatest when the team itself is functioning together at a higher level. If there is division, competition or distrust within the group, extra care should be taken to ensure that insights into each other’s work aren’t used to devaluate anyone’s performance. Team members should be reassured that receiving cross-training does not mean there are plans to increase their workload or lay people off. But these are cautions rather than disadvantages. Cross-training has, in fact, few real disadvantages and provides much gain.


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