Leap Year Lesson #54: Cross Training is Helpful and Frustrating

Posted: February 24, 2012 in Business Processes
Tags: ,

I’m going to be out of the office at work for about half of the time over the next 9 weeks. Some of it will be vacation days and the rest will be attending conferences. When I’m not available to carry out my normal duties, my colleagues will have to fill in for me. That means that between now and when I leave we will have to do some serious, quick cross training if everything is to go well.

I’ve been a part of teams before where there was the intention of cross training, but it never really came to pass. Management recognized the value of the idea, but either didn’t really want to allow their employees the time it takes to do so, or it may have been that each person was already slammed with his/her own duties that consumed all available time, leaving little or no time left to learn someone else’s job.

To prepare for inevitable absences of coworkers, however, we must allow time for cross training. We can’t expect people to magically perform the duties of those out of the office without prior training, briefing, mentoring and documentation. The benefits of preparing for it are that things run smoothly and the person who had to be away doesn’t come back to his regular schedule plus all the work that backed up while gone. Cross training helps when the inevitable turnover eventually happens.

The frustrations of cross training are real. Employers want to get the most out of their employees in the present and the process of cross training is time consuming and therefore costly. For the employee, having to learn the work of someone else may be an unpleasant requirement for someone not really interested in that other person’s duties. It can be seen as something that keeps you from getting your own work done or unrelated to your strengths and interests.

I’ll claim the “no pain, no gain” phrase in this context, though, and encourage employers and employees to do what it takes to help their teams and their employer by pursuing the major task of adequate cross training.

Leap year lesson #54 is Cross training is helpful and frustrating.

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