The Pros and Cons of Cross Training Employees

Cross training employees is one way of ensuring operations continue to run smoothly in the absence of key employees. Including vacation and other reasons for a protracted absence, a cross trained employee can take the reins when an issue arises for his or her coworkers. People have accidents and health concerns while some employees quit or must be terminated. Without a near equally proficient coworker to fill in, such situations cannot be so easily rectified. Meanwhile, economic downturns also force companies to employ leaner workforces. On the other hand, cross training may also be a mistake as there are negative aspects as well.

Cross training employees can directly promote higher productivity. Certain positions in any given firm are more strenuous or far more involved than others with stressors that undermine the wellbeing of employees enough to decrease their proficiency over time. Whether looking at a daily or yearly schedule, cross training relief workers allows all employers to rotate fresh employees into these types of positions. Of course, a lack of specialization can also mean employees never reach their full potential while a lack of focus and continuity in their daily schedule can undermine overall business operations.

The downside to internal competition is that employees, who feel insecure in regards to job security, will resist sharing the skills and training that make them competitive. Unhealthy competition, however, can lead to all sorts of issues, including lower productivity and less incentive to improve business operations. Cross training employees can help this issue or create greater insecurity. Consider how annoyed some employees feel when someone takes their parking space. If employees see other individuals being trained to do their jobs or they are asked to train others, they may feel resentment and a need to undermine company interests through sabotage.

Meanwhile, the attitudes and temperament of all employees will affect everybody within that community. Unless employees feel connected to each other, they cannot understand how their actions affect one another. Cross training can help reduce resentment and negative feelings by enabling coworkers to empathize with each other’s needs in the workplace. Then again, should cross training actually create resentment and other negative feelings, employees will not benefit from cross training. Of course, the extra work associated with cross training can even further upset employees and hurt the overall dynamics of the workplace.

In addition, subcultures can form within the business community that foster ill will between various subcultures. By shaking up the responsibilities of each employee, these subcultures are less likely to dominate the workplace. Instead of being recognized by his or her role, an employee will simply be another employee. At the same time, more taxing jobs can be shared across a broader base of employees. Cross training can, therefore, decrease stress and resentment among those with more challenging or disliked roles. On the flip side, simply ignoring cultural barriers can be like shaking a bee hive.

Furthermore, cross training does help supervisors recognize competitive talents. This translates into the best employees taking on the positions they are most proficient at. For future supervisors, cross training also ensures the people in charge understand what needs done while helping identify management candidates and giving new supervisors some room to learn as all employees will be knowledgeable. Meanwhile, company operations change, yet a cross trained workforce is far more dynamic, thus such employees possess the necessary skill sets to adapt. Finding these talents, however, may not off set the financial costs associated with cross training.

Moreover, cross training employees can promote current and future productivity. Not only do cross trained employees learn to be far more dynamic with a broader base of skills, cross training promises healthier competition among coworkers. Instead of ensuring job security by locking others out of a position, employees must compete based on their proficiency in several different roles. Consequently, employers can identify and reward the best employees while guaranteeing productivity does not suffer from the absence of key employees. On the other hand, it is very important to recognize and address the potential negative aspects associated with cross training.

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