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Cross-Training: Are You Prepared?

In the unlikely event that one of your employees is hit by a bus, is your company prepared to handle the job responsibilities without him or her?  Although it probably won’t be the result of a bus accident, at some point you will encounter a situation that requires your organization to pick up the job duties of an absent employee.  This is where the benefits of cross-training become apparent.  Cross-training is teaching an employee to do a different part of the organization’s work and can be done either within a department or across departments. 

Emergency situations aren’t the only time cross-training can be effective.  Cross-training provides multiple benefits for the company: flexibility as workloads or job flow changes, easier scheduling when multiple people have skills and knowledge in more than one area, and the ability to continue with business if something unexpected happens such as an employee quitting. In addition, a cross-trained individual can be used as a component of your accounting system’s internal controls.

As great as cross-training is for companies, it actually has benefits for the employees as well: increasing skills, providing new challenges, expanding knowledge of the company’s business, and easing their minds that while on vacation or out sick, work is not piling up because someone else is able to handle the job responsibilities.

I can hear some of you now though, “My business is too small – there is no one to cross-train.”   Let me assure you, you’re not alone.  For companies where cross-training isn’t an option, we recommend having written procedures in place that would allow someone to step into a role and perform the tasks required.  The written procedures should include things such as where to find information necessary for processing, what reports need to be run, who to contact with questions, and step-by-step instructions for important procedures.  Also make sure someone has access to login information for anything that requires a password.

It may seem like quite a bit of work upfront to cross-train employees or prepare a procedures manual, but the benefits are worth the effort.