Cross-training is much more than just a popular exercise regimen. It’s a good business practice, especially in manufacturing, to have employees be competent in multiple roles in case of call-ins or no-shows so that production is not hindered from one process not being up and running. The value behind cross-training is undeniable and easy to understand, but despite all of the lip service this practice is given from both middle- and upper-managers, how come we’re not devoting time to implementing this amazingly important concept?
From my experience, upper managers are looking at the short-term gain versus the long-term benefits; for quality reasons, it would be better to have someone in there “who knows what they’re doing” and get our payback sooner than if there was a trainee running the machine with a trainer. I do not disagree with this in-your-face and instant gratification reasoning. Yes, the company is currently spending more money at the moment to have two operators on the machine that’s probably running slower than optimal capacity and putting out a lower percentage in quality products from all the troubleshooting that the trainee is doing…BUT does the phrase, “give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime” sound relative to this situation?
“Give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” -Someone wise and awesome
I think this phrase was made for this situation. By only hiring an employee to do one thing they’ve had experience in and not teaching them any additional skills will corner them into doing that job for the rest of their life or until they find a different company that will teach them new skills. Instead, by hiring an employee with or without experience in the job you want them to perform and providing training both to improve on their current skill set as well as new skills will grow that employee. The amount of work output they can give back to their company will definitely be in the triple-digits percentages over time, if not more.
It will also provide opportunities for that employee to expand their knowledge of the company, see their potential in other positions they or the company wouldn’t have otherwise considered, and better prepare them to be more autonomous in making important and worthwhile decisions that can reduce costs or provide additional benefits to the company. This practice is highly valued in flat(ter) organizations to add to the organic and nimble proactive-ness this mindset promotes. In my next post, I’ll be expanding on the details in how cross-training benefits the business more. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter and tell me about some of the cross-training practices you’ve seen that you’re impressed with.
Photo credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFXaqKB1unM