Pros and cons of cross training employees


Cross training employees have become a popular managerial approach. There are many advantages to this kind of initiative, but as with anything else, it is important to recognize the drawbacks too.

When examining the pros and cons in promoting cross training in the workplace, it is important to ensure the benefits will outweigh any drawbacks. Managers don't want to end up spending a lot of time, effort and money into cross training if it doesn't meet their objectives and help the company.


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Pros of cross training

Maintain complete coverage

Cross training employees across the board ensures there is always complete coverage. This is beneficial because if an employee goes on leave, is unexpectedly absent or suddenly quits, the fact that others know how to do the job ensures continuity of business operations.

If an absence is planned, this is easier to deal with, but those unexpected gaps in coverage can be costly and hinder productivity and profitability. When employees can quickly step in and fill gaps, this ensures no interruption of services or production.

While it's true temps or new staff can be hired, this takes time, but when other staff members are able to temporarily step in immediately, this alleviates the stress and pressure when getting new people hired and/or trained.

Grow employee skill-sets

Cross training provides a great opportunity for employees to grow professionally by expanding their current skills. In addition, the ability to try other job descriptions allows them to gain a valuable diversified work experience which is great for any resume.

Organizational students historically indicate employees usually enjoy being challenged, and cross training is a great way to give new opportunities to allow professional growth. Employees that feel empowered by challenge also tend to possess higher levels of morale, which in turn benefits the company because productivity is typically increased.

Empower employees

Employees who feel empowered by growing their skill-sets and having the ability to try new things are likely to feel higher levels of independence in their newly attained knowledge. In addition, they have the opportunities to expand their own leadership skills because they can participate in sharing their old and new knowledge with others. This can be looked at as another motivational tool to encourage employees.

Encourage teamwork

Cross training promotes people working together. It also gives staff the opportunity to see what their colleagues do and can foster a team-oriented environment when they are helping one another in the supportive roles created by cross training. When employees have a vested interest in how the rest of the business operates, this helps promote understanding of processes and helps increase productivity and collaboration.

Cons of cross training

Time consuming

Establishing cross training takes dedication, time and a lot of effort. Depending on the size of the organization, there may be many different areas of business that will need coverage. Ensuring multiple members of the organization are adequately trained takes a significant amount of investment.

Cross training across the organization will not happen overnight, it is likely to take several training sessions for each position. It may also entail putting together operating manuals for any information systems or other technologies necessary for a given position.

Initial costs

Any kind of investment is going to incur some sort of cost. If an external or internal person is needed to conduct training, this will involve either time or money. The fact that people will need to be pulled away from their regular jobs in order to learn new ones will temporarily cost productivity. Managers that invest the time in promoting cross training are pulled away from other tasks, and this too is a cost.

However, while this initial investment may seem like a lot, it is important when considering this downside whether or not the benefits will outweigh these costs over the cost of time. Like most investments, seeing a payoff often takes time.

Too much access

One important factor to consider is allowing any single employee too much access to information. Segregation of duties is an important facet to consider. There are reasons that security access of different levels is given on a "need to know" basis depending on job description, so it is important to carefully select which employees will be chosen to cross train for specific jobs. For instance, you don't want someone compiling sales figures learning how to do accounting and deposit tasks because that opens up room for fraud.

This disadvantage of cross training can easily be mitigated through careful selection and evaluation of each employee's primary job responsibilities.

May meet some resistance

Change is hard and it would not be surprising to see some employees exhibit signs of resistance to having to learn new tasks. It may be fear or uncertainty or the unknown, or it could simply be because employees may feel resentful of having additional responsibilities without extra pay. Either way, these situations would have to be dealt with which may not be easy.

There are many pros and cons to cross training employees and, before making this investment, it is important to consider all the factors before going ahead with this initiative. Many businesses have found it pays off, but for some it may be decided it is not worth the effort. The important thing is to look at all the factors involved and make an educated decision.

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