Cross-functional utilization of employees is a sound philosophy that helps most businesses manage resources in an effective and profitable way. It’s a proactive approach to build and equip the people in your organization with a secondary skillset and broader knowledge of the business so they can jump into another role in a pinch.
When an employee is trained in multiple functions across an organization, the team’s ability to respond to a member’s absence or add extra manpower in times of a heavy workload is pre-planned and efficient. Having multi-skilled people gives your managers options where and when needed to ensure timelines and projects are not slowed down.
In order to have the flexibility of cross-functional utilization, employees need to be trained. Cross-training your people in different core functions of your business not only gives your employee a broader and deeper understanding of your services and products, it demonstrates a commitment to their professional development and options for advancement in your organization. When an employee feels like they make a difference and are valued, chances of retaining your resource increases.
Several components are essential to make cross-functional training and utilization a reality.
Role clarity is key and begins in the on-boarding and orientation phase of an employee’s experience with your company. A clear and progressive path on learning the core competencies of the role should be laid out, ensuring your employee is well-equipped to perform successfully.
Once the employee is engaged, selected skills or functions can be identified for cross-training and added to their repertoire. It is vital for leadership to be attentive to downtimes or periods of low workload, as these can be prime opportunities to introduce new skills or aspects of other job functions. Trying to introduce new ideas, skills and responsibility during a busy time will not go over well when there is little mindshare or energy available.
When evaluating contributions to the business, be certain to give credit where credit is due. A multi-skilled employee giving in more than one way to the business should be praised and recognized and considered for promotional opportunities.
Lastly, one of the most important steps is to incentivize and motivate your leaders to coach, train and broaden the skillsets of individuals in your business. A leader that can spin off talent is most valuable, as they keep the talent pipeline filled up and primed to promote from within.
Constantly evaluating opportunities to cross-train your employees on new skillsets and different parts of the business provides flexibility with resource planning for absences, periods of heavy workloads or complicated projects which require more support. Functional cross-utilization of your employees results in more efficient teams and leads to profitability, and as a win-win, your employees benefit from expanding their knowledge and opportunities to be valued.