by Hillary Lynch and Christine Chesser

With the economy at a historic low and the future of the space center in question, now is the time companies and their managers are looking for ways to do more with less.  As technology changes and demand for service increases, one option is to train employees to perform multiple positions.  Motivated, multitasking employees can produce higher task accomplishments, while saving companies the significant expense of additional staff.  Though it is beneficial for companies to invest in cross-training employees, cross-training can and should be beneficial for the employees as well, if done properly.

To put it simply, cross-training is training employees to perform other job duties outside their current job description.  Companies who are not able to hire or who have laid off employees still need to meet productivity needs.  Cross-training is crucial in these circumstances.  Needless to say, employers need to be cautious; fewer employees may feel exploited or burned out, and employers risk responsibility being delegated to workers who lack an adequate knowledge of the needed skill sets.

One of the great positives is cross-training allows flexibility where employees are allowed to accomplish company goals or tasks that use to be outside their arena.  This can increase interdepartmental relations and employees can be given, as Srikrishna N. Purnima, an expert in this kind of training, pointed out, “opportunities to learn new skills, increase their value to the organization, and reduce worker boredom.”  If a staff member is out sick or on a vacation other members are readily available to maintain optimal productivity.  With company projects and goals ever changing, having a multi-skilled workforce provides maximum utilization of employee talent.

As stated earlier, if cross-training is not implemented correctly, employees can feel overwhelmed and frustrated.  Again, considering the economic situation, employees may already feel they have taken on more responsibility or are in fear of job security, if others are capable of performing their job.  Generally, an employee is hired for a specific position within a company or organization.  Thus the employee’s skills are best suited for the position they hold. Cross-training employees in different departments could possibly lead to a lack of adequate knowledge regarding the position, which may lead to mistakes, poor customer relations or pose a safety issue.

Therefore, for cross-training to be successful, it should not be used as a short-term fix to a long-term problem.  Cross-training, Purnima says, “requires careful planning, a thorough cost benefit analysis, and intelligent evaluation of pros and cons before arriving at a decision.”  Companies and employees can benefit from cross-training if implemented properly.  Businesses can gain motivated multi-skilled employees who will be capable of meeting new demands.  Employees will be empowered, feel more ownership, have more control and increased job security as they make themselves more valuable through the mastery of various skill sets.  For cross-training to be effective employees should be evaluated for interests and skills, in order to match the training to the employee.

__________________________________________

Christine Chesser is a registered ultrasound technologist in Brevard County.  She is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Supervision and Management at Daytona State.  Hillary Lynch is a current student in the Bachelor’s program at Daytona State.  She is a registered radiologic technologist that specializes in mammography and CT.  Both Christine and Hillary are students of Dr. Pat Fuller who selected this article out of submissions by his students.