Why You Should Provide Cross-Training to Your Employees

Cross-training is going to be a critical function of the work you do in your factory. Not only does it help your workforce and their mental health, it increases their skills and makes them more valuable to your organization.

But more importantly, it also reduces the risk of injury.

Years ago, when I was at Robroy, I instituted a cross-training policy where employees would rotate from one job to another. Before that, we had people who worked on the same job, performing the same task, for months and years.

But we were also seeing a lot of repetitive motion injuries, not to mention a guy who had a mental breakdown on the floor.

By switching people up in different tasks reduced the risk of injury, especially carpal tunnel syndrome, which had been happening a lot before then.

Photo of a 50-pound kettlebell. Not that kind of cross-training though.
Not this kind of cross-training.
Another benefit is that it educated the entire workforce into doing more than one thing. They were better skilled, which meant they could work on different stations. This is important because if you’re ever short-staffed, or if you ever have to lay people off, you will need people who can multi-task.

Now, not everyone will be equally good at everything, and some people will like certain tasks more than others. But it doesn’t matter because you won’t be dependent on a single person performing a single task — imagine the shut down if that person gets sick or goes on vacation for a couple weeks.

Some people will always rise to the surface, and it’s important to recognize that. Those are your lead people you can move very quickly. They aren’t supervisors, they’re just normal associates, but maybe they’re senior associates. You chart their skills and know that you can use them in more than one position and they’re productive in all of them.

You absolutely want to pay them enough and give them enough benefits to keep them happy so they don’t transfer their skills to your competition.

Cross-Training Slows Down the Need for More Talent

By cross-training your employees, you can deploy existing resources to meet current demand without adding redundancy. This is a good option for factories that have been looking to hire more talent, but can’t find the people to hire.

This is also a reason why manufacturers should do more high-tech training with their current employees. Pay for their education, ask them to sign on and stay with you (make them sign a contract), and put people through the robotics, 3D printing, CNC, or digital manufacturing training that you need to run your operation.

Training your associates is also important. I’ve put a majority of my associates through OSHA and skills training, and I was happy to give them the time to do it because they became more aware and more assertive. They were more willing to speak up and to advocate for themselves and the company.

Finally, cross-training turns C players into B players, and the B players into A’s. Your middle-of-the-road performers can become some of your stars, and your stars can become all-stars thanks to cross-training.

Just know that there will be a certain amount of C players you’re never going to change, and that’s a reality. Still, someone has to be at the bottom, just don’t let them drag you down.

By providing cross-training to your employees, you can strengthen the talent pool in your organization, help prevent injury, and create more stars and all-stars for your organization. Let them find the ways they want to exceed and provide them the opportunities to do so.

Photo credit: LukeL (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)

Author: David Marshall
I’ve been a manufacturing executive, as well as a sales and marketing professional, for a few decades. Now I help companies turn around their own business. If you would like more information, please visit my website and connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.