hr best practices, hr policies, Human Resources Training, Law & Compliance, Regulatory, Technology in HR, Training & Development

Cross training is a good tool to implement

When someone uses the phrase, “jack of all”, it may not go down well with many people, because of the words that follow the opener –“master of none”. However, in an organization, having someone who is a jack of all could be just the right formula for success. So, who is a “jack of all”, and why are such people important for organizations?

In organizations, people who are otherwise rather contemptuously termed “jack of all” are those who have undergone what is called “cross training”, to use corporate parlance. What is cross training, why is it required, and how is it useful for the employee and the employer?

Understanding cross training

Cross training is quite a self-explanatory term. It means training given to all employees to know their colleague’s work, which enables each to handle not only their own work; but their colleagues’ as well. Is it possible to implement such a training program in which most or many employees are specialists in their profession? To answer this question, we have to understand one central aspect of cross training very clearly. It is that not everyone needs to know everything of the other colleague’s work. There should be just about enough familiarity to help the organization carry on work unhindered in a key employee’s absence.

It is not necessary for all employees to know every other’s work in all its detail. It is not possible too, to do this. Even if one spends considerable time understanding the work of a colleague which may be quite unrelated to his own; the organization cannot expect too much finesse. Obviously, we are all good at the work we have chosen and one which gives us joy in doing. The cross training should be just about to the extent that familiarizes the other employee with that work. These skills can be used during contingencies.

How do employees benefit?

Although we all love doing what we do best; an occasional diversion is always welcome. A research person may not like marketing, but doing it once in a while is actually a good thing for him, because it helps him defeat the monotony of his own job. Having said this; it is possible that some employees could become quite interested in the other’s work and start taking a deeper interest in it. This could open up a parallel career option in many. If the employee likes doing this, nothing is better for him and the organization. Convincing employee to understand the fun of variety at work is management’s responsibility.

How do organizations benefit?

This is a very potent tool for organizations that don’t want to lose customers because the specialist who was handling one type of work is not available at important times. Suppose an important mail needs to be spent on an important matter, and if the content writer is absent for some reason; the work need not get held up.

The important aspect here is that management has to decide whom to train in which areas. Not everyone could be adept at doing everything else. It can choose select employees for select tasks. It could pair different employees for this. Cross training is more of a standby plan for the organization to help it carry on its important work in the absence of an important resource.


Cross training can be very potent tool in ensuring that organizations do not fail to deliver when it matters. It helps them build customer satisfaction by staying up to date with their requirements and delivering on time, all the time. However, even what seems a very practical tool can have its drawbacks. One of the most powerful obstacles to putting cross training in place is employee resistance to come out of their comfort zones. How would cross training benefit an organization in which a 45-year old writer doesn’t want to do SEO work because it is not his specialization?

Convincing people with resistance to new learning to come up with something that is out of their area of specialization for no immediate or tangible benefit could be quite difficult. Organizations can only persuade its employees to undergo cross training and not really coerce them into it. The greater the force applied by managements to apply cross training, the greater will become the resistance.

Some employees could even carry the grouse that they are being asked or forced to do something against their willingness, going to the extent of thinking that they are being given work that is outside their area of specialization by managements which in their perception is trying to downplay their skills. When it comes across such employees; what an organization can do is to make it beneficial in financial and other terms to cross train employees. When incentives are given for expanding their areas of work; employees could become more interested. They should be made to realize that their laggardness could be a major obstacle to their growth.



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