Adaptive actions

It’s 8 p.m. on Saturday night, and orders are flowing in at a steady clip. Problem is, your best pizza maker, Eddie, has just called in sick, and while you have plenty of delivery drivers on hand, they currently have nothing to deliver. Because Eddie is the only person trained to handle heavy order nights, you’re now stuck. The other members of your staff can’t function efficiently without this missing link. Meanwhile, the phone keeps ringing, and you’re forced to jump behind the line to get the orders out. You leave the pizzeria feeling defeated and determined to correct the problem. 

The solution lies in cross-training your employees. This means that Employee A will learn the basic job functions of Employee B, and vice versa.

Cross-training offers many benefits to you, including:

• Ability of Employee A to step up in the event of Employee B calling in sick

• Ability of Employee A to provide coverage during Employee B’s vacation days

• If a new employee is hired for a job opening, there will be an employee to offer training

• Employee A can assist Employee B during especially busy times

• Production is not affected when one or two employees are absent

• Increased flexibility throughout the company

Aside from the internal benefits, you will also see increased morale and productivity from your staff. Cross-training offers many benefits to employees, including:

• More skills and experience

• Job flexibility

• Less boredom (if you allow employees to exchange places from time to time)

• Recognition of talents, skills or interests that hadn’t been considered before

• Better appreciation of coworkers’ responsibilities and job tasks

• Clearer understanding of the business as a whole

Cross-training your staff will ensure that your pizzeria can always run smoothly, even in an employee’s absence. However, it’s important to choose wisely when deciding which employees to cross-train. Some may be content with their job of 15 years and have little to no desire to learn new skills; forcing them to do so could decrease their morale and productivity. Employees who have a general interest in acquiring new skills would be your best choices. 

While some employees may feel that cross-training leads to a plateau in job opportunities, this isn’t necessarily true; in fact, it could be the opposite. Some of the best manager candidates have a well-rounded education and experience in many aspects of their companies. This can lead them to effectively manage a variety of jobs.

While you may not want to be “bothered” with cross-training, consider conducting cross-training during a slow time.

The benefits of taking the time to make several employees well-educated in other aspects of your business will far outweigh the time that it takes to train them.

Andrew Jensen is president and CEO of Sozo Firm (andrewjensen.net), which helps startup companies, small-to-midsize businesses, and nonprofit organizations thrive through developing and implementing business optimization strategies.