How to Cross Train at Work

You can cross train in sport but did you know that you can also cross train at work with similar benefits? Cross training is a technique that provides employees with the chance to see others do their work and to learn from this. The benefits include a better understanding of how different areas in an organization or business work and even allowing for more people able to perform certain roles, whether this be for relief purposes, or to simply spread the workload around the organization. This article provides some initial ideas on how your organization can improve work outcomes with cross training.


  1. Image titled Cross Train at Work Step 1
    Explain the benefits to staff of cross training. Any new initiative in a workplace should be explained, particularly in light of the benefits that it will bring to staff members. Also remember to alleviate any concerns about role usurpation, as sometimes some staff members might feel threatened. Benefits to emphasize include:
    • An opportunity to learn new skills that you don't yet have
    • Improved communications through better understanding of each others' roles and streamlined outcomes as a result
    • Improved knowledge and marketability of each employee who is cross-trained
    • Greater understanding of the company, business, or organization as a whole
    • Relief possibilities are expanded for sick leave, maternity leave, study and travel leave times
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    Emphasize the element of cooperation. Probably the most important element of cross training is an increased understanding of what is involved in other people's roles. This tends to lead to increased cooperation because unknown or poorly understood work practices elsewhere in an organization can easily be viewed by some staff as presenting a hurdle or purposeful roadblock, or even be viewed as other colleagues' laziness or stubbornness. Cooperative approaches arise when staff have a more complete understanding of what processes, timelines, and challenges are involved for other colleagues they work with, however distantly.
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    Set up times for staff to cross train. How you do this will depend on the type of work involved, time pressures, availability of staff, security clearances etc. However, in general, aim to have sessions where staff are performing their duties and other staff act as observers, followed by round table meetings which allow for a general question and answer session. Then swap!
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    Provide back-up materials. As well as observing the other areas of work being performed and talking to other colleagues, it is important that staff are trained in accessing materials online or in hard copy form where this is appropriate. This will enable them to do further reading to solidify the information that they have observed, and it also helps them to digest the processes that are followed elsewhere. Naturally, if such materials are classified or on a "need-to-know-only" basis, common sense will prevent such wide exposure but where it is possible to open up the knowledge to more staff, enable this.
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    Seek feedback. It is important to seek feedback on cross training. Find out what questions still remain, find out what concerns (if any) staff may have following the cross training, and ask for suggestions about future cross training. Use this information to improve the organization's cross training techniques and to keep staff up-to-date in the future.

Things You'll Need

  • Relevant materials
  • Scheduled times for observation and meetings between staff in different areas
  • Travel arrangements (optional)

Article Info

Categories: Job Strategies