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The Importance of Cross-Training Employees

Why cross-training employees is essential to the well-being of your organization.

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We all like to think we are unique individuals with special talents and characteristics that make us irreplaceable. While that may indeed be the case and is wonderful on a personal level, when it crosses over into the professional world it can be detrimental or even lethal to a business. Particularly if the aim of an organization is longevity, this premise holds true regardless of size, scope or objective. As an owner or manager, you must not allow an overreliance of the company’s fortunes to rest with you or anyone else associated with the enterprise. 

How many times have you seen or been part of a business where someone’s departure or termination caused a subsequent hardship or disruption due to that person’s company knowledge (“He knew where all the bodies were buried.”) or practices? It is all too common and ultimately costs a firm dearly in terms of resources, productivity and employee morale, as well as potentially customer service and revenues. And recession-driven downsizing and the “doing more with less” imperative to eliminate redundancies and maximize efficiencies has made the likelihood of this scenario greater than ever.

This all speaks to how critical it is to manage with exceptional skill so as to ensure effectiveness as well as efficiency in all aspects of your business. It is essential to commit the time and effort to establishing and enforcing protocols for the sharing of information and procedural know-how throughout your organization. I believe if you closely examined the inner-workings of the vast majority of today’s most successful installing security systems companies you would find this to be among their highest priorities.

“I deal with this on a regular basis, not only at PSA but with our integrators who experience this issue even more frequently,” said PSA Security Network President/CEO Bill Bozeman when I asked about this topic. To gain further insight, I picked the brains of some of our industry’s sharpest managers who also happen to be members of SSI’s Editorial Advisory Board and regular contributors.

“Every business faces this challenge,” Shandon Harbour, president of SDA Security, told me. “It becomes even more daunting if the separation needs to occur for performance, and there is a certain amount of institutional knowledge and some ‘empire building’ in the department. Exiting that individual becomes almost like you feel held hostage.”

Harbour recommends cross-training, transparency and open communications as surefire methods to maintain an appropriate flow and distribution of information. Bob Harris, president of The Attrition Busters, is also a devout advocate of cross-training.

“Disconnected owners who employ little or no cross-training and time management training create a team of firefighters who spend more time putting out fires than getting the job done,” he told me. “As a result, morale goes down, people come to rely on only a few individuals, teamwork goes away and ultimately so does the quality of the product. And if talent is cut too lean, one rarely finds the application of both efficiency and effectiveness.”

Harris urges investing in companywide time management skills, and hiring quality talent capable of pitching in achieve both efficiency and effectiveness as opposed to only one or the other. Mike Jagger, president of Provident Security, has developed an innovative way to disseminate operational knowledge and assure continuity. The firm uses wikis (computer-based repositories) to outline duties, procedures and responsibilities, and secured blogs to detail daily activities.

“Culturally, we’ve worked hard to instill the concept that the measure of how well you do your job is how well things run in your absence,” he told me. “People need to always be working themselves out of their job. We want them to grow, and we want the company to grow. They need to view being ‘essential’ in any particular role as a failure. We want people to be essential for their talent and attitude, not because they are the only person who knows how to do X, Y and Z.”

The bottom line is it’s one thing to be “lean and mean,” but don’t let that come to signify the starvation, atrophy and eventual disappearance of your company on the scene.

Editor-in-Chief Scott Goldfine has spent more than 13 years with SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION. He can be reached at (704) 663-7125.

Article Topics
Business Management · Between Us Pros · Managing Your Business · Training Your Employees · All Topics

About the Author
Scott Goldfine
Scott joined SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in October 1998 and has distinguished himself by producing award-winning, exemplary work. His editorial achievements have included blockbuster articles featuring major industry executives, such as Tyco Electronic Products Group Managing Director Gerry Head; Protection One President/CEO Richard Ginsburg; former Brink’s Home Security President/CEO Peter Michel; GE Interlogix President/CEO Ken Boyda; Bosch Security Systems President/CEO Peter Ribinski; and former SecurityLink President/CEO Jim Covert. Scott, who is an NTS Certified alarm technician, has become a respected and in-demand speaker at security industry events, including presentations at the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) Annual Meeting; California Alarm Association (CAA) Summer and Winter Conferences; PSA Security Network Conference; International Security Conference and Exhibition (ISC); and Security Industry Association (SIA) Forum. Scott often acts as an ambassador to mainstream media and is a participant in several industry associations. His previous experience as a cable-TV technician/installer and running his own audio company -- along with a lifelong fascination with electronics and computers -- prepared Scott well for his current position. Since graduating in 1986 with honors from California State University, Northridge with a degree in Radio-Television- Film, his professional endeavors have encompassed magazines, radio, TV, film, records, teletext, books, the Internet and more. In 2005, Scott captured the prestigious Western Publisher Maggie Award for Best Interview/Profile Trade for "9/11 Hero Tells Tale of Loses, Lessons," his October 2004 interview with former FDNY Commander Richard Picciotto, the last man to escape the Ground Zero destruction alive.
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Between Us Pros, Managing Your Business, Training Your Employees


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