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Why Cross-Training Is Vital for Your Organization

To cultivate staff flexibility, companies should instruct employees in the necessary elements of multiple jobs within the organization. Learn the many benefits from cross-training and how it can fortify your company in lean times.




Despite employees being spread so thin these days, far too few managers are taking action to foster workplace enthusiasm and keep work skills current, which can increase both efficiency and effectiveness at the same time.

How passionate is your pursuit at stimulating success throughout your organization? One of the most effective ways to release some pressure on your staff and restore enthusiasm is by providing meaningful cross-training. In this lean environment, training of all kinds is typically put on the back burner. Too often when owners and managers see that everyone is extremely busy the prevailing viewpoint is “there’s never enough time for training.”

One of the red flags I look for when consulting with a client is a situation where everyone in the company is relying on just one individual who knows how to do a specific task. When cross-training isn’t firmly in place and methodically applied, teamwork evaporates, morale suffers and so does the quality of the service. A disaster is waiting to happen should that one individual get sick, go on vacation or leave the company altogether.

Smaller companies typically tell me they “don’t have time” to cross-train their employees. Large companies tell me they do conduct cross-training, but they “don’t have time” to follow up on the training so things revert back to the status quo and momentum is quickly stymied. Perhaps time management training is also being overlooked because not committing to cross-training undermines the potential of your business and costs you plenty in ways you may not even realize.

Throwing Gasoline on a Fire

A lack of cross-training often manifests into a culture of firefighters. All too often I witness employees and managers running around from one predicament to another. Futilely attempting to extinguish all these fi res leaves little time to get actual work done and is usually at the root of the time management problem to begin with.

Many of the embers that start these troublesome hotspots are derived from the same places over and over again. And yet management seems more inclined to apply short-term fixes than they are at arming the brigade with tools to prevent these chronic issues in the first place. If this sounds like it might be the case at your company, perhaps a good, hard look in the mirror along with some open and honest dialogue with your team might provide answers that will shed light on significant long-term constructive benefit.

Not actively employing any meaningful cross-training usually points to the fact that you’re also not investing in any effective customer service and sales training either. Cross-training is far more constructive for your team and your company than the harm caused by consistently applying Band-aid fixes that don’t solve any problems. The fact is a busy company never has time for training. Therefore, the only way it will ever happen is when you stop procrastinating and make the commitment. Those who resolutely confront organizational challenges head-on can certainly make time for training!

Are you continuously stirring the pot and revitalizing your team? How do you believe your answer to this question affects your overall success and morale? If you have a central station, how many people in that department can step up to do just about any task required from data entry, to alarm monitoring, to establishing a new account or jumping in when a supervisor calls in sick?

The same question applies for the installation and service departments, sales office, main office and even in your stock room. I assure you, the lack of training is being felt throughout the company and by your customers as well. Fragile morale, low enthusiasm, little sense of urgency, gossip, animosity between departments, low referrals, barely satisfactory customer service and saving many more of the customers you’re losing are some of the fires you will prevent if you will only invest in training.

Customer Service Is Lacking

With the entry of cable companies and telecoms as well as the fierce competition from hundreds of emerging and existing security providers, what are you doing to differentiate yourself from everyone selling the same products and services? How does your company culture shore up busy employees’ ability to delight your customers? How does it also influence your internal customers?

Today, many alarm companies have to run lean and mean. Plates are incredibly full and the luxury of time appears to be nonexistent. No matter what we may tell each other at industry events, customer service has become very thin to put it mildly. Far too many customers now believe that doing business with their alarm company is no different than doing business with every huge service provider that delivers no empathy, lousy service and has far too few people available (or willing) to help them when they need it.

Do you remember good, old-fashioned service? I’m talking about the kind of service that made you feel important because your needs were taken seriously and respectfully, and you were always thanked for your trust and loyalty. Technicians would show up when they promised and managers would return phone calls when they couldn’t be reached.

Certain businesses do consistently provide an excellent level of service. Would your customers say that about your company? The truth is no one gets to that upper echelon of success by not making time to train. Since we ourselves are all customers too, how do you feel when someone you do business with goes over and above to delight you? Who is it? Is it a large service provider you do business with? Could it have been that customer service representative in India perhaps? Maybe it was someone at your bank who told you how much they care about you even though the recorded message already told you three or four times while you were on hold?

Let’s face it, customer service stinks! Whoever it is that knocks your socks off today has become the exception to the rule. If you could raise the bar on the service you provide, even just a little, imagine the positive impact it would have on your customers. Cross-training is a great place to start. How else will you ever be able to make the time to take people away from their jobs and provide training on every other critical skill they need to make doing business with your company far more attractive than doing business with all the other companies that offer the exact same products and services as you?

Find the Will to Enact Change

Developing and implementing a cross-training initiative is no small notion. Oftentimes it can be difficult to get your staff to buy in to the program. For instance, the idea might initially be met with a negative response from employees who are concerned they are training their replacements. Consider bringing in an industry professional who knows the most effective ways to execute an educational program schedule as well as communicate agreeable benefits of training.

It’s likely the consultant will voice similar fundamentals as the company owner would in promoting the advantages of the program to the staff. However, the impartial perspective of a company outsider can help encourage buy-in from the staff and ultimately weave the fabric of a closer-knit team.

In the end, it all starts with upper management and mustering the will to commit to change for the betterment of the organization. Those who “don’t make time” to hold up a mirror, identify and then take action may soon wake up and realize they’re no different than those alarm subscribers who “didn’t have time” to install an alarm system until after the burglary already occurred.

Bob Harris is President of Los Angeles-based Attrition Busters, offering seminars, workshops, and consulting services for recurring revenue model businesses. He can be reached at (818) 730-4690 or visit attritionbusters.com.


Article Topics
Business Management · Building Your Business · All Topics
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