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Cross-Training Employees: Purpose, Benefits & Getting Started

In the last two years, companies across the globe have been hit by the great resignation with employees leaving in droves. During the coronavirus pandemic, there were massive shutdowns of offices, and the lack of a job’s amenability to remote working was the leading cause of job losses.

Besides this, the top reasons for this state of affairs are poor relationships with colleagues, not being valued by managers, and limited career opportunities.

Fortunately, cross-training employees can abate this negative trend to a great extent.


By providing regular opportunities for employees to develop additional skills, expand their limits, and increase their contributions to an organization.

This will lead to employee agility, team collaboration, efficiency, productivity, and better relationships with management.

Why You Should Keep Reading

If you’re yet to leverage employee cross-training and realize the benefits it brings at multiple levels, then you should continue reading this post.

It walks you through what cross-training in the workplace is, its purposes, how to measure it, the advantages, and how to create an effective cross-training program.

Read on to find out.

What Is Cross-Training?

Cross-training is the practice of providing employees with education and training in various areas of a company’s operations to increase their flexibility and versatility. This includes training in a different set of skills.

It is similar to training in sports where athletes engage in exercises or drills outside their normal activities. The goal is to improve overall performance and give a break from a routine. Such training programs are also known to decrease stress and injuries in athletes.

The goal of cross-training in business is to increase the overall productivity of an organization by ensuring that employees can perform multiple tasks and fill in for other team members when they are sick or leave the organization at short notice.

Additionally, cross-training can boost employee morale and engagement by providing them opportunities for growth and development.

Watch: What Is Employee Training?

6 Benefits of Cross-Training Employees

Employee cross-training is a strategic approach to manpower management, and you can appreciate it better by understanding its pros and cons. First, let’s explore some of the top cross-training benefits for employees and organizations.

1. Saves Time & Cost

Hiring someone to fill a job position or outsourcing the requirement demands time and money. If an existing employee can perform the work through cross-training, it can significantly reduce the cost, time, and labor you invest in hiring and outsourcing.

In fact, the average cost of training an existing employee is far less than the average cost of hiring a new employee.

2. Boosts Employee Morale

A dead-end job with no opportunities for internal mobility can stifle employees’ careers and crush their morale. Employees in such a situation always look for an exit. But a cross-trained employee shows various skills and enjoys progression in their profession. This makes them feel valued, which boosts engagement, motivation, and morale.

3. Encourages Collaboration

Cross-training leads to better team collaboration and builds a collaborative culture. Unlike those with limited expertise, employees with wider skills are more capable of working with their colleagues on different projects. This is because when employees master roles and responsibilities beyond their own, they communicate, work, and empathize better with their co-workers.

4. Increased Agility, Efficiency & Productivity

With additional workplace skills, employees tend to become more efficient and productive. They also become responsive to changes in the workplace and prepared for contingencies. It gives them opportunities to advance their careers. This ultimately makes an organization agile.

5. Helps With Succession Planning

Cross-training staff aids in succession planning. Internal hiring is far easier than hiring people from outside. Most of the time, managers already know which employees are suitable for a particular role.

They can provide timely cross-training to develop specific skill sets in existing employees so they can take over a position as soon as someone leaves. This will protect your business from disruptions due to changes.

Watch: How to Create an Employee Onboarding Training Program

6. Makes Business Sustainable

If a business comes to a halt when an employee suddenly quits or goes on an extended leave, then it is a sign of unsustainability. Luckily, cross-training provides the necessary cushion against any negative impact created by such situations. It makes your business more sustainable, no matter how many employees are on leave or quit.

These are some of the significant aspects of employee cross-training. Along with this, let’s understand its flipside to know the limitations and get a full picture.

3 Drawbacks of Cross-Training

Here are some drawbacks that may attend cross-training in an organization.

1. Negative Impression

When you don’t communicate your cross-training plan properly to employees, there are chances of them perceiving that you’re increasing their workload without any remuneration. This is something you should be careful about when planning such training programs.

How to Overcome It: Dispel all misconceptions about the training and communicate all the positive sides to it in the early stage.

2. Loss of Focus

Another potential drawback of cross-training employees is there’s a likelihood of them becoming a jack of all trades, master of none. In other words, they turn into generalists with no focus on their area of specialization.

How to Overcome It: To avoid this, you can cross-train them in roles that are similar to their current ones.

3. Additional Workload

Cross-training can become a challenge when employees already have their plates full and still have to acquire additional knowledge and skills. It can add to their existing workload.

How to Overcome It: Make sure you don’t unnecessarily overwhelm your employees but find a way through which they can easily balance and manage different roles.

How to Create an Effective Cross-Training Program

Now that you know a bit about cross-training, let’s understand how to develop such a program in your organization.

Define Your Training Goals

Like other learning & development initiatives, cross-training needs certain goals as the starting point. Whether you want a contingency plan in place or to improve employee engagement and job satisfaction for better retention, you should be clear about what you want from the cross-training.

Watch: How to Set SMART Goals | Training Course Introduction

Conduct a Job Analysis

Before you cross-train employees, make it a point to fully understand the nature of the job you’re cross-training. This will enable you to break down a job into tasks and subtasks and remain focused on the most important ones.

Additionally, you’ll be able to draft better job descriptions, set clear expectations, and develop training programs based on them after job analysis.

Select the Right Candidates for Cross-Training

It’s vital to find the right fit for cross-training since not all employees may not be suitable for the purpose. Some of them may be capable and eager to take on additional job responsibilities, while others may not be in a position to handle more than what they already have.

The idea is to make it a reasonable and consensual process.

Communicate the Benefits

Employees undergoing cross-training should know the merits of the program beforehand. They shouldn’t view it as a mere excuse to assign additional workload without any financial rewards.

Let them know it is as much about their professional growth as it is about support in times of need. There shouldn’t be any doubt in their minds about the training. This will enable you to increasingly cross-train your employees.

Create a Schedule

This is a critical step in building a cross-training program.

The schedule you choose for training should work for everyone. It should never come in the way of their productivity.

So, it’s important to consider their personal schedules before finalizing the training plan, set a convenient training time, and stick to it. Otherwise, conflicting schedules can lead to chaos, workflow disruptions, and burnout.

Self-paced online courses can be a great way to train your employees as they fit into everyone’s schedules and work across devices anytime, anywhere.

Watch: How to Create Employee Training Courses Online

Adopt the Best Training Tool

Adopt the Best Training Tool

A versatile, flexible, and robust platform such as a learning management system (LMS) can prove valuable during cross-training. They can serve as a one-stop solution by helping you manage an entire training lifecycle  – from creating courses to administering, tracking, and analyzing them.

Most cloud LMS software are customizable to an organization’s unique needs. You can also automate routine tasks, ensure course compliance, facilitate social & mobile learning, and view insightful reports and stats.

Watch: How to Choose the Best LMS Software for Employee Training

Track Performance

Tracking the progress and performance of your employees during cross-training is key. It provides you insights into how effectively employees are learning. Based on this data, you can fine-tune your training for better engagement, learning, retention, and results.

Collect Feedback From Employees

Feedback from training participants can be equally valuable. You can gauge what works and what doesn’t, challenges, gaps, milestones, and improvement areas in your programs. You should continuously seek feedback from your employees and act on it.

How to Measure Employee Cross-Training: 6 Key Metrics

Measuring the effectiveness of your cross-training programs is essential to determine their success. To make it easier for you, here are six key metrics you can use to evaluate the outcome of the training.

1. Decreased Absenteeism and Turnover

One clear indicator of engagement and active participation of your employees in your cross-training programs is the decreased number of sick days and employees quitting over time.  If, however, you see a reversal of this trend, you may consider revamping your cross-training programs.

2. Increased Productivity

Generally, employees who undergo cross-training programs become more productive. This is because they learn new skills, communicate better, and cooperate at a new level. All this translates into accelerated workflows and a higher project completion rate through increased efficiency.

3. Improved Performance

Likewise, when your cross-training programs are effective, employees’ performance soars. For example, you’ll see more outputs in the production line, higher sales, and fewer customer complaints. So, whether it is the sales, IT department, or business operations, there is greater efficiency due to the training.

4. Better Communication and Collaboration

Cross-training employees is not just about assuming new roles and responsibilities. It is also about improved relationships with team members and other departments. An increased ability to communicate and collaborate leads to reduced workplace conflicts and disputes. Instead, you can witness positivity in the workplace.

Watch: How to Create a Positive Work Environment | Training Course Introduction

5. Increased Employee Satisfaction

Another metric that measures the effectiveness of employee cross-training is the overall job satisfaction level. Increased satisfaction leads to better performance and loyalty toward an organization. If you find employees still unhappy and lamenting their jobs, it’s time to revisit and analyze your training programs.

Watch: How to Assess Employee Satisfaction With Surveys | Training Course Introduction

6. Increased Customer Satisfaction

Better customer service, increased customer satisfaction, and more positive reviews are other results of successful cross-training. You’ll see a climb in these areas as your employees become better prepared to deliver on customer expectations following an impactful and sustainable cross-training plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does cross-training employees work?

Cross-training educates and upskills employees in job roles other than what they were originally hired for in a company. It diversifies professional responsibilities and enables employees to work outside their regular duties. Cross-training develops well-rounded employees, and it is often a part of talent management strategies to fill in vacant positions or for succession planning.

How can I implement cross-training?

Start by identifying the job roles for which you are cross-training employees. Next, pick the potential candidates who can take over those positions. After that, choose the training method, tool, courses, and assessments that will work best for you and your learners. You can then schedule and implement the program. Training tracking and evaluation follow next to determine challenges, gaps, and milestones. As a final step, collect feedback from your employees for improvement and better learning experiences.

How can cross-training be beneficial to my company?

Employee cross-training keeps the workforce motivated, engaged, and productive through upskilling. It also leads to increased satisfaction levels and better manpower planning. Such opportunities for growth boost staff loyalty and check turnover. Internal hiring and promotion save time, money, and effort you’d otherwise invest in attracting, hiring, training, and retaining employees. All this is beneficial to any organization.

What are the risks of cross-training?

There are a few downsides to cross-training. Some employees may feel threatened when someone else takes over their responsibilities. It may give the wrong impression that they are not already performing well. Cross-training can also lead to unhealthy competition in the workplace for new roles or to retain existing ones. It may breed dissatisfaction due to additional responsibilities and make employees lose focus.

What tasks can I assign to a cross-trained employee?

As long as your employees are well cross-trained, you can assign virtually any task your business performs. Cross-training examples include training for the role of a mentor, team leader, hiring manager, compliance officer, or supervisor. The tasks also depend on vacancies due to a long leave, resignation, or change of guard.

Start Leveraging Cross-Training in the Workplace!

Cross-training employees is too significant to ignore. It prepares your business for any contingency while empowering your workforce with additional skills that help their professional growth.

When you facilitate internal mobility, it leads to increased employee satisfaction, efficiency, and productivity. It also makes your business more agile and sustainable.

If you’re yet to implement an employee cross-training program in your organization, you can roll it out easily and quickly. Simply follow the best practices or steps described above and start developing well-rounded employees.

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About the author

Michael Laithangbam is the senior writer & editor at ProProfs with 12 years of experience in enterprise software and eLearning. Michael's expertise encompasses online training, web-based learning, quizzes & assessments, LMS, and more. Michael’s work has been published in G2, Software Advice, Capterra, and eLearning Industry. You can connect with him via LinkedIn.