CPD - What is Cross-Training in the workplace?

CPD - What is Cross-Training in the workplace?

21 Jun 2023

CPD News Team

News & updates from CPD News Team

View Profile

Common to all businesses, no matter the size or industry, every organisation strives for an efficient workforce and it is equally important that employees are content in their roles. One way of achieving this objective is cross-training in the workplace.

In the dynamic and ever-evolving modern workplace, an individual’s commitment to adaptation and growth is indispensable. The way we discuss skill development has expanded; words like upskilling, reskilling, and cross skilling define how professionals adapt, grow, and reinvent themselves. This CPD article will look at what cross- training is, the benefits of cross-training and how to effectively implement a cross-training program in your organisation.

What is cross-training for employees?

Cross-training, also referred to as ‘cross-skilling’, is when an organisation develops a multi-skilled workforce by providing training and development to ensure that the employees have the capabilities and knowledge to perform more than one role within the organisation. Employees are trained to perform tasks they were not initially employed to do, leading to increased motivation and workplace proficiency. Upskilling, reskilling, and cross-training can all be considered as part of an individual’s Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

Why is cross-training important in the workplace?

When done correctly, cross-training identifies the skills and tasks needed in a business and works to fill in the gaps across various departments. In our previous article ‘How Can I Make Training More attractive’, we looked at some of the reasons why training and development is so important in the workplace for organisations. Specifically, we learned that it helps:

  • Improve employee performance as workplace morale and job satisfaction is raised.
  • Identify knowledge gaps in the workforce.
  • Allows an organisation to build future leaders from within their own team.
  • Quality of work improves as employees become more knowledgeable and efficient.
  • Ongoing training and development increase the capacity for the workforce to adapt and learn new technologies and practices.

When cross-training, the main requirements for employers are to have an efficient, happy workforce. In certain roles, having multi-skilled staff is essential. For example, in small organisations, it is important that one member of staff can perform the duties of another. If someone is on leave or ill, it is vital that one employee can cover the other, to ensure the efficient running of the business. For many organisations, it’s not financially viable to have extra staff to cover for these occasions.

For employees, cross-training in the workplace can give a morale boost. On a personal level, learning new skills and being given extra responsibilities will lead to greater satisfaction and staff retention as employees they feel they are valued part of the organisation. It will also enhance and solidify relationships with team members across the workplace. Undertaking regular CPD through upskilling and cross-skilling can enable employees to broaden their skillset across functions, building the necessary foundation for later career progression.

What are the benefits of cross-training employees?

There are numerous benefits of cross training employees, whether you are the employer or professional and it can be a useful tool to enhance productivity across an organisation, no matter the speciality or industry. Some of the advantages of cross-skilling can include:

  • It helps develop a more sustainable business. By cross-training employees, employers create a more agile workforce, saving on extra recruitment and salary costs. Cross-skilled employees can wear multiple 'hats', ensuring operational continuity and versatility even during unforeseen challenges.
  • Employees will work more efficiently. Cutting down on delays because another member of staff ‘isn’t in today’. They will have a better understanding of how the organisation works as a whole, not just their own niche. This will lead to better customer service.
  • Staff retention and workplace morale is boosted. If employees feel good about their job and are content, they will stay longer with an organisation. Knowing their employer is willing to invest time into their Continuing Professional Development makes them feel they are a valued member of the team and improves retention.
Importance of cross-training employees
  • Cuts down on training costs: Training can be expensive. Cross-training within an organisation allows employees who already have those skills to pass on their knowledge to their co-workers.
  • Better relationships and communication: Cross-training allows managers and employees to build better work relations and communication between different departments. Again, this will lead to more effective teamwork and can provide a morale boost.
  • Room for growth: Developing new skills gives employees the opportunity for growth and possibly promotion within the company, as well as opening new learning or career paths. It also allows managers to see employees outside their usual routine. Potentially, future managers can be found and identified.

Disadvantages of cross-training

While there are many fundamental and obvious advantages to cross-training employees, there are some potential disadvantages to cross-training which employers need to be carefully aware of, such as:

  • Initial Resistance: Change can be daunting, and initial hesitations are natural. An inclusive approach to training can mitigate such fears.
  • Decreased morale: If an employee is asked to cross-train a fellow co-worker, they may be hesitant to do so as the feel their position is in jeopardy.
  • Resource Allocation: Effective training requires time and investment. Finding the right balance can be a conundrum.
  • Competition: If the trainer feels they are being ‘edged out’, this can manifest in resentment towards other employers and trainees, which could potentially damage relationships.
  • A bigger workload: Employees may view cross-training as an effort to add to their already busy task list, leading to lower enthusiasm and outcomes of success.
  • Bad habits: Unless the trainer has been properly trained, existing bad habits and shortcuts may be passed on to those they are training.
  • Favouritism: It is vital to ensure that all employees are given the same opportunities for training and all staff are given similar opportunities when it comes to their roles within an organisation.

While there may be potential for disadvantages of cross-training, these can be eliminated with a strong organisational plan of what training is required. You can determine the success of any employee program by gaining learning and training metrics as outlined in our related article.

Differences between cross-skilling vs upskilling

If you receive workplace training, there is a subtle difference to whether the training you are receiving is cross skilling or upskilling. This may not have a big impact on you, but it will form a big part of your organisation’s skill development plan and wider Continuing Professional Development objectives.

In general, cross-training is providing training to allow an employee to take on additional work at their level. They can move from one area of the department to another with ease. Alternatively, upskilling is where training is provided to improve an employee’s ability to do their current job, for example, being trained on a new computer system which would increase overall productivity and efficiency.

Examples cross skilling at work

Here, we aim to outline the concept of cross-skilling, offering a clearer perspective through practical examples. Simply put, cross-skilling is the journey of branching out, of adding diverse skills to an individual's repertoire. Let’s look at a finance professional in a corporation. While his primary role involves crunching numbers and crafting budgets, he might decide to cross-skill by delving into digital marketing. This doesn’t mean he's transitioning out of finance; instead, he’s equipping himself with complementary skills, perhaps to better understand budget allocations in marketing campaigns or to take on interdisciplinary projects. Similarly, an engineer in the automotive industry might cross-skill by learning about electric vehicle technology, even if her primary focus is on traditional combustion engines.

Simple tips on how to effectively implement a cross-training programme

When looking at building a skills development programme there a number of things to consider. These include the organisation’s needs; the employees’ needs, as well as the needs of the customer. Here are some simple tips to help develop and implement your programme.

1. Define Your Goals. Where is cross-training most needed within the company? Is it across the whole organisation or one particular department? Are there skill gaps in a certain area or could an area benefit from having extra skilled staff? Without a definite end goal, the program won’t succeed. There may be outcomes or reactions that you didn’t expect but you must be able to deal with any issues effectively. Employees’ abilities and skillsets must be taken into consideration.

Simple tips on how to implement cross-training

2. Job Enrichment vs Job Enhancement: The type of training you want to implement is normally defined by whether you want to increase Job Enrichment or Job Enhancement.

  • Job Enrichment: The aim of this is to give employees more responsibility and authority within their current role. Are some people trained to become authorities on a particular procedure for example, have they been trained to use a specialized piece of equipment. 
  • Job Enhancement: This is where workers are trained to be able to perform different roles across the organisation at their level. This can add variety to an employee’s daily role.

Once this is decided, it will help define how you want to map your workforce’s development.

 3. Who will undergo training and who will train? Once you’ve decided whether it will be organisation wide or department wide training, it is important to liaise with managers to ensure that everyone within the team has been considered, including those with disabilities or other needs. Whether trainer or trainee, everyone must be able to gain from development opportunities.

4. Introducing the programme to employees in a positive manner. This is a crucial stage. Positive communication is needed to show that jobs are not at risk and no one will be left behind. There must be a collaborative process to ensure everyone benefits. Employees will have concerns about extra work loads, potential redundancies and perhaps their own skills and abilities. Communication must re-enforce that what is good for the organisation can also be good for the employee and their Continuing Professional Development.

5. Simple, Easy Feedback Procedures. When a new programme of skills development is implemented in any organisation, it is imperative that those involved in the programme can easily give honest feedback. If changes are necessary the organisation should be willing and able to make changes. This will reassure employees that the organisation has their best interests in mind. 

6. Ensure New Skills Are Used. Once an organisation has implemented a cross-training programme, all skills the employee has must be kept up to date. To ensure they are familiar and comfortable with their new skills, a role rotation system could be applied where all skills are consistently used. This will increase job satisfaction and boost workplace morale. 

Where to find CPD courses for cross-skilling?

If you would like to improve your skills, you may find it useful to visit the CPD Courses Catalogue. Here you will find thousands of certified courses and training that has been reviewed and recognised as meeting the required industry standards. To find out more about a particular CPD course listed on our website, you can complete an enquiry form and the details will be sent directly to the relevant CPD provider.

For those invested in their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) or looking to cross-skill, reflective practice is the key. Beyond retaining the information, think about the practical implications. Document your insights and determine how these skill development strategies can be transposed to your unique professional landscape.

How to become an CPD accredited training provider

We hope this article on ‘What is Cross-training in the workplace’ was helpful. Established in 1996, The CPD Certification Service is the world’s leading and largest CPD accreditation organisation working across all industry sectors. Our unique experience and history enable us to support organisations seeking authoritative CPD certification for their further learning activities.

If you provide courses, workshops, eLearning, virtual events and are considering becoming a CPD training provider, please contact our team to discuss in more detail. Alternatively, if you want to record your Continuing Professional Development, please go to the myCPD Portal where you can manage, track and log your learning in one simple place.

Related Articles

CPD News Team

For more information from CPD News Team, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

Want to learn more?

View Profile

Get industry-related content straight to your inbox

By signing up to our site you are agreeing to our privacy policy