How HR Departments Can Make The Most of Cross-Team Training
How HR Departments Can Make The Most of Cross-Team Training
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It’s not a new idea, but cross-team training has become more and more relevant nowadays due to the changing landscape of work.

For those of you who haven’t come across this concept before, it’s pretty simple. Cross-training or cross-team training is where you prepare employees to take on additional work. This is work related to their role, rather than something completely disconnected.

The idea is that they can fill in for other positions within their department. For example, an event planner may take over the reins when the social media marketing manager is on maternity leave.

Cross-team training has innumerable benefits, such as:

  • Increasing employees’ skill set
  • Improving organisational flexibility
  • Improving collaboration
  • Improving employees’ understanding of business operations

It’s not always the easiest program to implement, however. This guide will take you through everything you need to know in order to make the most of cross-team training.

Why cross-training is so relevant nowadays

The world of work is changing - pretty much everyone agrees on that.

The most notable recent example of massive change is what happened during the coronavirus pandemic, which ushered in a new era of remote and hybrid working conditions.

One of the biggest challenges for HR departments and management was to maintain work productivity despite this change. Maintaining strong communication channels was important, with many opting for enterprise video conferencing to keep morale high on remote teams.

Aside from strengthening communication channels, many companies also allowed for a more flexible working day, giving employees more autonomy over how they spent their time.

To remain competitive in this new and changing landscape, it’s been crucial for workforces to become competitive. One simple way of doing this is to focus on employee learning and development.

In other words, cross-training your employees so that they develop new skills can help your team and company remain relevant and flexible to meet the challenges ahead.

The benefits of cross-team training

Staying competitive is not the only benefit associated with employee training and development. It can also be cost-effective, especially when compared to the costs of hiring new recruits.

On top of this, there is a real and profound benefit to be had from enabling staff to feel better about themselves and their abilities. An Amazon/Gallup workforce study revealed that 71% of employees derived more job satisfaction from their roles once they had received upskilling training.

Cross-team training can also help create an innovative and flexible work culture. The design firm IDEO is known for its innovative and “cross-disciplinary” approach. CEO Tim Brown has created ‘T-shaped’ employees, who were experts in one particular area (the vertical stroke of ‘T’) whilst having a strong working knowledge of other areas of business (the horizontal strokes in ‘T’).

In such an environment, make sure to encourage curiosity by implementing remote learning for those who desire it. This emphasises that cross-training is not just for the company’s benefit; employees can build their knowledge in any direction.

What’s more, cross-training your team is also instrumental in instilling strong collaboration. This is because training your team in different areas and skill sets engenders a strong sense of empathy and understanding for the work of others. Suddenly, it’s a lot easier for everyone to get along and help out where needed.

Some companies even screen for collaboration and empathy traits when hiring new recruits. When using diversity recruitment software, you can do the same and ensure your team is naturally aligned with ‘T-shaped’ innovation.

Finally, when cross-team training is done well, it acts as a strong motivator for employees who feel valued and valuable. This, in turn, stokes productivity. Another win-win!

The drawbacks of cross-team training

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, however. There are some issues to be aware of when it comes to cross-training.


Most notably, it’s important that employees do not feel taken advantage of. Specifically, they should not feel that they are doing more work without any additional financial compensation.

Additionally, make sure to not pile on work when employees already have enough on their plate. Be communicative and ask how their workload feels. If things are getting heavy, use enterprise cloud collaboration to help them out remotely.

There are potential pitfalls when it comes to implementing cross-team training. However, these can be easily avoided by following our tips for success below.

How to implement cross-team training

It’s never been easier to create a solid cross-teaming training program! Let’s have a look at some of the best practices for doing so.

Define your goals

An important part of establishing cross-team training is understanding exactly why you want to do so. Do you want to increase job satisfaction? Are you keen to prepare for emergencies and unexpected situations? Or are you scoping your teams for future team leaders?

Don’t think you have to come up with these goals alone. Brainstorm with other HR reps or management; you might be pleasantly surprised at what objectives they come up with.

Once you’ve done this, you can then break down each component into the skills needed. Which takes you directly to step 2.

Find the right candidates

Given the resounding benefits associated with cross-team training, you might be tempted to introduce this scheme company-wide.

However, it’s important to be aware that cross-training is not universally applicable. In other ways, you need to find the right candidates to cross-train.

Opt for high-performing candidates who are already excelling in their positions. These are the type of candidates who exhibit a growth mindset over a fixed mindset.

Be careful though that you’re not taking away precious time that would allow them to become experts in their chosen areas. To that end, it’s important to talk to employees first in order to feel out their enthusiasm, or lack thereof, towards cross-training.

Highlight the benefits

A crucial part of implementing successful cross-team training is making sure that your chosen candidates are on board. Remember the potential pitfall of workers feeling overworked and under-compensated?

In order to do this, make sure you underscore the benefits that come with cross-team training - and not just those that pertain to your company. Highlight the potential for development and education and indicate how it can fit into your employees’ futures.

For example, your in-house content writer might be itching to get some content management experience. Teaching them the ins and outs of SEO or even, say, going into the advantages of an domain won’t only benefit your company. It will also help them become a better writer and give them a deeper professional foundation.

Create a good schedule

It’s important to be mindful of your employees’ current working schedule. Do they even have enough time to start learning another skill? Again, dialogue is important here, to understand the different work commitments at play.

Talk to the employee’s line manager in their current role, or link up with them using collaborative software such as the best whiteboard app. See if they can re-work responsibilities to offer a little more flexibility. You can then stay in touch with them regarding the employee’s progress so that they know what to expect from them when they resume their previous duties.

You could also take this opportunity to update the company’s management style. Human resource management is useful if you want to encourage a nurturing and compassionate approach from management and HR teams.

Performance Coaching

Performance coaching, where managers work with employees and nurture them on the job, is a crucial part of cross-team training. It involves giving support and advice and sharing feedback in an encouraging and motivating way.

You don’t only need to rely on management, though. Online coaching platforms are great tools that allow employees to develop at their own pace.

Reward achievements

A key part of a successful cross-training program is making sure that employees feel valued and rewarded. It’s no good teaching them new skills if you don’t congratulate their efforts and celebrate the milestones.

Performance reviews are incredibly useful here. They facilitate a strong dialogue between employees and management. This supports the former and provides invaluable feedback to the latter.

Some HR departments are also using tools like the digital badge. Much like its physical counterpart, a digital badge highlights and rewards your employees’ accomplishments. It’s well-known that celebrating successes is a strong motivator, so don’t forget to keep track of achievements - big and small.

Job rotation program

A job rotation program can be useful if you’re having a hard time freeing up an employee’s schedule.

Essentially, employees move between different roles, often on a temporary basis. Take note that this is rarely a promotion; the employee in question will often be doing work at a similar level as before, just in a different department. For example, a human resources manager may take on a similar leadership role, but in a different department.

Naturally, this helps build employee skill sets and a deeper understanding of business operations.

However, keep these rotations brief. If your employee stays away from their original role for too long, they might lose competency in their original area of expertise.

Cross-team training gets people and businesses moving

In closing, it’s clear that cross-team training has a whole host of benefits. It’s a cost-effective way of boosting job satisfaction. It also contributes to a dynamic and flexible work culture. This helps your company remain agile and competitive, which is nothing short of imperative in today’s working landscape.

Finally, cross-team training is useful in encouraging empathy and intra-business understanding. This, in turn, promotes collaboration, as teams are more cognizant of and sympathetic to the different tasks and duties of other departments.

When implemented successfully, cross-team training is a brilliant way of motivating employees and enhancing productivity.

Article updated on: 11 December 2023
Talent Garden
Written by
Talent Garden, Digital Skills Academy

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