What Does Successful Cross-boarding Look Like?

Effective employee training is the cornerstone of business success. After all, your company is only as strong as its staff. However, traditional practices have generally consigned training to periods of onboarding new employees or promoting existing ones. 

That can not only lead to debilitating skills gaps in your organization, but it can also contribute to a sort of departmental sequestration. You may begin to see the development of information and skills silos in your company

Luckily, business leaders can overcome these challenges. The answer may well lie in cross-boarding — the practice of training current employees for new job functions even as they continue to work in their existing roles. This article examines the benefits of cross-boarding and discusses strategies for effectively implementing it in your business.

Why Cross-boarding?

Anyone who has been paying attention knows that good talent is hard to find. Skilled employees retire or resign every day, and that can leave a large hole in your organization. Cross-boarding helps business leaders minimize the negative impacts of an employee’s separation by facilitating current employees’ seamless transition from one job role to another.

This helps companies become more streamlined and efficient, especially when you’re operating on a tight schedule and with limited resources. In essence, you will be maximizing the value each employee brings to the organization without taking on the financial and resource burden of recruiting.

Cross-boarding also enables companies to become more agile and responsive. Because employees are trained to fill multiple roles, they can easily be shifted when and where the company needs them. You will have the human power you need without the risk of overstaffing.

Just as importantly, cross-boarding enhances collaboration and communication between departments. When employees move from one sector of your company to another, they will inevitably develop a familiarity with the processes, goals, and norms of that department. 

Such insight is invaluable when it comes to working and communicating harmoniously with others outside of your immediate area of expertise. Workflow and information-sharing processes can be far more easily standardized when departments are no longer strangers to one another. Employees gain a holistic view of the organization rather than simply a myopic vision of their own little corner of it.

Benefits to Employees

Companies aren’t the only ones to benefit from cross-boarding. The acquisition of new professional skills is a profound asset to your employees and may serve as your secret weapon in the effort to retain top talent

Indeed, the opportunity to learn and grow within a company is key to engaging and motivating employees. Cross-boarding can be deeply empowering for your team, offering them greater career flexibility and choice than perhaps they could ever have imagined. 

The upskilling that is necessary to advance within a company also provides an immense amount of job security. Employees who have been cross-boarded are unlikely ever to have to worry that they will be phased out — that if their role becomes obsolete, they would have no other options within the organization.

Making It Work

Successful cross-boarding is an ambitious goal. It doesn’t happen by chance. If care and deliberation aren’t exercised, you could easily overwhelm or discourage a valued employee.

This is why it is imperative to be slow, strategic, and systematic in your cross-boarding efforts. You probably should try it only with experienced staff, who are already familiar with and comfortable in the roles for which they were originally hired.

It’s important to be selective about whom and how you cross-board. Not every employee will be suited to multiple roles, nor will every role suit them. Taking the time to get to know your staff, their aptitudes, their interests, and their goals will enable you to match the right employee with the right job.

As you begin cross-boarding, moreover, it’s important to take a 30,000-foot view of the process. Just because an employee is experienced and accomplished in their primary role does not necessarily mean they’re going to automatically have fundamental knowledge of other positions. 

For instance, if you are cross-boarding a marketing manager to fulfill a tech role, you may need to start at square one concerning cybersecurity training. Workers outside of IT may have little or no understanding of basic cybersecurity practices to prevent account hacking and other cybercrimes.

If you want to ensure your cross-boarding efforts succeed, you must begin by choosing the right employees, identifying the fundamental knowledge they will need to succeed in a different role, and developing those essential skills gradually. Do so in a manner that makes it possible for the employee to fulfill their original duties while slowly mastering new ones.

The Takeaway

Cross-boarding can be a highly effective strategy for making your organization more agile and efficient, preventing skills gaps, and developing employees. However, it is a delicate process that requires time and care. Take the time to learn about your staff, providing them with training opportunities that they will value.

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