Cross-Training Organizational Style ~ The Only Way To Go!!!   Leave a comment


“It’s not my job” has been a prevalent comment made in company’s through out the organizational structure of history. I have heard this numerous times when employed by CIT which implemented a cross-training program for operating units. In the cash control department ten individuals performed diverse functions. In order to open the lines of communication and expand the comprehension of other areas to those who worked within the division this training theory was a success. All who were educated in every aspect of the unit’s work had the capacity to move to many other positions as required. The New Oxford American Dictionary meaning of cross training defines it as a way to, “Learn another skill, especially one related to one’s current job.”(1) This technique benefited employees to assume roles that are more diverse and they were expected to make decisions that are more educated in their occupation. It increases individual and organizational capability to achieve the mission of the company and team performance. Consequently, it made the business run more efficiently and amplified productivity from the employees.

While increasing comprehension, skills and occupational presentation this learning opportunity improves overall motivation. Cross-training offers the wisdom and professional development opportunity for an individual who contributes to enhanced coordination and collaboration. This theory leads to the sharing of organizational goals and objectives as it diminishes differences, hostility and detrimental opposition between employees. Individuals benefit from the additional vocational opportunities and potential job security due to business accomplishments. Kevin Hillstrom described this program as, “Perhaps the most important benefit that accrues to companies that implement cross-training programs, however, is greater job satisfaction among employees.” (2) The benefits are equally positive because of this mutual decision among management and employees. Programs such as these can result in more satisfied and multitalented employees, a greater opportunity for organizational cross-functional learning, and an improved environment for advancement. Thus, the increased knowledge develops not only toward better productivity but also for the potential of job enlargement and enrichment.

Job enlargement is the horizontal expansion of a job and additional tasks are on the same level of skill and responsibility. Therefore, cross-training on this plane would make their position slightly different yet more challenging. Whereas, job enrichment entails a vertical expansion of the job, the accumulation of new tasks that give the employee more control or more responsibility. The additional control would make the transition easier for an employee when subbing for an employee. This knowledge attained by employees is being referred to as interpositional comprehension. An article written by Catherine E. Volpe , Janis A. Cannon-Bowers and Eduardo Salas describes this training as it, “…also includes context-dependent information pertaining to both temporal relationships and cause-and-effect associations within the task.”(3) It is also recognized as the role knowledge of a workforce. However, this theory carries some indecisive conclusions with individuals who are opposed to this change within an organization.

There are certain concerns regarding cross-training pertaining to the maintenance of multiple skill competencies including scheduling, coordinating among team members and managing accountability issues. Some of the hesitation toward this philosophy is apparent since it challenges traditional thinking on specialization and scopes of performance among employees. Claire Belilos discusses the adverse effect of the cross-training theory as, “… managers sometimes implement job enrichment in a misguided manner, adding unrewarded responsibilities on the shoulders of their supervisors and employees. This results in a feeling of exploitation and has the reverse of the intended effect.”(4) This concept creates fear over the deterioration of professional roles, practice standards and specialized independence; as well as raising concerns for a specific task delegation by professionals to unqualified non-professionals. Kevin Hillstrom outlined potential pitfalls including “…failure to include employees in planning the program, trying to coerce the participation of reluctant employees…, penalizing employees who take part in cross-training by not reducing their workload accordingly, and not recognizing the value of new skills with appropriate changes in compensation.”(5)

There are a multitude of reasons to consider the implementation of cross training to increase performance within an organization. This theory fills a critical role as employees assume roles that are more diverse and expected to make decisions more informed in their work. While improving productivity employees are motivated as a team that instilling commitment which enables employees to recognize organizational goals and objectives. Cross-training initiates the promotion of two-way communications and enhances intra-departmental understanding of work processes. This preparation can promote production systems by enhancing the making of earnings and compensating the probable loss of production. However, the decision to cross train should be considered carefully because there are many multifaceted and tentative factors including labor dynamics and cost.

siness must take into consideration cross-training needs to evaluate the monetary aspects and employee time allotment for the agenda. Employees selected for this program are required to organize their time to not only maintain a productive environment, but also integrate preparation and prospective meetings to their daily routine. The foundation for their knowledge may take from a one day to one month depending on the department. Margot Fraser, Founder of Birkenstock USA stated, “Despite the costs of such training, proponents say the benefits are numerous.”(6) Wherein, cross-training may lower existing production effectiveness temporarily as workers become less specialized during this process but have later advantages in meeting demand for the future of the organization.

Management’s motivation for employees is crucial to have a successful program for the entire organization. Cross-training is positive for managers, for the reason that it provides more flexibility in managing the workforce to perform properly. The purpose is to increase individual and organizational capability to achieve the company’s mission while leading to better coordination and teamwork. This in turn, creates a more flexible and versatile workforce. Training creates an environment that enables employees to grow and sharpen their skills while providing opportunities to be recognized and rewarded for their initiative making staff members more marketable, internally and externally. Supporting the desire for new learning keeps an individuals work interesting while developing self-esteem. As a business grows, it becomes apparent teambuilding is essential for the progression of success. Linda Eve Diamond and Harriet Diamond stated it is imperative to, “Recognize when the cost of not having a solid team is greater than the cost of hiring.”(7) The atmosphere of organizational traditions has changed to such an extent that teamwork is not simply a catchphrase for industry performance but rather a practical commodity with which businesses are realizing significant achievement.

Consequently, clear communication and information sharing among employees displays optimal performance within the group. Utilizing the communication process to set and achieve goals within the team contributes to learning and practicing active listening skills to listen objectively. Therefore, secondly the most important interface within a team is listening. Michael S. Dobson wrote, “Listening has a number of advantages….it relaxes the other person and makes them more inclined to trust you. It gives you an opportunity to learn.”(8) A team leader creates a supportive atmosphere where problem solving and decision making is incorporated. Thirdly, a significant acknowledgment to the interaction for a growing organization is feedback. Performing developmental feedback increases performance and improves follow-up requirements. The combination of these features motivates employees to encourage overall team membership improvement and growth within the company.

Diversity and teamwork are two themes that characterize the future of organizational teambuilding. Many factors effect group dynamics such as, age, tenure, sex, race and ethnicity. For example, reports state a higher level of teamwork is common within a more ethnically diverse group. Dan Zandra summarizes this opinion with a quote in his book from Gil Atkinson, “The great companies and teams are those that celebrate the differences. They seek harmony not uniformity. They hire talent not color. They strive for oneness not sameness.”(9) Careful analysis suggests that the often reported negative effect of diversity on teamwork depends importantly on the composition of the group and that being a minority whether it is one of color, race or sexual gender may be a function of the group’s context. Combining diversity and aspects such as goals, leadership, direction, and commitment are excellent for creating a good team working environment.

Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith describe a team as, “A team is a small group of people(typically fewer than twenty) with complimentary skills committed to a common purpose and set of specific performance goals.”(10) Teamwork inspires and improves a team to achieve; but collaboration alone does not build a team. There are trouble areas that could be detrimental to teambuilding and employee performance. Lack of conviction of staff members is potentially harmful while hindering the progression of productively. Individuals who portray weak principles and personal uneasiness within the group will not benefit the organization.

Organizational structure plays an immense role in influencing the result of the desired output. During the 19th century, management theorists realized that employee output largely depended on the labor procedure rather than the staff. Factors like skills, atmosphere and machineries were considered secondary to efficiency. However, with the emergence of technical management skills advanced supervisors to realize that they play a critical role in achieving a company’s goals. The reasons were that organizations developed the socio-economic perception of the employees as well as the psychological factors such as motivation, personal goals and careers. The 20th century brought changes in occupational managerial staffing due to the small owner operated establishments being replaced by larger corporations operated by salaried managers. The shift from the workforce composed primarily of manual laborers to one of comprising mostly of white-collar workers. In recent years, more organizations have progressed from the traditional supervisor-subordinate composition to a team type atmosphere in which the team leader is a facilitator, not a boss, where all team members contribute. The managerial concepts in the late 20th century began changing to include systems thinking, cross-functional teams, learning organization and diversity. By the 21st century, old philosophies were being replaced with approaches that began taking advantage of the innovative technologies and contemporary managerial concepts.

The industrial world began to departmentalize businesses and this process transformed managers into leaders within companies. Thus, as a result, the changes in the staffing patterns affected managerial techniques within the business world. Teamwork and team building altered the theory of organizational structure. Teams are essential to a company in view of the fact that these individuals are significant for productivity and who collaborate working toward a common goal. Teamwork builds upon the synergy of teams focusing on the effect of a combined staff’s input within the organization.

The cornerstone of running a successful organization is utilizing management and enhancing strategic capabilities. This framework lays the foundation that leads the organization forward with the ability to learn and grow. It is crucial that a team has a leader who understands the group dynamics and strategy goals of the business. Management relies on strong leadership to increase the effectiveness of their employees. John C. Maxwell describes this accomplishment as, “Successful leaders are learners and the learning process is ongoing, a result of self-disciple and perseverance.”(11) Some individuals within organizations will have more leadership accountability than others, but everyone has the potential to learn from each other in today’s work place.

Numerous foundational characteristics comprise of being a superior professional team leader. It is essential that an individual be trustworthy, supportive, motivating, and enthusiastic regarding their work since employees respond more openly to a person who portrays passion and commitment. A leader requires confidence within their position in order to achieve organizational goals and inspire self-assurance to create optimal performance of a team. A good facilitator is able to think analytically and view a situation as a whole while breaking it down into manageable steps and produce a positive progression of decision making for the company. A qualified individual maintains high principles and is proactive in order to achieve excellence in areas of communication while focusing on organizational effectiveness. Robert G. Cooper discussed this topic by stating, “Best performing businesses (72.4%) provide for open communication among employees across functions, departments and locations.” (12) This interaction encourages constructive exchanges of ideas between individuals within the team. Major components of being a highly effective team leader are innovation, developing employees, and setting high expectation levels that advance the creating of positive standards within a company. These leaders set the foundations and maintain a balanced working relationship within the group to accomplish organizational goals in a constructive manner while empowering training and teambuilding.

 There are numerous influences that determine leadership distinctions for a team including interpersonal dynamics, time allotment and delegation styles. Many feasible options are available to manage a group. A team that works well together and is proficient can chose to expand the strategy incorporating leadership within the team. Potentially, individuals may advance with a sense of accomplishment towards their goals within the organization. An additional preference to optimize performance is empowering a group member with leadership responsibilities placing the facilitator in the position of a team leader advisor.

A team leader recognizes the strength of an organizations foundation is based on the contribution of the abilities of its employees. By creating an environment where individuals can learn from one another a facilitator can enhance the talents and skills necessary to prepare them to be the leaders of tomorrow. John Baldoni touched on this concept in his book by quoting Ralph Nader, “I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” (13)

In conclusion, every company has a mission or shared vision, a collaboration determining the concept for the future. Therefore, a company providing cross-training to individuals promotes competent people and creates new opportunities for employees to pursue while cultivating teamwork. Management provides a facilitator to guide and empower employees in this type of program and as a result, the responsibility of a team leader is to generate ideas, set expectations and guide individuals to their highest potential. The fundamental philosophy in today’s contemporary workforce is based on the acronym for the word team and summarizes cross-training, teamwork as well as teambuilding: Together Everyone Achieves More.

Final Bibliography

1. McKean, Erin. The New Oxford American Dictionary. 2nd ed. 2005.

2. Hillstrom, Kevin, Laurie Collier. Encyclopedia of Small Business. Vol. 1 2nd ed. 2002.

3. Volpe, Catherine E., Janis A. Cannon-Bowers, and Eduardo Salas. “The Impact of Cross- Training on Team Functioning: An Empirical Investigation.” Human Factors 38 (1996)

4. Belilos, Claire. “Cross-Training as a Motivational and Problem-Solving Technique.” EasyTraining. 12 Dec. 2003 <http://www.easytraining.com/crosstrain.htm&gt;

5. Hillstrom, Kevin, Laurie Collier. Encyclopedia of Small Business. Vol. 1 2nd ed. 2002.

6. Fraser, Margot. ”The Aspiring Entrepreneur.” Inc. Magazine Oct. 1999
http://www.inc.com/partners/eweek/#audio&gt;.

7. Diamond, Eve, and Harriet Diamond. Teambuilding That Get Results. Illinois:Sourcebooks, 2007: pp 7

8. Dobson, Michael S. Project Management. Massachusetts: Streetwise, 2003: pp. 87

9. Zandra, Dan. Teamwork. Washington: Compendium, 2004: pp. 52

10. Katzenbach, Jon R., and Douglas K. Smith. The Wisdom of Teams. New York: HarperCollins, 2003: pp21

11. Maxwell, John C. Leadership 101. Tennessee: Maxwell Motivation, 2002: pp.14

12. Cooper, Robert G. Product Leadership. 2nd ed. New York: Perseus, 2005: pp. 252

13. John Baldoni. 180 Ways to Walk the Leadership Talk. Texas: The Walk The Talk Company, 2000: pp.35

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