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How to Increase Employee Willingness to Cross Train

In almost any modern workplace, cross-training competent employees is a necessity. Although efficient cross-training can result in a well-versed and reliable worker, many employees push back against the opportunity. 

As a business owner, you probably already understand the importance of having a versatile team. Having employees that have been cross-trained enhances your workforce flexibility. This is absolutely crucial in case of emergencies, vacations, or sick leave. In those cases, the company can quickly deploy an employee from one department to another. All without experiencing any significant disruptions in its operations or gap in customer service. This reduces downtime and allows the organization to meet its production goals, while still maintaining quality standards.

When done right, employee cross-training creates a culture of teamwork and collaboration. Employees who have worked in different departments or roles develop an appreciation for the challenges that other employees face. This helps to promote respect and understanding among them. It also enhances communication and promotes the exchange of ideas. 

Cross-training also provides benefits to the employee when it comes to career development and growth. Employees who acquire new skills and knowledge can take on new responsibilities. If they handle those responsibilities well, it can lead to promotions or career advancement.

However, with all of these benefits, leaders can still experience resistance when asking employees to cross-train. In this article, you’ll learn about various ways you can motivate employees to cross-train.


What Causes Resistance to Cross-Train?

There are many reasons why your employees may resist efforts to be cross-trained. However, none are insurmountable. Some employees perceive cross-training to be nothing more than an additional set of responsibilities. For which they expect compensation. When they aren’t compensated for these new skills they’ve developed, this can create resentment between employer and employee.

Another reason you may encounter some resistance in this area is if your employees tend to be stubborn or rigid in the ways they perform tasks at work. In these instances, patience and persistence are key. 

Lastly, some employees just don’t like change. Change may mean something new and scary for many people. There are several reasons why employees resist change. Some of those reasons you can combat with the right methods. However, sometimes the resistance is beyond your influence.

It may be worth noting that an employee who adamantly refuses to learn new skills may be more of a hindrance to business than a resource.


Communicate the Benefits

Often, when employees express uncertainty regarding cross-training opportunities, it stems from a lack of understanding of the details. This is an easy fix, however. With specific, well-timed, and clear communication, employees can end up finding the confidence to take on cross-training with few problems.

One great way to implement this type of communication is to host a seminar or presentation informing them about upcoming opportunities. Make it clear to them that this training can really make them an asset to the company, and set up realistic expectations about how the process takes place. Encourage employees to ask questions and provide feedback.

Employees will be more interested in cross-training when they know how they individually benefit from the process. Emphasize how helpful this training is to them, not just the company. 74% of employees are willing or eager to learn new workplace skills to maintain their position of employment – so capitalize on that by assuring them that this training makes them even more valuable.


Provide Training Resources

It isn’t enough just to ask employees to learn a new skill set on their own time. After all, your employees are only human, with families and lives of their own. To help incentivize workers to try new things, offer to provide the training during work hours, using resources provided by the company.

If you’re concerned about the training distracting from other workplace tasks, try scheduling a group demonstration. You can either make it mandatory or see which of your employees have the initiative to attend voluntarily. During the demo, you can allow professionals to train your employees in an environment where they can ask questions and receive help right away.


Set Clear Expectations

Another aspect of professional communication involves setting clear expectations. Not only do your employees need to know what they can expect to happen during the training process, but they also need to know what to expect from you as their employer.

If you want to be an active participant in the training process, let them know that you’ll be nearby and available for any questions they may have. If not, make sure they know who to go to instead. Likewise, if you’ve hired professionals to assist with the training, make sure they are being patient with the learning employees.

Additionally, make sure that your own expectations are grounded in reality and expressed clearly as well. Identify a realistic time frame in which the training could feasibly be finished, and be vocal about it. Try not to apply too much pressure on those undergoing the cross-training, which can sometimes result in failing to digest new information fully.


Offer Incentives

Providing incentives to cross-train can light a fire under your employees and motivate them to try new things. There are quite a few ways to do this, and whichever method you choose should be tailored to the personalities you work with. You can try multiple tactics or one at a time.

Think of creative ways to encourage your team members who participate. If you don’t have the budget, find some non-financial ways to reward and recognize those who choose to cross-train in other areas. 

Paid Training/Training Bonus

One surefire way to motivate employees to embrace cross-training is to use monetary incentives. If you’re cross-training employees on an individual level, consider providing a slight raise to reward them and compensate them for their additional time, focus, and responsibilities.

If you’re training as a group, you could offer to pay the training employees an elevated wage specifically for the time spent in the training seminar. Another way to do this is to provide a small bonus to employees who successfully complete training and exhibit competency in the subject matter. Not only does this draw employees to the training process, but it rewards the actual learning process as well.


Make It Fun

Make the learning process fun and entertaining for employees to prevent boredom and distractions. For example, consider using fun team-building exercises to cross-train. Don’t be afraid to employ unconventional teaching methods and strike up an engaging or humorous conversation. Encourage employees to work together and collaborate as they learn new skills. This can help foster a sense of teamwork and camaraderie.


Second Location Training

Take the training out of the office to encourage employees to attend. Sometimes, after 8-hour days at the office, employees need a pick-me-up. And there’s no better way to do it than to just change the environment for a little while. Not only will the material be fresh, but so will their perspectives. Sometimes, an opportunity to go somewhere new can be enough to excite employees.


Track and Reward Achievements

It’s critical that you actively recognize and reward employees when they exhibit an eagerness to learn at work. More than 40% of American employees say they would put more energy into their work if they felt recognized by their employer. If you want your employees to have that kind of drive, you as the employer are responsible for rewarding their efforts and success.

There are many different ways you can reward successful cross-training. One way is to have employees perform a “test” after finishing the training, through which they can prove that they have processed the information thoroughly. Those that pass the test can be rewarded with various methods. Including monetary bonuses, free time, or even celebrations like a lunch party.

Making sure that your employees’ efforts are recognized and rewarded is good for productivity and morale. If the cross-training goes well the first time, and if employees feel adequately praised, they will also be more eager to undergo any future training you may offer.


The opportunity to cross-train may overwhelm some employees. But, the right people will express interest in becoming more of an asset to your business. Through incentives, rewards, and engagement, you can ensure that those hard-working employees will be eager to take on new tasks.

Ari Bratsis
Team Writer: Ari is a writer, blogger and small business owner based in Washington state.

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Find Your Way · Grow Your Business · Leading Your Team · Productivity · Your Mindset

Team Writer: Ari is a writer, blogger and small business owner based in Washington state.

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