Cross-training for a flexible manufacturing workforce

Human resource management is usually focused on hiring and retaining talented employees. Cross-training could be a tool for improving both organizational success and team performance, but is often overlooked by the human resource function. It is in fact an excellent way to develop a versatile and flexible manufacturing workforce.

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Let’s say Mark is a supervisor in your company and has been working on the shop floor for the last couple of years. If given proper training, he can move into production planning, as he is already aware of the day-to-day production process. Let’s say George is your production manager who can spend a few hours every week teaching Mark how things are being done at your organization. Once trained, Mark can take up the production role and the manager can move into some other department that interests him. The outcome here will be better performance and the employees will prefer to stay with the organization because of the potential for growth and opportunities. 

Some of the benefits of cross-training are:

No loss in productivity

If an employee is not available due to sickness, a family emergency, vacation leave, or any other reason, there will be backup employees who can help complete critical tasks. This ensures the manufacturing company can avoid a decrease in productivity, loss of revenue, or straining customer relations.

Appreciation for and an understanding of other departments

Employees have an inherent desire to be recognized for their achievements and they also want others to realize the challenges and difficulties related to the work they do. During cross-training, employees will get a first-hand experience of the work others are doing, helping them to understand and develop a sense of appreciation for their coworkers’ jobs.

Personal growth

Knowledge of a new skill set can enhance an employee’s individual job performance as well as morale. It can also provide new opportunities for promotion in the same organization. This will lead to a reduction in employee turnover.

Birth of new ideas

Doing the same work and following the same daily routine can get “comfortable”. A new set of eyes can add in a fresh perspective to the same work. Hence, new ways to increase efficiency can be found.

The success of a company lies with its workforce. And cross-training employees to take on functions other than their own can help a company optimize its operations while promoting harmony among the workforce. An effective cross-training program is one done both vertically and horizontally throughout the organization.

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