Whenever I hear the term “cross-train”, the first thing that comes to mind is the squat rack at the gym that personal trainers force you to use in between cardio days.
They make you squat because even if running a marathon is your primary goal, you still need to spend some time building muscle. Otherwise, you’ll have less overall strength and endurance to see you through the run.
Sure, you could skip the glute burning sessions and still finish the race. But you might not perform as well as you would have, or worse, you could injure yourself. That’s why cross-training is so important in fitness!
But it’s not just for athletes; in the workplace, cross-training works in much the same way.
Except it involves software instead of squats.
If everyone knows their part well and you trust your team, do you really need to worry about cross-training?
Although often overlooked by many managers, there are two big reasons why cross-training your team is imperative for both protecting the business and optimizing productivity:
1. It Prevents a Crisis
It’s a manager’s worst nightmare: Your star team player resigns out of the blue, and suddenly everyone’s running around like the proverbial chicken with no head as they try to pick up the slack.
Except that no one really knows how.
It has a domino effect on the business. Work doesn’t get done properly, which causes errors, lost revenue, and stressed-out employees.
Therefore, everyone in your team should have a “backup buddy”. Ideally, each person should have multiple backups.
2. It Builds Better Employees
Cross-training will result in happier and more engaged employees. It gives them a glimpse into other sides of the business and how their role connects to them. Your team gets a better idea of the “big picture” and will be more likely to understand the importance of what they do and how it relates to the bottom line.
In other words;
You won’t just have workers. You’ll have a team that actually believes in what they’re doing.
Getting Your Remote Team on Board with Cross-Training
If anyone on your team has “that’s not my job” syndrome, then this is the first hurdle you need to clear before you can begin cross-training.
Many employees don’t realize that the more cross-trained they are, the more indispensable they become! Help your team see that cross-training is a way to keep them growing professionally. It opens up the door to potential opportunities down the road. (Like a promotion!)
Paint the picture so they can see how cross-training benefits them rather than the company.
You can also assure the team that remote cross-training will be done in a way that doesn’t interfere with their preferred schedule. They can learn at their own pace and come to you with any questions along the way.
Strategies for Remote Cross-Training
At first, the idea of cross-training your virtual team might seem intimidating. After all, it’s not as though you can just look over their shoulder and talk them through the process.
Fortunately, there are a number of effective ways to train your team without ever needing to set foot in the same room!
Trying to explain things over email or the phone can be next to impossible at times. If a picture is worth 1000 words then a 3-minute video is an entire user manual! Use screen share software to visually walk remote employees through software or spreadsheets that you use.
You can easily do this with, Loom, a free Chrome extension that allows you to record your screen and share it via URL link. It’s a fantastic tool for tech tutorials!
Project Management Platforms
If your business has a lot of moving parts, it can be tough to keep track of who’s doing what.
A project management platform allows its users to organize projects so that everyone is always on the same page.
My favourite tool for this is Trello. It’s a free web-based platform that uses virtual boards, lists, and cards to keep tasks organized. Its ability to integrate with Google Drive and your calendar means there will never be any doubt who should be learning what and when.
Check out Trello’s inspiration page for ideas on how you can set up a board that works best for you and your team’s cross-training project.
Make yourself available once a week to check in with how your team’s cross-training efforts are going. If your team members have questions, they can write them down throughout the week and bring them to the scheduled meetups.
If your team is spread out across the globe and live meetings are difficult to schedule, the next best thing is using a walkie-talkie app like Voxer to leave voice messages for each other in a group chat.
Templates and Checklists
Email forms, client documents, and other procedures should be converted into templates and checklists to ensure your team is being consistent with company processes.
This is an easy and effective way to prevent errors and omissions as your team is learning new parts of the business.
You can create checklists right in Trello, or by using a web app like Checklist. Documents and spreadsheet templates can be easily stored on a shared Google Drive folder for your team to use when needed.
Create an Online “Course” as Your SOP
You can take it a step further by consolidating all your Loom tutorials and templates into a cross-training “course.” Use a platform like Teachable to create a self-paced SOP you can share with your team.
Yes, it takes a bit of work up front to put something like this together, but the result is an effective resource that completely automates the cross-training process. You can update it whenever you need to, and employees can refer back to it if ever they need a refresher on something.
The beauty of the internet is that there’s this myriad of effective tools that can actually make cross-training easier with a remote-team than an in-house team. Employees can communicate and train on their own schedule for the most part, which means they can learn at a pace that works for them without disrupting anyone’s schedule.
And by expanding your remote employees’ repertoire of skills, you’re building a more well-rounded team that is ready to win the long race to success!