“Like it or not we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history.”
That quote from American politician Robert Kennedy came from a 1966 speech in South Africa variously known as the Day of Affirmation or Ripple of Hope speech. At the time his words rippled across the world but that quote applies equally today.
We are moving into uncharted territory and whilst what lies ahead will undoubtedly place tremendous strain on businesses, it also provides a tremendous opportunity for business cohesion. Now, more than ever before, is a time when employees have a reason to pull together for the benefit of each other, their business and customers.
With some having to take time off due to the virus whilst others are working from home in enforced or voluntary isolation it is almost inevitable that there will be a change to working patterns. Some businesses may be able to get around this with conference calls and regular briefings replacing the normal office round. Others however may need to take additional steps, bringing training plans forward as they ask employees to cover for absent colleagues.
And this brings in the time of opportunity. Cross-training is already one of the key planks of a business continuity plan and yet how many businesses can honestly say that they have made time available to train their people in other roles on an ‘in case’ basis? And yet cross training can bring so many more benefits than simply providing cover in time of need.
Building understanding. Training people to take on other roles is far more than simply a case of helping them to follow processes. There is a saying that to understand someone you have to walk a mile in their shoes. Training in other roles helps us to walk that mile. And when we really understand what pressures and success points others in our organisation are living with it can change how we view our role in the business.
Innovation. One of the key planks of innovation is collaboration; working together to develop new products, processes, and systems. Having a greater understanding of other roles can boost collaboration. Not only that, bringing fresh eyes to a job can also bring opportunities to review processes or even to suggest ways in which our own day to day role can be modified in order to help others to carry out their role more effectively.
Personal progression. ‘You never know until you try’. It’s another of those sayings which has profound implications within the workplace. An individual who is following one career pathway may, through cross- training, suddenly discover that another path opens up before them; one which they may not previously have considered. And when you ask people to take on new roles that’s when future leaders appear; welcoming new responsibilities and bringing something extra to the challenge before them.
Most importantly cross-training removes the idea of ‘my job’ and replaces it with ‘my contribution’ to the overall result. When we do away with silo working, when we build understanding of each role and its place within the organisation then we are well on the way to creating a whole-organisation team. These may be challenging times but through measures such as cross training we could just emerge stronger and more engaged than ever before.
Director of Elemental CoSec, a company secretarial firm. Lawyer. Triathlete.
Elemental is one of the leading corporate services firms in the UK, providing company secretarial services, administrative services, accountancy services and corporate services to a full range of clients.
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