Cross-training employees is exactly what it sounds like—multiple people trained on each job, and each person trained on multiple jobs.
Cross-training employees provides flexibility. It allows leaders to shift people around to cover for breaks, vacations, and illnesses. It also allows leaders to adjust staffing when there are shifts in demand.
A less often considered benefit is the ability to reduce boredom and improve job satisfaction in Lean companies. When processes get more and more structured, people become less mentally stimulated. Cross-training enables job rotations, which keeps employees challenged.
Finally, cross-training encourages sharing and development of best practices. Whenever someone new rotates through a position, they have a fresh set of eyes on it. It speeds up the improvement process. That sharing of a cell also helps limit the feeling of inequity when one work area is easier or harder than another, or when one gets more improvement attention. When the area is shared, the team is getting the benefit—not an individual.
The status of employee cross-training is normally marked on a cross-training matrix. It shows people along the side and jobs along the top. The level of training (generally something like “Trainer”, “Trained”, “In Training”, and “Untrained”) is depicted. The matrix lets leaders plan out where to assign people. It is also the basis for forming a training plan.