Cross-training is a time-tested method of preparing employees to do more than one job. But Jim Baka, president of CERAC, a specialty chemical manufacturer in Milwaukee, uses it to communicate.
"Several years ago, we started involving production managers in day-to-day sales and marketing decisions by having them sit in on meetings. We also sent them to trade shows. Our goal was to make sure they understood the way the work they do fits into our complete business operation and long-term goals," says Baka.
Baka doesn't think it's too costly to teach employees skills they won't be using over the long term. "If I send my production plant manager to a two-day trade show, he'll come away understanding more about our customers and the need for meeting quality and scheduling goals than he could ever learn from me just talking at him."
Bottom-line results at the 120-employee company support Baka's theories: "Thanks to cross-training, we've been able to push sales up 15% to 20% per year, while maintaining a high quality of product, delivery performance, and technical customer assistance."