Last week I came across a task I needed to do for a customer. I just needed to give them a quick discount on a product we sell, but I had no idea how to do it. I know I wasted the time of at least two people at my company Dasheroo. (Poor Josh and Jen). But what it highlighted was that even though doing this for a customer is technically "not my job", with the proper training I could have easily done this menial task and not wasted anyone's time. But hey, we're in startup land so we figure out as we go:-)
So how about cross training your team on other functions of the company? Ok, you're not going to train the Financial Analyst how to code, but you can show them how the product team goes about selecting what types of features are going to be released in the next software deploy. You can show that same Financial Analyst the process it takes to order and ship a product.
So what does cross-training really do for your team? Here are 5 advantages that might help your business.
Helps When Someone Goes on Vacay
When you cross train your people, the 'OOO' email can turn into a benefit, a reply telling the email recipients to talk to someone else that can facilitate an answer for them. Documenting and cross training for this could save revenue and keep customers (internal and external) happy no matter what the function is.
Helps Bridge a Gap if Someone Leaves Your Company
The inevitable happens, people move on. But if you don't have someone hired to replace that person before they leave, you've got a black hole. Now, if you've spent some time cross-training beforehand you might have some help in the interim before you backfill the position.
Helps Your Team Grow and Experience Something New
Perhaps you've got a stellar customer service rep that always wanted to know about social media marketing as a career path. Or your social media manager wants to know how to get into product management. I've had people in customer service that have self-taught themselves to code after being exposed to the engineering environment. Any way you look at it, it's an opportunity for you to keep stellar people in your company.
Helps Your Team Understand Each Other's Role In Your Company
Perhaps you have a salesperson who wanted to know what marketing does to drive leads for them or your customer service people want to know how purchasing decisions are made. This is a great opportunity for you to have a "shadow" day where someone from one department shadows someone from another for a day in a given month. Then your people begin to understand why certain business process take the time they take. Bonus? You get some great ideas on how to shorten cycles.
Helps Bring New Ideas to How the Overall Business Operates
This is a great opportunity for a business process overhaul. Say you've got someone from Finance wanting to know how marketing drives sales and how the sales process happens through all of the customer touch points. That fresh perspective could save weeks of time and huge operational costs.
So like said, your highly trained financial analyst is not going to take over for your salesperson, but it would be great for them to know the process a salesperson has to go through to get a sale input into a system.
Go ahead and run it by the team, I'm sure they'll be on board!