What would happen if one of your not-for-profit’s key people suddenly quit or had to go on long-term disability? Would you be able to conduct business as usual? To prevent a critical function from possibly coming to a standstill, consider cross-training staff.
Cross-training personnel means that you teach them how to do one another’s jobs. That way, if one staffer is unavailable, another can jump in and do the job. Cross-training also can increase your organization’s productivity. If the workload temporarily becomes heavy in one area, you’ll be able to shift employees where they’re needed.
There’s also value in a fresh pair of eyes. An employee who’s filling in for someone else can bring new perspective to day-to-day operations and may be able to come up with process improvements.
What’s more, cross-training staff is central to strong internal controls. For example, making sure that one accounting employee’s job is periodically performed by another employee can potentially help to prevent fraud.
Employees also gain
Employees can benefit, too. If the task a cross-trained staffer learns is vertical — it requires more responsibility or skill than that employee’s normal duties do — the employee may feel (and be) more valuable to the organization. If the task is lateral — with the same level of responsibility as the employee’s routine duties — the staffer still gains a greater understanding of the department or organization. Plus, the shared experience fosters mutual support.
Not every employee is a candidate for cross-training. Choose people who show an interest in particular areas of your operation and are open to change. For example, your program coordinator might want to learn more about fundraising and could be an appropriate person to back up your development team.
Begin the process by determining which positions should be cross-trained and creating an implementation plan. Be sure to build the idea of cross-training into your hiring process. Select job candidates who show flexibility and curiosity, and let them know that, if hired, they may need to learn how to perform the duties of other employees.