By Maria Collar

At some point or another, the “it’s a so-and-so thing” has been part of your daily reality. Now think for a moment, have you ever worked with someone who puts the “me” in team? More than likely, during the course of your career you have encountered “me” more than once. If you still can’t picture someone who fits the “me” bill, here are a few ways to spot them:

(1) The “me” employee thinks about themselves first and everyone else second. For them, it’s all about “me.” What they want and need comes above all else.

(2) They are convinced to have all the answers and tolerate, just barely, input from others. They would never accept input as valuable.

(3) They are quick to grab credit and slow to accept blame. They never listen to anyone else yet when things go wrong, they can always find someone or something to blame.

(4) They openly show disdain for other members of the team, which erodes group dynamics and cohesiveness.

If “me” jumps to mind, it would probably leave you wondering how to effectively stop “me” from corrupting your cultural values, and ultimately the brand identity. Frequently, a “me” is formed from the desperate desire to remain indispensable and acquire job security. Essentially, it is an outdated perspective rooted in command-and-control principles and fueled with the individualist notion that “I” must assure that my position remains open by hiding in a created niche or else “they” will take it from “me”.

More often than none, this type of dysfunctional mindset is created by disparate treatment, reinforced by unfair policies, and resulted from the fear of joining a rising tide of terminations. Regardless of causation, cross-training has been demonstrated to eliminate these issues. Cross-training is a process that uses internal training and development opportunities to ensure that talent has necessary skills to perform various job functions within an entity. A well-developed and implemented cross-training program can provide benefits such as: flexible and versatile workforce, better communication and coordination within the entity, greater commitment, wider understanding of strategic goals, higher morale, and create an environment which enables employees to grow and learn.

Cross-training, more commonly known as job swapping, entails two employees in different functions or departments to exchange jobs for a defined period of time. Typically, both employees have similar knowledge and skill sets. For example, an individual in marketing might exchange jobs with a person in sales. During cross-training, most employers have a specific procedure to follow as well as a set of criteria to assess eligibility for the program. Additionally, performance standards are clearly established prior to commencement. While cross-training within department can be utilized, very often cross-training is used to increase understanding of how other departments operate and to promote collaboration.

Cross training nurtures team-oriented environments. By encouraging cross-training, talent gets a chance to see what others do and become involved with one another in supportive roles. When talent has an opportunity to learn from each other’s jobs, greater understanding of the business process is reached which, consequently, increases commitment, shared responsibility, and mutual accountability. Furthermore, cross-training has the indirect benefit of orienting talent to broader functions of the entity. Sometimes talent can do a job for a long time but still be generally unaware of other departments and processes within the business. When talent is cross-trained a greater appreciation and awareness for what goes on around is gained.

Cross-training affords the entity an opportunity to demonstrate that it believes in their talented employees. If someone stays in the same capacity for a long time, it can create mistrust which leads to the unrealistic perception of “indispensable skills”. Cross-training can foster higher morale by enabling the entity to show that their talented employees are worthy of investing time and resources. An entity’s visible investment in its human capital can add tremendous boost to morale. Moreover, according to Herzberg’s theory of motivation, cross-training meets the personal growth, achievement and recognition requirements for talent engagement. With proper design and implementation, cross-training can be structured to deliver all three talent engagement motivators.

In some cultures, cross-training assignments are even seen as an opportunity for growth and development. To illustrate, Coca-Cola’s Fountain Manufacturing Operation developed a cross-training program for its employees focused on building three fundamental skills: (1) technical, (2) interpersonal, and (3) team action. The technical component, called Four-Deep training, is meant to expose employees to four different jobs to allow for team flexibility. The interpersonal, Adventures in Attitude, focuses on listening and conflict resolution. Lastly, team action focuses on training team members to function more effectively in the pursuit of their goals.

As with most programs, cross-training cannot be designed in a vacuum. Well-constructed components should be in place long before cross-training program can be implemented. Identifying and addressing cross-training needs is not a one-time project. To develop an effective cross-training program, talent assessment, cross-training content, and delivery methods should be monitored frequently. Additionally, embedding the program into the annual performance review, in a performance management system, can simplify the process.