How Manufacturers Mitigate the Effects of Employee Turnover: Cross Train Employees


This blog is part of a series discussing 5 Ways Manufacturers Mitigate the Effects of Employee Turnover. In this blog, we will focus on our second recommendation: Cross Train Employees. I have personally observed manufacturing companies becoming vulnerable to employee turnover. In addition to turnover, manufacturers can be affected by absenteeism and paid time off.

Cross-training is a systematic approach to strategically train your staff on each other’s tasks. This allows them to fill in for each other, when necessary, without affecting your production. Cross-training is a concept that can alleviate the frustration of not having coverage when one of the previously mentioned situations happens. Among the benefits of cross-training are:

  • Flexibility to handle changes in work requirements
  • Avoiding work interruptions, errors, and/or late production
  • Reduction or elimination of dependency on a specific employee
  • Consistent quality and efficiency across your staff
  • Increase in human capital utilization

The effects of a lack in cross-training could be significant. Losing an employee that is the only one trained in a critical process or operation could be a major setback, for example.

Implement cross-training by following these steps:

  1. Break down your staff’s work by tasks regardless of who performs them, and by job titles. For instance: A warehouse worker picks, receives, and ships products. Or an accountant documents entries, completes month-end closing, and pays invoices, etc.
  2. Rate your employees on each task. Use a scale that fits your team: 1-5 or beginner to expert. Feel free to get input from others or even your employees.
  3. Prioritize the tasks using these two criteria: a) The criticality of the task: In other words, how impactful to your business will it be to not have anyone trained on this task. This could be critical because of task difficulty or because it is a high usage task. b) The number of people trained: Ask yourself if you have enough people trained on the task to cover for an unexpected situation.
  4. Once you have identified and prioritized the tasks for which you would like to cross-train staff, build a plan. You can build this in a Gantt chart format to show a timeline for completing the cross-training of each task.
  5. Assign a proficient employee to train a beginner. They should work together to establish a timeline. Also, have the trainer break down the teaching of the task into phases.
  6. Follow up with both employees periodically and use the phases provided by the trainer to assess the employee’s learning progress.
  7. Test and document. This could be as formal as a written or practical assessment, or as informal as a hands-on demonstration. Be sure to document that the training has been completed to ensure the newly trained employee feels empowered and has the ownership of the new skill.

Repeat this process and you will have a staff that can withstand turnover among many unexpected obstacles.

In my next blog, I will discuss the third recommendation to mitigate the effects of employee turnover: Develop your leaders.

If your manufacturing organization is dealing with high employee turnover and you would like to discuss your situation, schedule a call.

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