There is no denying the increasing role technology, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) play in business. Several commentators place emphasis on the role automation and technology will have on jobs and the workplace. Automation, robotics and AI are advancing quickly and causing dramatic changes in the nature and number of jobs available (Brown, et al., 2017).
There are constant organizational and workforce challenges facing business caused by innovation, technology and skills mismatches. While this does not necessarily mean that robots will replace us all together, it does point to the undeniable fact that our current workforce must become more adaptive in order to navigate the inevitable changes ahead. It is impossible to predict the exact skills needed even five years from now, which places even more emphasis on the need for adaptability (Brown, et al., 2017).
Business will have to come up with alternative ways in which work gets done in order to maintain efficient and competitive all while building engaged, agile workforces. One measure business can take with how work is done is by cross training. Cross training is training employees to be proficient at different albeit relatable skills, tasks, duties, jobs, etc. (Reh, 2017). At first blush, it is easy to see how cross training employees can benefit management:
• Cross training offers a cost savings in that it leverages the company’s talent within its current workforce. Meaning, by helping employees learn and acquire new skills, employers do not have to spend money to recruit talent from the outside (Mayhew).
• Additionally, cross training sustains a business’s production level, even when faced with an employee’s absence. With cross training an organization can maintain a consistent level of productivity even when an employee is out sick, on vacation or taking a leave of absence (Mayhew).
Many Tax Collectors throughout the state, like Jacki Johnson, Tax Collector in and for the Hardee County political subdivision, have effectively implemented a cross training program within their offices to remain adaptive and efficient, improve customer service and increase employee satisfaction.
Hon. Jacki Johnson observed that when her employees’ job duties were siloed, it created a decline in optimal productivity and at times, caused employees to feel overwhelmed. Another concern, being in such a vitally important, high customer contact office, was the potential for employee burnout resulting in a loss of empathy with customers.
While Ms. Johnson admits that her cross training program has increased her flexibility in managing her staff, it has also benefited her organization and employees in other ways. Hon. Jacki Johnson said, “With cross training, my staff has learned new skills, which inherently makes them more valuable. Additionally, with learning these new skills, they have also increased their awareness of the roles and functions of the Tax Collector’s Office helping to instill in them a sense of pride and loyalty to this office which is reflected in the exceptional customer service provided to our citizens.”
With cross training, Ms. Johnson has improved office efficiency and customer service relations, increased employee satisfaction, reduced absenteeism and employee turnover and even provided job enlargement and job enrichment opportunities for her staff.
The bottom line…remaining adaptive and increasing learning opportunities for staff can result in improved office operations and efficiency, fulfilled and engaged employees and better customer service to citizens.
Mayhew, R. (n.d.). The Importance of Cross-training in Improving Team Performance. Retrieved from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/importance-crosstraining-improving-team-performance-33216.html
Reh, F. J. (2017, October 08). Cross-Training Employees Strengthens Engagement and Performance. Retrieved from https://www.thebalance.com/cross-training-employees-2275317
Brown, J., Gosling, T., Sethi, B., Sheppart, B., Stubbings, C., Sviokla, J., Williams, J., Zarubina, D. (2017). Workforce of the Future: The competing forces shaping 2030. Retrieved from https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/services/people-organisation/workforce-of-the-future/workforce-of-the-future-the-competing-forces-shaping-2030-pwc.pdf