As we have seen, things change quickly in today’s world. Organizations that weather the constant challenges and changes do so because they have intentionally cross-trained their talent to be ready to assist in other roles if needed.
Take the current situation with COVID-19, for instance.
- Some employees will develop the coronavirus and will not/should not be in the workplace.
- Some employees will have to shift to remote work because of their home situation and the need to manage their kids because schools have been shut down, making them unavailable for some aspects of their roles.
- Some employees will not feel comfortable with being out in the world or with the safety practices in your workplace and choose to be laid off or take an unpaid leave. This results in a vacant role with unmet responsibilities.
Regardless of the reason, the presence of COVID-19 has illustrated that we need to expand the capabilities of our teams to accommodate changes in both the workplace and the world. Without a plan, vital employees may be removed from your roster leaving significant holes in your staffing which will directly – and immediately – affect your operations, service and performance.
Developing employees through cross training, at least for vital or key roles, expands an organization’s bench strength. When more employees can handle responsibilities expected from other roles, the organization is more resilient and responsive to internal and external changes.
To build your bench strength, consider the following.
- Introduce the need for all roles to have backup support as a means to achieve the goals and service commitments of the organization.
- Identify the key roles in the organization that would require a support employee or team if the person in the role were not available for whatever reason (think back-up). After developing a back-up plan for those key roles, identify the support team for all remaining roles to be activated when necessary.
- Identify the critical responsibilities in each role (starting with key roles) that can be shared and create resources to educate and train support employees.
- Select the support employees who could learn aspects of these roles and start the education process.
- Develop and implement an incentive plan for those who accept additional responsibilities as support employees when business interruptions happen.
- Have managers for all key (and ultimately all) roles. Coordinate this initiative in their department to ensure they are able to deliver on their department’s goals and objectives.
Expanding what employees know and can do in the workplace not only creates the support if an employee is unavailable, but it also develops employees and shows management the additional capabilities employees have that may not have been previously noticed. This could also be an effective way to identify potential future leaders.
All too often we wait until a crisis is here to realize a key employee is not available and their work is now not consistently happening. Using the wakeup call of COVID-19, develop a plan to build your organization’s bench strength to be able to successfully continue operating the business, regardless of the interruptions.
Who will you charge with the responsibility to create a backup team or expanded bench for your organization? How will you advance the priority of this initiative to ensure your organization is not interrupted by the personal or world challenges that affect employees?
By Jay Forte
Consider reading Your Employees: Help Them Grow or They Will Grow with Someone Else