Are You Cross-Training Your Manufacturing Team?

Cross-training can be a valuable tool for any manufacturing facility. It helps to ensure that you always have a pool of qualified workers to fill any position on the line. It also helps to keep morale high by giving employees the opportunity to do something new. Here’s some great tips for cross-training your team.

What Is Cross-Training?

As the name suggests, cross-training simply means training workers to do something other than their main job. Continued learning and development can have a very positive effect on morale and help create continuity among workers.

In a manufacturing facility, you might teach assembly line employees to perform quality control checks, or machinists how to do welding. You may also want to cross-train your best performers to be shift leads, putting them on a path to future promotions. Some companies set-up skilled trades apprenticeship programs to help introduce employees to different careers and jobs.

Benefits of Cross-Training

You never know when someone might decide to leave the company, which could result in one department being short workers. If someone in another department is cross-trained, they can simply step into the role on a short-term or long-term basis.

Cross-training may also involve upskilling, or teaching workers new skills, which can help to future-proof your company by ensuring that you always have employees who are ready to embrace emerging technology. It can also mean sharing skills of others you have on staff. As an example, veterans often bring diverse capabilities, discipline and skills to an organization. Consider getting their input and providing an opportunity for them to share with your team.

From your workers’ perspective, cross-training also has multiple benefits. It shows that you trust and value your employees and helps create a positive workplace culture. It breaks the monotony by allowing them to try new things. Cross-training also gives them the chance to learn exactly where their interests lie. Maybe someone is getting bored on the line, but would find new passion as a quality control inspector. In this way, it can even have a positive impact on an employee’s long-term career path.

How to Make Cross-Training a Success

Of course, you can’t just throw workers into new roles without a plan for success. Here are a few strategies to ensure that your program is effective and that you build a strong team:

  • Set goals. Decide why you’re implementing cross-training and what you want to achieve. Then set measurable goals to determine its success.
  • Create a structure. Lay out a plan that explains how you will choose employees to cross-train, what roles are open for cross-training, and how workers will learn their new roles. Also, decide how long employees will remain in their cross-trained roles and what the procedures will be for those who want to permanently switch departments.
  • Select mentors. Identify the people in each department who will take responsibility for cross-training within their area. Ideally, you should have at least one lead or manager and two front-line employees in each department who share the responsibility.
  • Gather feedback and track results. As you begin to implement your new program, ask for feedback from both your cross-training employees and those who train them. Find out what works and what doesn’t, and be prepared to tweak your program. Also, develop ways to track success based on your stated goals.


Cross-training can be challenging, but the rewards are well worth it. Your company will experience stronger productivity and stability, a stronger ability to attract and retain employees, while building trust and loyalty among your employees.

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