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If you type “cross-training images” in your browser, you’ll get dozens of search results with pictures of athletes and religious icons. Nothing to do with business or the graphics arts industry. This is a good thing but, if you drop the word “images” from your search, you’ll get millions of posts telling you how to implement cross-training (or “multiskilling”) in your business.

The team at Connecting for Results (CFR) has strong opinions on these articles. We think they mislead anyone intent on building a high-performance organization. Why? Because as far as we are concerned, with limited exceptions, we don’t train or cross-train people: we develop them. Animals we train. Likewise, we’ll insist you replace the term “manager” in your organization charts with the term “leader”. In a similar fashion, we manage things and we lead people.

If leaders lead well, their teams will follow them, which makes a leader’s role much easier.

As we always say, without high-involvement, you don’t get high-engagement. Focus your leadership on these two concepts and high-performance will follow as surely as day follows night.

Having said that, let’s acknowledge the millions of articles on cross-training that have great value. While they are based on old organizational models that still think along the lines of managing versus leading, their insights are helpful. Remember when everyone was told the sun revolved around the earth? In our opinion, the analogous belief is that an organization revolves around its managers. Take away the non-managerial employees and what are you left with? The gravity that keeps employees engaged is the leader’s energy devoted to their development.

And leading doesn’t always happen at the top. A number of print companies have adopted buddy systems to help with cross-development to bridge the gap with labour shortages. Whether it’s new or seasoned employees, buddies provide support to fellow teammates learning the ropes in their area of expertise. And similar to good leaders, they coach too, they don’t teach.

This new approach to development is reflected in the overall philosophy of the new workplace. Values including life/work balance, diversity, inclusion, employee wellness, and flexibility are all championed so employees feel recognized and appreciated. Aligning leadership with coaching can be one of the first steps to implementing these changes.

If you’re looking to apply multiskilling practices, buddy systems, or the values of the new workplace to your organization, contact us. Our leadership and recruitment specialists are here to help!

By Gary Forget