Last month in my article Assess Medical Practice Staff Workload to Lessen Stress, I briefly mentioned the importance of cross-training practice staff. This has proven to be a real gem to me this week!
Since writing that article, I took on the project of making sure our billing procedures were honed and up to date, as well as getting all staff cross-trained on every task in the department. We created a training schedule so that I could see which employees have been trained and on what tasks; a list of written procedures and which employee created them; and a sign-off sheet once staff had been trained. It helps to know anyone can step in and take over a critical task, but also, it brings a level of accountability and transparency — two things that are somewhat difficult to measure with staff members.
I was a little surprised and quite pleased at the reactions to some of these training sessions. For instance, one employee who wanted to remain rather disconnected from the overall job found that she understood her job a lot better by training with others. Another staff member commented that he had no idea a particular task took so long, and now had a better understanding of the time requirements for that task/position. The resulting transparency is really key in providing a positive workplace for all employees.
My favorite aspect of this is if someone is out sick, on vacation, or does not return for whatever reason, you already have someone trained and ready to go. The nuances of the job will come as people continue to perform the component tasks of each position, and you will minimize practice downtime.
By cross-training everyone, you have the ability to hire new employees with much less constraint. If you have a current employee who can step in and perform the functions of a more senior position, you've not only promoted from within, but you now have a more junior position to hire for — which will making finding qualified candidates much easier.
Cross-training just makes sense. It really helps to remove potential animosity, since staff members usually have a new-found respect for each other's workloads. They can also work more closely together and get work done faster, since each employee can pitch in and help out the other during their downtime.
The best benefit of cross-training is that you know exactly who is doing what and how long it takes; which gives you the ability to make better staffing decisions. Oftentimes, the busiest employee will ask that you to hire another person to help out. If you've cross-trained your employees, that may not be necessary. Having the option of redeploying staff and spreading the workload out across all positions, empowers you to know exactly when you need to hire additional help.