In our consulting work, we have observed that the more productive practices have certain common attributes. The one that is most easily observed is when individuals back up others who are either tied up or not available at that moment.
Managers should make it possible for staff to be able to provide backup for each other. This makes your practice more productive. It also leads to better service.
The question is how can cross-training take place without the manager being the trainer and devoting much of his/her resources to those tasks?
Cross-training — Steps to take
Have the employees themselves do the cross-training. In the process the involved employees will also help the practice by developing highly detailed Procedures Handbooks. These valuable Handbooks become a future tool for on-the-job training, when a sudden absence occurs, or when turnover in any position takes place.
Step One: Introductory Staff Meeting
At this meeting, the practice manager will explain that each position (or persons performing one position) will develop a Procedures Handbook for that position. Explain that the purpose of the Procedures Handbook is, in case any individual(s) is on extended absence (accident, health issues, etc.) that the practice needs a training tool to help the replacements get trained for the job. The advantage to all attendees is that, normally, any replacement will be very interruptive of others — asking for assistance while learning to cope with the new job.
That person will also demand a quite a bit of the manager’s time. With a well-documented handbook, the training time will be shortened, meaning fewer interruptions of co-workers, plus less frustration for the new job-holder.
Each position has many tasks. The handbook should be able to provide details, to anyone new to the job, on how to perform each of those tasks.
At this meeting, the manager explains that he/she will assist each position in developing their own procedures. Reminder: There may be two or three individuals who staff a position. They will develop the procedures as a team. They may decide to divvy up the tasks among them.
Staff members are given timetables to provide rough copy to the manager. The manager will review these rough copies, make suggestions, and reassign final timetables. The manager could consider having the position with the easiest assignment to have the earliest dateline.
Step Two: Managerial Review of Rough Submissions
After the manager receives and studies each position description, the manager will meet with each position (one or more individuals), make suggestions and establish a new timetable for completion. If there are extensive changes required, the manager may want to review the next completion phase.
Step Three: Cross-training Sessions
Upon satisfactory completion of any one procedure, the manager will schedule a staff meeting for cross-training. Each attendee will receive a copy of the position procedure(s) to be reviewed at the staff meeting. The handout will serve as the training reference at the staff meeting. The training session could be conducted by one staff person or shared, if the position has more than one staff person. The session leader will go through the procedure(s), explaining the ways different tasks are performed.
At the end of the session, the presenter(s) will have provided a set of tools to assist anyone who needs to do back-up for that position at times of absence that can’t be covered by fill-ins.
Additionally, attendees will be in a position to provide back-up support for any employee.
Next week, I'll have a sample procedure, to help you develop your own.
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