The Importance of Cross Training your Team

Cross training…. Every time I see these two words I can’t help but think of some form of work out and feeling tired. In this case cross training is not a work out and it doesn’t have to feel exhausting. Cross training your team is a simple thing that a manager can do to ensure that the work will get done even if someone is on vacation or sick or in the current situation not able to come to office or work from home for one reason or another.

Cross training starts by identifying the skills that are important to keep the team running in an emergency and then training or helping each member of the team to acquire those skills. Keep in mind that the point is not to make each member of the team to be as good as the member who does the job every day. The purpose is to make sure that the most important work gets done. So if there are nuances of the particular skill that get done because the team member who normally does the work has 100 years experience, the rest of the team is not going to get those nuances and it’s ok. As long as the work is getting done.

Using me and my team as an example: The past few months I have been training my team members to do each other’s jobs in case someone or more than one person needs to step in to cover an absent employee.

let me warn you that some people will not be happy to hear that they will have to take on additional work.  However, as the manager, my job is to make everyone feel like they are an important member of the team and without them we couldn’t accomplish our goals.  I need to make them all understand that their extra work is for the good of the team and I will be available if they need the help.  It is also my job to lead them to want to do it and understand that if the team fails because they were not able to let go of the negative attitude it means they also fail.  

Create a list of jobs and projects that need coverage

I started this project by asking each team member to get me a list of every project they are currently working on, including projects that they may have taken on as a stretch assignment from another team – my company allows for this to happen in order to help employees move up or move into different roles throughout their career. I also asked them to give me list of sources (regulators, third party vendors, etc.) that they use in their day to day work.

Our job involves review and research of legal updates (legislation, regulation changes and statute changes) on a day to day basis to help the lawyers advise the clients how to manage their day to day.

Create a Summary of the Work Done being done

Once I received the list I created a spreadsheet with each of the team members in one column, their day to day work in another column and a third column showing their outside projects. I then asked each of them to take a look at the list and confirm that we had all the work on the chart and then asked them to write a short paragraph about what they do for each of the tasks they perform. So for example, when I monitor laws for the broker dealer business I make sure I look at the any news articles relating to the particular regulators that regulate broker dealers, then I go to each of the regulatory websites and start by looking at press releases and then proposed regulations. While doing that I’m updating the systems as necessary in order to make sure that the proposed items get funneled to the attorneys that need the information so they can advise the clients of the upcoming changes in case they have to change a particular process of the business.

After I am sure that I looked at all the regulatory websites I then turn my attention to the various states’ legislative bodies and begin by looking for legislation at the governors’ desks since those are the ones that are most likely going to pass within the next couple of weeks. Again I update our internal systems to make sure the lawyers are, again, notified of impending changes and prepared to advise the clients that something may be changing soon.

In my portion of the team tasks’ summary I make sure write down what regulators I look at and in what order.  I advise the team which ones are most important and therefore need to be looked at every day and lastly I tell each team member where I go to find the pending legislation. I also make sure I tell the team what third party vendors I use to track the legislation, how I go about tracking the legislation.  

For the managers this is important because you will need to know to what systems your team members will need access. For example, two of the sources I use are WestLaw and Lexis. This is important because it means that the person who will cover for me will need to have access to these two sources and also be trained to receive email updates.  .

Create a Shadow Schedule

Once all the summaries are written and put into some type of order (I call this the desk manual for the team). I make sure we schedule time to have each team member be shadowed by another team member. I only focus on a ratio of 1:1, meaning one team member will cover for another team member but this can be adjusted depending on the needs of the individual team.

This shadowing that I do is focused on how a normal day will look like. The team member who will be covering will need to know how much work is going to come in on a normal day and how it will come in as well as when the emails will be coming in. Knowing this will help the covering team member figure out how to schedule their day because they will still have to manager their own workload.

As the Manager

As the team manager I make sure that I am at least somewhat familiar with the work and the processes being followed by each team member. Worse come to worse I may have to pitch in if it’s a particularly heavy week. That happens if the emergency takes place during the start of the legislative period when a whole lot of bills are being introduced or at the end of the legislative period when a whole lot of bills are being pushed through for signature by the governor.


If you are the manager, it is your job to make sure the team is performing at its best and to be the support for the team.

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