Businesses are like complex organisms which consist of different parts or departments taking care of various important functions. Everyone from the CEO to the mail delivery boy is important part to ensure smooth functioning. This is why organizations hire based on specialty and experience so that all employees contribute the best of their capability. Great care is also taken to train new employees in their special domains so that they become experts as soon as training is over.
But what about knowledge of what the other teams are doing? Does your organization believe in letting employees interact and mingle work, styles, cultures, and methods? Do you facilitate exchange of ideas across different teams? Do your salespeople interact with web developers to learn about website development? Is your accounts team aware of how the engineers design products?
Cross-Functionalism in the Workplace
In terms of employee management, it may be considered excessive if teams have to learn the tricks of an unrelated team trade. How would sales benefit by learning website development? What does it matter if the finance team learns how to code software? The questions asked are:
- Why is it needed?
- What will the benefit be?
- How can it help us?
- When will employees train themselves?
- Where do we accommodate this training in key metrics for performance review?
Cross-functional training may not have any immediate increases in revenue but it develops employee skills. Each team is employed in a different sort of profession within the larger umbrella of a business. Therefore, work methods and cultures differ in each team. While a sales team is revenue driven, the engineering team has time-bound projects to deliver, and a finance team looks for ways to increase revenue and curb expenses all day long. The driving factors of each team are different.
Cross-Functional Training: A Powerful Tool
When employees spend a day away from their usual work experiencing a whole new culture, they try hard to fit in. Within hours, as they start working, they develop their own rhythm and work style. This style is certainly influenced by the experts around them but it is not always similar. Employees like to bring their individuality to work and make it unique. That is a value-add to their work which becomes a unique insight when they do someone elses job for a day.
From the perspective of a manager, observing how they divide each task and tackle it is important. The learning time of each employee is different, so how they complete a task, how much time it took, how much help they needed, and the feasibility of the end result are parameters to judge performance. When these parameters are applied to the team, it gives a standard to measure employee performance and productivity levels. How an outsider handles the job can be helpful to predict the methods in which future projects will be handled.
Cross-Functionalism: What You Can Learn
While employees learn new tricks, they also learn how other teams work. Work values and methods learnt are imbibed and applied to their everyday work once they go back to their routines. This enables them to add further value. They are bringing best practices from across the organization and professions to improve the quality of their work. When employees add such value to their own little parts, they contribute to the larger goal of high quality in the organization.
So let your employees mix and mingle and learn new things. Cross-functional work cultures also promote inter-team dynamics and harmony across the organization. All in all, it is a great employee engagement tactic.