Rather than viewing cross-training as an opportunity to transfer valuable skills and impart key knowledge throughout the organization, some agency leaders might think it’s best if people stick to their own disciplines and focus on getting business done.
The truth is, setting your employees up to perform in different job roles so that they are able to step in for colleagues when they’re out ensures that your agency can keep functioning smoothly even when absences occur.
According to these Forbes Agency Council members, far from being a waste of time and energy, cross-training is a great exercise that can benefit an agency in many ways. Here are 14 important things they say it can help agencies accomplish.
1. Keeping Team Members Engaged
Cross-training is so important in the dynamics of running an agency; it’s one of the key drivers of working in agency environments. Agency professionals love diverse projects, working across various industries and adjusting to meet new challenges. Embracing vibrant cross-training across your firm leads to more engagement and opportunity for every stakeholder. – Matthew Clyde, Ideas Collide
2. Improving Onboarding And Training Processes
Cross-training is one of our top priorities in our onboarding process. Team members who are trained in multiple departments are able to step in to help their co-workers in a pinch while providing new perspectives and solutions to existing challenges. This is ideal during our hiring process, as these cross-trained employees are able to fill vacant roles temporarily while we’re training new hires. – Adam Binder, Creative Click Media
3. Leveraging The Strengths Of Individuals
Exposure is fantastic for helping personnel foster empathy and comprehension; however, forcing employees to learn systems and processes that they’re uncomfortable with could be counterproductive as well. Leverage the strengths of the individual and cross-train employees in areas where they will be successful. – Douglas Karr, DK New Media
4. Avoiding Delays And Ensuring Business Continuity
Cross-training is critical for every role, as life events happen and each job function must go on without delay. The client or brand campaign must continue per the original timeline that was set regardless of any unforeseen circumstance that may happen internally. If you let delays occur, it can have a domino effect and delay product offerings and supply chain management. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC
5. Boosting Collaboration And Creativity
If only a limited number of team members know how to do something, you’re missing out on a lot of thought diversity and potentially leaving yourself vulnerable to inflexibility. We cross-train yearly to ensure a basic understanding of what other team members do and to gain a shared language. This leads to better collaboration and creativity, which is how we prioritize innovation for customers. – Evan Nison, NisonCo
6. Increasing Knowledge Sharing And Empathy
Cross-training has been critical for our team, especially as remote work has changed the dynamics of our workplace. We do a lot of collaboration and shadowing across departments and roles, which has given us a way to increase knowledge-sharing and empathy and support each other when needed—during time away, on big projects and more. – Paula Chiocchi, Outward Media, Inc.
7. Building Interdepartmental Understanding
In the world of advertising, having the creative team meet with the media-buying teams is essential. It always amazes me to see someone’s eyes as they begin to understand the processes and structure of the other department. They understand the reasons behind requests and everything it takes to get things completed. – Brian Meert, AdvertiseMint
8. Eliminating Barriers And Silos
Diverse minds attacking a problem from different angles will always lead to a better result. This is why cross-training is essential. I never want to be the smartest person in the room. I will always approach a problem my way, but bringing in more people gives you needed exposure to other areas. When you have a big problem and you throw out all the barriers and silos, you get better answers faster. – Sue Manber, Publicis Health
9. Knowing How All Of The Moving Parts Work Together
At our agency, we believe it’s incredibly important to be cross-trained and understand the full strategy. Each part of our agency functions according to the Flywheel effect, so it’s essential to know all of the moving parts, the goals and what it’s going to take to get there. With that being said, though, it’s also important to designate jobs and not overload multi-skilled employees. – Logan Rae, Argon Agency
10. Encouraging Creative Thinking And Problem-Solving
Marketing and technology are so complex and integrated that no one can be a deep expert in all aspects of those topics. However, as you specialize and develop experts, they can become myopic in their expertise, which can hinder creative thinking and problem-solving. Having your team members understand each other’s disciplines will help them collaborate and craft solutions as well as leverage each other’s strengths. – Jason Wilson, Strategy, LLC
11. Ensuring The Best Ideas Become Successful Initiatives
In my agency, it is important that each person has some level of cross-training as well as an understanding of what people do in other groups—and not just in a technical sense but from a problem-solving perspective. This is critical because no one works in a vacuum. The best ideas and the most successful initiatives are the result of multiple perspectives and lateral thinking. – Roger Hurni, Off Madison Ave
12. Integrating Teams To Do More Effective Client Work
Too often, agencies follow traditional work models, which can tend to segment employees into departments that end up siloed from each other. More effective client work comes from integrated teams aligned by the strengths and skills required to meet the client or account needs. Benefits of this approach include built-in cross-training and natural backups who can step in when someone is unavailable. – Mary Ann O’Brien, OBI Creative
13. Provide Context And Help Teams See The Big Picture
Cross-training provides context for team members, and it’s also an opportunity to discover new talents that could improve efficiency or add value to your company. For example, writers getting to see what goes into design might change how they approach writing for graphic or video content. The more people understand the big picture, the better equipped they are to contribute to it. – Dmitrii Kustov, Regex SEO
14. Build Fully Functional And Complementary Strategies
When it comes to creating omnichannel marketing strategies, a bit of cross-training is extremely valuable. One department’s efforts can impact another’s—such as with pay-per-click ads and marketing automation—so having an understanding of where the marketing roads cross is critical for building fully functional and complementary strategies. It also doesn’t hurt to have a “backup mind” if a department is in a time crunch. – Bernard May, National Positions