Good Jobs Strategy companies cross-train employees to perform both customer-facing tasks and other tasks so that they can shift according to customer traffic. Cross-training improves customer service because employees are able to respond to customer needs more quickly. It means employees are busy even when there are no customers. It also enables companies to offer more predictable schedules.

Cross-training improves employee motivation because they can use a variety of skills and feel like part of a team in which everyone works together to serve customers well. At Good Jobs companies, cross-training is done in a way that ensures mastery; not everyone is cross-trained in everything. In large units, employees typically own a department (e.g., the meat department in a supermarket), where they are accountable for performance and improvement. Ownership drives pride.

  • Assess Your Company

    Our Good Jobs Diagnostic has 11 questions to assess how well your company embraces Cross-Train, including:

    1. Are employees cross-trained on customer-facing and non-customer-facing tasks?

    2. Do store managers have tools to allocate staff to tasks?

    3. Do employees know who works in their area/department and know when tasks have been completed and by whom?

    4. Do managers work on frontline tasks when appropriate?

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Business leaders from Good Jobs companies talk about "Cross-Train" 

Cross-Train Works with Other Good Jobs Strategy Choices

Focus & Simplify and Standardize make cross-training possible. When there are fewer products to know and fewer ways to perform tasks, employees can more easily learn different tasks and shift between them. Empowerment lets employees use their judgment to decide which tasks to do when. Investment in People, by setting high expectations, motivates employees to do their tasks well. Fair wages and team-based performance pay support Cross-Train by creating equality and shared goals among employees.

Case Study: Home Depot

A mistake some companies make is trying to optimize for flexibility with more part-time employees. Home Depot took this approach in the early 2000’s in order to cut costs. While it succeeded in the short term, it created a lot of customer dissatisfaction and reduced same-store sales growth. Home Depot customers expect a lot of support from knowledgeable associates. Home Depot eventually reversed course and brought back more full-time workers; customers were happier.

Improving the Customer Experience at Home Depot (Babson) »