January 8, 2019
By Rebecca Batisto
Employees may miss work for all kinds of reasons, the two most common causes being illness and injury. If it’s just a day or two, it’s probably not a big problem. But when one of your workers has an extended illness, that’s a different story. Not only can the work pile up, it can also really hurt office morale and cost you a lot of money! The CDC found in 2015, worker illness and injury cost US employers $225.8 billion a year.
Employees who are covered by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can take up to 12 weeks off without pay while they are on approved leave. When that employee comes back to work, they have the right to the same job or something equivalent with the same pay, benefits, and working conditions.
You can avoid the stress associated with an extended absence by cross-training your workers. If you teach Worker A to do Worker B’s job, and vice versa, not only does that give your staff more skills (which improves their value within the company), this can rescue productivity when someone is absent, or when an employee has an injury that no longer allows them to perform the job for which they were hired.
We see cross-training in all kinds of industries. It’s probably most common in the military, where commanders understand how important it is to be able to do multiple jobs to lessen risk and guarantee successful missions. But it’s also not unusual to see cashiers and customer service representatives trained in various roles within their companies. This practice allows managers flexibility in scheduling and in covering all tasks during busy seasons.
Quantum Workplace, a company which develops successful employee-engagement software, found cross-training employees exposes them to new skills, functions, and roles so they can not only fill in for their co-workers, but also get to see more of what their organization has to offer.
Cross-training shows your staff you’re also interested in their career growth. It allows your most motivated workers to choose where else they want to learn, which can, in turn, help you identify your company’s “rising stars.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in January 2018, 4.2 million workers took time off because of an accident, illness, medical problem, or appointment. About 2.9 million full-time workers who experienced an illness, injury, or medical problem were forced to cut back to part-time. Another 1.3 million people didn’t work at all during that time for the same reasons.
Research shows there are generally spikes from December through March, which could be due to flu season, but not all absent workers were out with that illness. If you put off cross-training until members of your staff are out due to accident or injury, you’ve waited too late.
Leadership and consulting experts agree that a cross-training program needs to be implemented properly in order to be successful. These suggestions should give you a good place to start:
With a cross-training program, you can not only improve employee morale and skills, but you will also be able to guarantee that you won’t be left out in the cold when one or more employees need to take the necessary time off. It’s a smart move that will pay dividends almost immediately, and we highly recommend it!