2003 Spring Volume No. 1

Cross-Training Builds Empowered Employees

by Margaret Keech, President
Rama Plastics, Orillia, Canada

If you bought a pair of sneakers lately, you know what cross-training is. But how does it relate to the workplace? Cross-training is one of the secrets we used to transform seasonal workers into long-term, loyal employees.

Back in the early 80s, we would hire 40 people for the busy season and lay them off come fall. In those days, we spent the whole season training people and then, just when they were getting really good at something, the season was over and we would lose them.

Today, we get by with a year-round crew of 20. Our productivity has soared and turnover is almost nil. One of the secrets is training all the employees in all the skills it takes to run our plant and produce our products. Now, as the needs of the season change, our employees simply switch to other tasks.

How can you do this in a portable restroom business? Start by making a list of all the tasks it takes to run your company. These could include driving, servicing, sales, bookkeeping, repair, stocking and ordering, customer service and maintenance. Then, pay your people based on how many of these skills they can master. Or, when you hire, look for people with experience in areas like vehicle maintenance, selling, painting, plumbing, landscaping or bookkeeping. Imagine how much more quickly you could grow your business if your busy-season service drivers could keep your business moving ahead in the off season.

Cross-training empowers people and the more you can do that, the more empowered your business becomes.


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