In the dynamic business landscape, organisations are constantly seeking ways to enhance their efficiency and stay competitive. One powerful approach that has gained traction is cross-functional training. By equipping employees with knowledge and skills beyond their core functions, organisations can unlock a range of benefits that ultimately leads to improved efficiency and productivity.
Benefits of cross-functional training
Sunil Ranjhan, senior advisor, LG electronics, believes that cross-functional training is an extremely effective and beneficial concept for organisations. It offers numerous advantages that contribute to improved employee performance and productivity.
Appreciation for other functions: Cross-functional training helps individuals understand and appreciate other functions, roles and departments within the organisation, in addition to their own KPIs key performance indicators (KPIs) and primary functions.
Skill development: Ranjhan points out another key benefit — development of multiple skills. When employees receive training in different departments, they acquire additional skills and knowledge. He says, “For instance, if someone from the quality department receives training in production, they become more versatile and capable of fulfilling multiple roles. This prepares them for future positions that may arise in production or other departments.”
“By learning best practices and efficient methods from other functions, individuals can implement these strategies in their current roles. They acquire valuable insights and skills from various functional areas, making them more effective in their own responsibilities,”
Sunil Ranjhan, senior advisor, LG electronics
Well-rounded experience: P Dwarakanath, former non-executive chairman, GSK says that the impact of cross-functional training on organisational efficiency is substantial. To achieve a well-rounded experience and a holistic view of the business, employees need to be rotated across different functions. This approach is not new and has been practised by many companies for years.
Dwarakanath recalls how John F. Kennedy once emphasised the importance of experiencing ‘two plus two plus two’, that is, working in two different businesses, two different countries (in the case of multinational companies), and at least two different functions. Simply ticking off the boxes of different functions without considering their alignment will not suffice. The aim is to provide employees with a comprehensive understanding of the various processes involved in the business.
He shares, “Companies such as GSK place significant emphasis on both functional and vertical rotations. This approach offers them a diverse range of experiences, boosting their confidence and providing them with a holistic view of the entire business. From understanding the intricate details of day-to-day operations, to contributing to strategic decision-making, cross-functional training equips employees with a broader perspective that enhances their effectiveness in their current roles and prepares them for future leadership positions.”
Enhanced collaboration & communication: Cross-functional training breaks down silos within an organisation, fostering collaboration and improving communication between departments. When employees have a better understanding of other functions and their objectives, it becomes easier to align efforts and work towards shared goals. This seamless collaboration reduces bottlenecks, minimises redundant work and accelerates decision-making processes, leading to improved efficiency.
Pradyumna Pandey, head-HR, manufacturing, Hero Motocorp agrees that cross-functional training plays a significant role in enhancing collaboration and communication within an organisation.
“Companies such as GSK place significant emphasis on both functional and vertical rotations. This approach offers them a diverse range of experiences, boosting their confidence and providing them with a holistic view of the entire business”
P Dwarakanath, former non-executive chairman, GSK
Improved efficiency: According to Pandey, cross-functional training enables the creation of a leaner and more efficient workforce. By training individuals from different functions, organisations gain operational flexibility. For instance, Pandey shares that in the FMCG industry, employees can be trained to work in multiple areas, such as plant operations and maintenance. This allows for better resource utilisation, especially during labour shortages, as individuals can seamlessly transition between roles as and when needed.
Increased operational flexibility: Cross-functional training enables organisations to build a more agile and adaptable workforce. When employees are equipped with skills and knowledge across multiple functions, they become versatile and capable of stepping into different roles when needed. This flexibility allows for better resource allocation, especially during peak workloads or unexpected absences. With the ability to seamlessly transition between functions, organisations can maintain operational continuity and optimise their efficiency.
Better problem-solving and innovation: When employees are exposed to different perspectives and approaches through cross-functional training, it expands their problem-solving abilities. They gain a broader understanding of business processes and can apply this knowledge to overcome challenges more effectively. Moreover, cross-functional exposure cultivates a culture of innovation by encouraging employees to think outside their own functional boundaries.
Improved employee engagement & empowerment: Cross-functional training offers employees growth opportunities and promotes a sense of empowerment. When individuals are provided with training in different functions, they feel valued and recognised for their potential beyond their current roles. This boosts employee morale, engagement and job satisfaction.
Pandey believes, “Cross-functional training not only benefits the organisation but also enhances employee engagement and confidence. When employees have the opportunity to learn and work in different functions, they feel empowered and see more career opportunities within the organisation. This boosts their motivation and job satisfaction.”
He also points out another important aspect — the development of empathy and understanding among employees. By gaining insight into other functions, individuals can better appreciate the challenges and goals of different departments. This facilitates better collaboration and fosters a sense of synergy when working towards shared objectives.
“Cross-functional training not only benefits the organisation but also enhances employee engagement and confidence. When employees have the opportunity to learn and work in different functions, they feel empowered and see more career opportunities within the organisation”
Pradyumna Pandey, head-HR, manufacturing, Hero Motocorp
Strategic succession planning: Cross-functional training plays a crucial role in succession planning and talent development. By exposing employees to various functions, organisations can identify high-potential individuals who exhibit the necessary skills and competencies for future leadership roles. This proactive approach to succession planning ensures smooth transition of responsibilities, mitigates knowledge gaps and sustains organisational efficiency in the long run.
Elevation of competency & expertise: Ranjhan observes that cross-functional training elevates the technical expertise and competency of employees. “By learning best practices and efficient methods from other functions, individuals can implement these strategies in their current roles. They acquire valuable insights and skills from various functional areas, making them more effective in their own responsibilities,” explains Ranjhan.
In an era of rapid change and fierce competition, organisations must continuously seek ways to enhance their efficiency. Cross-functional training emerges as a powerful tool for achieving this goal. By promoting collaboration, operational flexibility, problem-solving capabilities, employee engagement and strategic succession planning, cross-functional training enables organisations to unlock their full potential. Investing in cross-functional training not only leads to immediate gains in efficiency but also builds a culture of continuous improvement and adaptability, positioning organisations for sustained success in the future.