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Cross-training: An effective risk-mitigation strategy against Coronavirus

Talent Intelligence March 17, 2020

Cross-training: An effective risk-mitigation strategy against Coronavirus


As the coronavirus spreads, global companies are hunkering down. Pandemics like Covid-19 can lead to the temporary loss of employees with mission-critical skills due to sickness or family emergency. Today’s enterprises can’t risk failing because they lose their key employees at a critical juncture. Cross-training development programs help in risk-proofing enterprises during pandemic situations and ensure that businesses operate effectively.

With the coronavirus creeping globally, HR managers may have to deal with the threat of a serious illness, keeping key employees out of the workplace. Cross-training as a risk-mitigation strategy involves developing internal workforce capacity to ensure that a company has the flexibility to tackle fluctuating workflows. It is also a type of skill-development program to achieve corporate readiness during high-risk events, or simply as a way to help an employee to move up in the organization. Either way, cross-training can be extremely beneficial for organizations as a whole.

Regardless of the industry, cross-training can be leveraged across any business function and job roles. Organizations with high customer-support workloads, frequently cross-train their service executives on a variety of skills including soft skill development to achieve customer empathy. Some of the real-time cross-training examples are:

  • Retailers cross-train cashiers and customer service representatives to handle a variety of store operations that helps them tackle workforce fluctuation.
  • Hi-tech companies expect employees to become “certified” on the entire portfolio of offerings and offer various perks for those who invest time and energy in knowledge and skill enhancements.

IDEO’s CEO, Tim Brown, explains this concept creatively by classifying employees according to their expertise and collaboration capabilities:

  • I-shaped individuals– Employees with expertise in specific areas but have an extremely limited ability to collaborate across disciplines.
  • T-shaped individuals– Have deep expertise in one area and a working understanding across disciplines, which gives them insight into the bigger picture.

To build a team of T-shaped employees, workforce management leaders need to frame a successful cross-training program master plan with the following goals:

Creating a culture of teamwork:

Being indispensable is a pride factor for some employees. Make it clear that a single-point contact is always organization weakness and the leaders believe in collaborative success. It is important to value and reward employees that have shown outstanding teamwork capabilities.

Devise a cross-training framework:

Instruct managers to identify employees that can step-up into their role at a short notice. Identify skill gaps and leverage micro/macro e-learning modules to cross-train those employees.

Test and simulate:

Run simulations to ensure cross-training achieves desired goals. Commit a manager with a high-value project during his/her absence and see if anyone steps-up to take up the responsibility. If someone steps-in and doesn’t pull in the manager in absence for support, it indicates that the cross-training initiative is effective.

Develop a feedback mechanism:

Record employees’ feedback on the impact of cross-training initiatives and use this feedback data to continuously improve your efforts.


Enterprises need to perceive cross-training as insurance against ineluctable scenarios like Coronavirus. Although it takes a toll on productivity initially, it’s a small price to pay considering the long-term risk-mitigation and employee efficiency benefits.

Draup, our AI-based talent intelligence platform tracks fast-growing skills and roles across industry verticals to help HR executives devise cross-training frameworks. Our platform maps 40,000+ courses and certifications across offline/online academic programs to help the enterprise workforce to attain cross-functional skills or career paths.

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