When you consider the wide range of services that IES offers its clients, you may think we have hundreds of employees, or that we use sub-contractors. That’s not quite the case – we’re a small to medium-sized company with 60+ employees.
So how do we carry out the numerous functions required for things like factory relocation, machinery movement and engineering services with a relatively small team? And how do we do it while still focusing on staff development? The answer is: Cross-training. Here’s why we do it, how we do it, the ways in which could benefit your company…
What is cross-training?
Cross-training simply means that members of staff are trained to work across multiple areas within a business. At IES we help our team broaden and develop their skills so they can carry out a variety of functions rather than just being focused on one narrow skillset.
How it works
As an example, when we send out equipment movers or ‘riggers’ (the people who move machines into factories and onto lorries), rather than send out a secondary team to de-install those machines, we cross-train the team to be able to do both. Before a machine can be moved, it has to be safely de-installed, which can include helping the customer to shut the machine down and then unbolting all the various modules.
Many of our riggers are cross-trained to be able to carry out every element of the move, from shutting the machine down to de-installation and then finally packing, crating and moving.
When we see talent and potential, we give our staff the opportunity to train and learn as many functions as possible.
Four Countries, Four Languages and Demanding Timescales - read the story of a pan-European factory relocation
The benefits of cross-training
If you have to send out big teams or subcontract parts of a job, it’s likely to be both costly and difficult to coordinate. For most engineering companies, travel is a big cost. As our staff are cross-trained, instead of having to pay for flights and hotels for dozens of employees, we can send one team of people so our expenses are greatly reduced.
With so many elements required for relocation or machinery movement, if one piece is missing, the whole operation can come to a grinding halt – one reason why relying on subcontractors can hamstring a project. Conversely, when you can get everything done with a small team in-house, you save money and time, and things run much more smoothly.
Another of cross-training’s major benefits is that it improves the overall productivity of the business. If someone is only trained to move machines, what do they do if there’s nothing to move? If they’re cross-trained, they can go and help in another department.
When you have a business which consists of multiple components, cross-training allows you to spread your talent to suit changing demands. If it’s quiet in the moving area but the packing department is busy, at IES we know our staff are fully trained to do both so they can go and help out there with packing items or building crates.
Within the engineering industry, cross-training acts as a kind of insurance; it allows you to have quality control and self-reliance. When you have to use sub-contractors, you’re not in charge of the quality of the service, and planning can be difficult.
If you’re doing a job for someone and you hire sub-contractors who don’t provide a good standard of service, as far as your client’s concerned, the buck stops with you. The net result of this could be that the reputation of your business is damaged. By using your own staff, you mitigate this risk; mistakes can still happen, but they’re less likely to if you’re responsible for the quality and training of your team. If and when errors do occur, you can pinpoint exactly why and do something about it - with a sub-contracted team, you have no control.
Looking after our employees
Perhaps the biggest advantage of cross-training is the effect it has on employee satisfaction and retention. Cross-training gives staff the opportunity to learn new skills and challenge themselves. Instead of doing the same thing every day, it gives people the chance to diversify what they do, which in turn, means they’re less likely to feel unsatisfied at work.
In many companies, if you’re a packer, you’ll only work in the packing department, packing items or building boxes every day. At IES, you could be packing one day and travelling across the world the next to de-install and move complex equipment. Allowing our staff to experience and work within the different areas of our business instils confidence, and a sense of pride - all of which leads to a happier, more productive team.
There are no downsides to cross-training. Taking time to train your staff in multiple functions can help you create a more cohesive, self-reliant, productive business. Your reputation is solely yours to build, your staff feel valued and challenged, and your costs are significantly reduced. The most important benefit is the experience and opportunity it provides for employees; rather than limiting their scope to one area, cross-training facilitates growth and encourages people to reach their full potential.