HR Leads Business

Aug 13, 2019 | Clare Chiappetta

3 Ways to Encourage Cross-Training in Remote Teams

Working remotely offers plenty of advantages, but it would be naive to say there aren’t challenges as well. Cross-training and collaboration are particularly difficult. For example, a 2018 report says 21% of respondents ranked collaborating and communicating as the biggest struggle facing remote workers.

This poses a problem for employers as well. In an office setting, cross-training occurs more organically. Employees are more frequently exposed to each other and become more familiar with different roles. That’s hard to replicate in remote teams.

“Isolation can be really problematic for a company,” says Carisa Miklusak, CEO and president of tilr. “You might have your sales team working in one silo but development in a different one. That lack of cross-pollination can really harm your final outcome.”

How can you encourage cross-training within your organization? Here are three practical steps you can take to achieve more fluidity in your remote teams.

Create Bite-Size Content

The best way to encourage team members to go through additional development is to make it accessible. Your employees may not have the time to sit through a two-hour course, but they can probably spare five minutes here and there. “Utilize ‘snackable’ content with strong relevance to the business context,” says Sindri Anderson, owner and co-founder of Enact Leadership. “Consider offering micro-learning, either on-demand or through virtual webinars.”

Miklusak suggests developing a general curriculum for business content, with an emphasis on video chat. “Video is critical to remote training,” she says. “Sharing eye contact and body language are so important. It helps you to retain knowledge in a different way because you're learning it in context.”

Engage Different Interests

Just because your employees are in one department doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in other departments. Identify those people with various interests and solicit them for interdepartmental training. This can lead to integrating different employees through interdepartmental committees.

“To ensure cross-collaboration, we leverage a handful of committees outside of departments that serve different interests of the business,” Miklusak says. “We open them up for employees who are passionate about the topic or have a skill set to share.” This increases engagement and leads employees to want to cross-train in order to participate in company problem-solving.

Provide Opportunities for Cross-Collaboration

Be sure to get your employees working together on shared goals and projects. “Having your whole team collaborate to articulate a set of shared values is a great way to encourage cross-training,” Miklusak says. “People tend to collaborate better when they share values.”

Anderson says you should also encourage interdepartmental team members to collaborate on and test new processes. “Trust your employees, and have the courage to fast-cycle design processes and invite feedback to adapt the training as you go,” she says. “This keeps people interested, communicating and collaborating, and ensures relevance and timeliness across the organization.”

Make sure to provide communication channels (like Slack) for work chats, but also encourage your employees to communicate outside of work. Replicating water cooler chat will keep your employees engaged in each other and in the company’s vision.