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Why Cross-Training Can Benefit Employees As Much As Athletes

At the shoe store, you search through a selection of runners, looking for the perfect cross-trainer. You need this type of shoe because your fitness routine is varied. Some days, you jog through wooded trails. Other days, you hop on a mountain bike. And on the weekends, you kick a soccer ball around.

Imagine if your work could be as flexible and varied as your choice of exercise. These days, it can. More and more employers are discovering that the concept of cross-training in the workplace can benefit employees as much as it helps athletes train for big events.

"Basically, when you're talking about cross-training, you're talking about multi-skilling," says Janice Foley. She is a professor in a university's faculty of administration. "Workers are trained to be able to do more tasks and broaden their focus at work."

Foley says that this approach can help both the employer and the employee. "It improves efficiency at a company and also makes jobs less boring for workers."

Michael Harrah is a radiologic technologist at a hospital in Oregon. He has been cross-trained in various radiologic imaging systems.

CT technology is a specialized X-ray imaging process that can take very detailed images. Being able to do this type of work, as well as other imaging such as MRIs, has been helpful to both Harrah and the hospital.

"My day is never boring," says Harrah. "And I am able to help out in multiple areas."

The hospital where Harrah works has just a small number of technologists, all of whom are able to work in various areas.

"We have two technologists that do CT, nuclear medicine and X-ray, two technologists that do MRI, CT and X-ray and one that does ultrasound, CT and X-ray and another that does X-ray and ultrasound."

He says it's essential that all of these technologists are cross-trained. "Being in a rural area, it's important to be able to work in more than one imaging modality."

Cross-training is satisfying for these technologists because it increases their knowledge base and skill level. It also keeps the hospital running efficiently.

"Having technologists that can work in more than one imaging modality increases efficiency and productivity. In a rural setting, sometimes there isn't a full day of exams scheduled say in MRI or CT, so being able to work in more than one area is essential."

Cross-training can reduce also job stress. For example, if an employee is sick, she can be assured that someone else at work will be able to fill in for her.

"While it increases job satisfaction, it can really reduce job stress," says Ashley Parks. She works in the marketing department for an employee performance company in Arizona.

"With cross-training, it's easier for workers to go on vacation. And if they are sick, they know someone can fill in for them," she adds.

This increase in productivity is one of the reasons more employers are interested in cross-training their employees. "It's becoming more prevalent with globalization," says Foley.

"Companies are looking at cost-cutting measures and increased flexibility. Supposedly, global pressures are put on companies to make them more efficient. This is one of the ways it can be done."

These days, workers also want more flexibility. Cross-training is one way for many workers to create more flexible working conditions. It can entail job sharing, working part time from home and covering shifts for other workers who need time off.

Additional duties and responsibilities also make the workers feel more valued and satisfied. "This is absolutely a trend that will continue," says Parks. "It increases morale, making people feel they're working on a team instead of against each other."

"Learning new technology is rewarding," says Harrah. "Cross-training has increased my job satisfaction."

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