Cross-Training: The Simple Solution Happier Staff and clients

Keeping your staff can be a challenge. Many people will leave their jobs, especially in the healthcare field.

Healthcare workers have historically had high turnover rates. Now, multiple studies report that post-pandemic, turnover rates in the healthcare industry are even higher, including physicians, long-term care workers, health aids and assistants, people from historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups, and those with young children, particularly women.

There are many reasons for high turnover, including burnout, increasing costs of childcare, and residual trauma from working through the pandemic.

Now, your agency needs to find new ways to retain staff. And one excellent incentive is cross-training.

Benefits of Cross-training Your Staff

Training employees to take on a new role in your agency has big benefits. It can keep your staff happy, build capacity, and benefit patients and clients.

Healthcare organizations benefit when they cross-train their staff as a way to muscle up operations. It’s a technique often used to increase capacity among various nonclinical workers and cover care gaps. A cross-trained staff helps reduce overwhelm and optimize processes by balancing workloads.

Cross-train an entire healthcare team on the core competencies of health promoters like community health workers (CHWs), community health representatives (CHRs), and promotores to strengthen teams, improve client and patient care, and increase team efficiency.

What Is Cross-Training?

Cross-training the team in your health program means giving everyone the core skills and creating a baseline education among all team members. In casual circumstances, it might be as simple as an employee coaching others on their daily responsibilities during a lunch break or a more in-depth program to cross-train staff in primary care.

But it can also be a wider and more impactful program in healthcare agencies. For example, it could be required that all incoming employees go through core competency training. Most foundational training programs are accessible, easy to integrate with existing schedules, and applicable to anyone that’s part of your health staff.

The practice helps boost cohesion in the workplace because everyone shares a base understanding and can immediately apply those skills to their day-to-day jobs. If you’re new to building an online training program for healthcare, start by learning about these benefits.

5 Benefits Of Cross-Training Your Team

  1. Excellent return on investment
  2. Promotes respect for health workers
  3. Increases everyone’s knowledge
  4. Better team efficiency and collaboration
  5. Builds pathways for promotions and responsibilities

Excellent Return On Investment

Investing in staff training is a smart decision. It increases productivity, drives better outcomes, and encourages employees to stick around for longer.

A team that’s cross-trained can easily step in to fill service gaps, enabling the agency to provide better care across the board. The benefits to clients expand exponentially because the whole team is able to support them. And your agency works more efficiently and maximizes its budget.

Plus, you never have to hire a temp agency again. If any employee needs to take time off, anyone can step in. This means that your staff can take parental or health-related leave or even a vacation. Considering the high burnout and turnover rates among healthcare staff, this is great news for your health initiative. Plus, a more content, efficient staff means healthier, happier patients.

Promotes Respect For Health Workers

In a health center, for example, administrators are sometimes happier to support high earners like orthopedic surgeons than a CHW or promotor who’s trying to prevent someone from coming into the hospital in the first place.

Cross-training a healthcare team can demonstrate the important and unique role of a CHW. This builds respect and understanding among the whole team. Finally, everyone else can understand what frontline health workers do. 

Increases Everyone’s Knowledge

Healthcare specialists are important. All agencies need expert RNs and dietitians. But many agencies fall into the trap of having too many specialists and not enough generalists. So any gap is hard to cover and can cause a crisis. 

Cross-training means your staff can support clients and patients at any stage of their well-being — especially if that person has complex healthcare needs. Everyone on the team is able to step up in new initiatives, outreach efforts, or liaise in challenging situations.

Cross-trained staff have the knowledge to help people with various diseases and conditions in different areas they might not be familiar with. And they are more comfortable and sensitive when supporting these clients and patients.

Better Team Efficiency And Collaboration

If a multidisciplinary team knows what the other members do, they can better communicate, coordinate job functions and patient care, and understand each other more clearly. Whenever people work together closely, they can offer suggestions for improvement and share their personal expertise.

This means that care teams are integrated and can also understand workflows and the needs of other team members faster and intuitively. The upshot is teams get along better and need to do less explaining. This creates a more supportive environment for patients and employees.

Builds Pathways For Promotions And Responsibilities

Employees who learn about others’ jobs become better at their own. 

When you cross-train healthcare employees, you open up the opportunity for them to know more about how the rest of the care team works. They can then build other skills that can take them on to jobs with greater responsibility and breadth. This makes for happier, self-motivated employees all around. And they’re also in a better position for promotion.

It Pays To Cross-Train

Ultimately, cross-trained staff stick around for longer. This kind of longevity means that the staff you’ve invested in will remain in their job for years, maybe decades.

If someone is happy enough to stay in their job for such a long time, they’ll need those new skills to remain relevant to keep evolving in their position.

Those who have been able to evolve can feed their knowledge back into the organization. They can:

  • Understand more about the agency and programs where they work
  • Contribute more to projects and programs because they know more about the organization and motivations
  • Support others at work by knowing more about their jobs and being able to bring their ideas and innovations to tasks

3 Steps to Cross-Training Your Staff Effectively

Now that you’re convinced everyone on your healthcare team needs to be a community health worker (and your CHWs need to be trained in other areas), you can start to do it.

Training your staff in new skills can take on many forms. It will depend on what you’re training them to do. But here’s a 3-step process you can follow to get going. Review it with others at your agency to find out the right mix for what you need.

Step 1: Conduct A Needs Assessment

Start out by identifying the skills and knowledge gaps in your organization with a needs analysis or assessment.

Besides knowledge gaps, consider local requirements. Depending on where you are, your state may have legislation on your competencies and required experience for healthcare agencies. Some states have certification standards that your staff will need to follow if they want to be credentialed.

Certification often requires retraining on a regular basis to keep up with best practices, guidance, and skills.

Step 2: Secure Buy-in for Your Program

It may be difficult to secure buy-in for a cross-training program if your leadership team believes that role-specific knowledge is enough for everyone to do their job.

One way to earn buy-in is to present the risks and opportunities, along with the potential return on investment of implementing cross-training as a company initiative.

Step 3: Give Employees A Chance To Choose

Cross-training is more flexible than role-specific training because it allows employees to explore areas outside their expertise that they’re interested in. So in addition to measuring and planning, let your staff choose what they want to learn.

You might allow them to spend 20 percent of their time working on something that interests them in the agency. This could be something that you identify as directly relating to their job — or maybe not.

This opportunity could end up leading to great places that you, your agency and your staff never expected, which will make everyone happier.

At Talance, we work with health agencies like yours to develop training that fits your team’s needs, so they can better serve your clients and improve health outcomes. Schedule a consultation now to learn more about how you can meet organizational training goals and improve employee satisfaction.

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