It’s SUMMERTIME! This is Why We Cross-train!

by Shawn Peers

Just to be clear, the link between cross-training and summer has nothing to do with peak fitness so we look great in our summer wardrobe! Well…it could be about that. But not in an article for a dental publication.

Instead, this is the time of the year when we try to slow down at work so we can enjoy more of what summer has to offer. Everyone needs a vacation, and summer is the time more team members tend to be away from the practice. That means fewer people available to do the work that still needs to be done, at a time we are already experiencing dramatic shortages in the labour supply!

Now, this is why we cross-train.

Because we need to have “bench strength” to allow us the freedom to take time off at the best of times! Plus, we want to make sure when summer ends the return to “full steam ahead” is not marred by the discovery of one incomplete task after another because team members were not cross-trained to help each other.

And the best time to start cross-training your team members is from the day you hire them!

That might seem like it is asking too much of a new hire. After all, they are just coming on board, and you have so much to teach them about their primary job responsibilities already. How could you expect them to also absorb the additional facets of cross-training to cover another position?

Doing this effectively requires a plan.

An on-boarding plan.

A plan that works in phases.

The truth is none of us can learn very much if what we are expected to learn is all thrown at us in one giant ball of “too much information.” At the same time, nobody will learn much when most information is withheld when training is provided in a piecemeal fashion with little more than cursory advice to “watch what everyone else does and learn.”

Cross-training has to be incorporated into your regular training program. All your key positions have to be covered and then covered again!

That means how you engage in cross-training has to be planned out in a meticulous, organized fashion. Begin with an introduction to the relevant training manuals you (should!) have in your office. Also, any training videos you have would be incredibly helpful.

Then do NOT merely assume your team member understood everything they have seen or read. Allow them to demonstrate what they have learned. Be available to answer any questions they have and provide feedback as needed. In fact, schedule times for feedback during this training period.

As they become increasingly proficient in the core responsibilities of their specific job (you know, their “job description”), you can begin to gradually introduce some of the tasks you will want them cross-trained to perform.

Everything needs to be introduced in “bite-sized chunks” so they can truly learn each task to the best of their ability. And, of course, we are never fully trained…or cross-trained for that matter. You need to make sure you keep a current training program so that skills for everyone can be upgraded.

I know this sounds like a lot and you are thinking “I don’t have time for that. I need a team member who can sort of do the job now!” Rest assured, I am not suggesting you only introduce new team members to one new task per week. Things can go a bit faster than that and can be adjusted to the aptitude of the individual as well.

The key is that cross-training has to be part of your training program. It has to be planned out with the skills properly introduced and taught if you are going to hope for positive results. It is not something that will just happen!

About the Author

Shawn Peers is the President of DentalPeers. DentalPeers is one of Canada’s oldest, continuous operating buying groups exclusively for dentists.

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