Often, the only time that employees interact between departments is when there is a problem. This can lead to departments becoming isolated and teams being less effective. One way to help break down the walls is through employee cross-training. This is not to say, for example, that a press operator should become a prepress expert. Rather, the approach is for an individual to first learn the basic job functions of the people who work on either side of them – essentially the supplier and the customer side in the production sequence. Job “function” in this sense means how employees on either side measure, subjectively and objectively, their success (as well as their failure). It also includes understanding the issues and barriers they face in achieving that success. This helps the employee better understand the role they play in the context of other departments, and the part they play in helping the company to achieve its goals.
Cross-training emphasizes the notion that everyone has to be involved in getting the job done right and ultimately making their company successful. Cross-training can include informal technical learning sessions as well as “field trips” to other departments, for example, having a prepress operator spend time on the pressroom floor to better understand press operator issues. Cross-training can also be extended beyond the company walls, for example, having Sales take a press operator on a customer visit to help them connect with and better understand customer issues.