I’ll be providing a series of short blogs that are designed to acquaint you with business skills you may have already demonstrated or are developing. You will want to reference these skills with quantitative examples on your resume AND have examples for interviews. Start a simple document to catalog your business skills and then pull examples as needed for targeted jobs.
This blog will introduce Cross-Training.
Let’s start with a definition of Cross-Training; developing the capacity of talent to perform multiple task beyond their basic job description. In sports, we are talking about an athlete mastering multiple sports which improves the athlete’s overall talent in their prime sport. An extreme example would be a football player taking ballet! In business, cross-training relates to developing skills beyond the basic job requirements so as to enhance the agility of a talent and/or team to perform and adapt to changing work requirements.
Why does business want to see initiative taken to cross-train workers, researchers, technicians and management?
There are two (2) answers for you to craft into your job hunting repertoire.
The first answer is an organizational reason. A business prefers maximum flexibility with their talent in the workplace as it impacts productivity, agility, worker moral and speed to market. The more tasks and skills a talent can perform, the less dependent the organization is on limited talent; limited talent that cannot quickly adapt or has to be replaced with outside or new talent – all of which takes time and money.
The organization values the team leaders that initiate cross training team members. Who have you cross trained to help with variations in your research workload, vacations, sickness, hurricanes … ? How have you reduced the risk of experimental failure by preparing team members as backup talent for critical processes? Who can do your job if you are out for two weeks? You could say “this is common sense,” and not a business skill, and you would be half right. It is common sense if you are focused on getting results. Have you trained summer students in a variety of skills? You may be more of a business manager than you are crediting yourself. I find most science researchers have highly rated examples of cross training if they just slow down and look at their own behaviors in the managing process.
The second answer is an individual potential reason. Some leaders focus their attention on maximizing the full potential of their team members. The motivation is not the business, but rather the responsibility of developing their staff/members/peers/themselves. They know cross training will help the business, but it is more important to develop the individual since these are skills that go with them at any business in the future and adds value to their compensation. I find some researchers are like a “coach” and just want more from their talent. Who have you suggested to take a course, learn a language, get certified as a project manager etc…? Do not undervalue the contribution you are making to help others succeed.
Either answer, or both, is valued by business. Want to demonstrate your initiative, build team capacity, and develop agile responses and impact productivity? You do all this when you cross train.
It would look something like this: “One initiative I started with our research team was to get everyone cross trained so any one of us could miss a few days and work would not stop or even slow. We outlined the critical tasks and skills that had to be done or we shut down. We then began to teach each other those skills and tasks until any one of us can be backup for the other. We now make sure all student hires and new team members get additional training to keep us agile. We also make sure new hires teach us something new to keep all of us current in the technology.”
Congratulations. You do have business skills and attitude.