How to cross-train employees for multiple roles

Cross-training gives your business the security of multi-skilled employees who can take over a task at a moment’s notice.

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November 7, 2017 4 min read

When hungry customers arrive at a restaurant, they anticipate good food, prompt service and an overall enjoyable experience. While the typical day should have each employee arriving to the job on time and ready to work hard, there are times when this simply doesn’t happen. Should your sous-chef fall ill or a line cook become injured outside of work, there will be a gap in your kitchen team.

Restaurant managers can’t let extenuating circumstances affect the quality of food or service their establishments provide to customers. The best way to bridge these unanticipated gaps is making sure there is a suitable stand-in who can take over the duties of another employee who can’t make it to work that day. Culinary students will come into a commercial kitchen with a well-rounded skillset, but it’s essential that restaurants teach employees about various tasks unique to their operations.

Cross-training gives your business the security of multi-skilled employees who can take over a task at a moment’s notice. Here are some tips to making sure your team is trained across multiple stations:

Set a time-line, but don’t rush

Setting a realistic timeline will help you and your staff reach your cross-training goals. Choose benchmarks to track progress, and include your employees in this process. It’s important to not put too much pressure on workers to learn new skills and methods quickly. If they’re not familiar enough with working at a new station and they try to jump in during an incredibly busy dinner rush, they could wind up making mistakes and slowing down your kitchen, ZoomShift explained.

Schedule cross-training activities during slow times, perhaps weekday mornings or weekend afternoons – times when you typically schedule fewer employees. Allow for some extra time between tasks so trainers can explain activities in more depth to the shadowing employees.

Choose trainer-trainee teams

Pair up employees who work at diverse stations in the kitchen. To decide who is best suited to train different employees, consider these important traits:

  • Proficiency – if an employee is still working on mastering these tasks, they may not be ready to teach others about them.
  • Leadership – Good trainers must be good leaders. Choose people who have a positive relationship with your various employees and have a natural inclination to teach.
  • Patience – Trainees will inevitably have some questions and make some mistakes along the way. Choose people who will be able to handle these situations smoothly without getting frustrated.
  • Willingness to teach – Some of your employees may believe they’re indispensable because they’re the best in your restaurant at their task, and make this a point of pride, Forbes contributor Chris Cancialosi pointed out. These people may be less inclined to provide thorough training to fellow employees, which will hinder your cross-training efforts.

Follow up with employees

The only way to know how well your cross-training goals are coming along is to communicate with your staff. Conduct periodic staff meetings or employee reviews, Tundra Restaurant Supply blog The Back Burner suggested.

Use these times to encourage employees to voice their concerns and state which areas they’re struggling with. You may discover that a trainer and trainee didn’t click as expected, or that someone you thought would make a great teacher ended up falling short. Make adjustments to trainer-trainee pairs as needed.

Additionally, use these meetings to offer praise and recognition to those who are excelling. When you find that one employee has done an exceptional job at training others or quickly picked up a new skill, you may consider promotion or a bonus.

Cross-training is a smart way to give your restaurant the security to weather unexpected employee absences. Over time, your employees will be able to shift from task to task as needed, without disrupting the flow of your kitchen operation.

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