A Company Full of Experts

I would like to do something a little bit different and share a story. This story is about a group of employees who worked for a multi-billion dollar corporation.

Our story starts off in a town with the smallest branch that the company has. There are a total of three employees, including the branch manager, and all three of them are multi-taskers and trained effectively in all aspects of the business; shipping, receiving, phones, counter, and customer service.

The manager transfers to a larger branch in a larger city, and is now in charge of fifty employees. The company itself doesn’t have a lot of turnover, and so it is not surprising to find people who have been working for the company for over thirty years. The manager is awed by the level of knowledge and understanding under one roof.

However, he quickly realizes that most of the employees were only trained in one job function, and there had been no cross-training whatsoever. People were great at what they did, but they couldn’t do anything else. The manager actually felt culture shock.

The branch was divided into two sections; the “front of the house” and the “back of the house”. The front was the customer service employees, and the back was the warehouse employees.

The manager had a house that was divided, and with that came a number of issues; two of which were employees not getting along, and failed customer service.

The manager started a cross-training program for all of the employees who wanted to learn and use their skills elsewhere. He started small with a few employees and kept them to “their part of the house”; meaning that he cross-trained warehouse employees to do both shipping and receiving, and customer service employees to help customers on the phones and at the counter.

After that, the employees who showed a continued interest, and had the capabilities and drive for further development, started cross-training between “houses”. Out of the fifty employees; ten were fully cross-trained to work in any area of the branch, twenty were cross-trained to work in their area of the building, and the other twenty liked what they were doing and did not want to be part of the change.

Disaster strikes and the company strategically closes a number of branches, including this one. The company does its best to keep as many employees as they can and transfer them to other locations. The ten fully crossed-trained employees are all promoted to supervisory roles in other branches. The twenty partially crossed-trained employees all get relocated, but are plugged in where there is a need; meaning that a counter employee may now be a phone agent. The other twenty employees no longer worked for the company; a few retired, but most of them only had a single set of skills that didn’t make them as valuable as some of their co-workers.

So what is the moral of the story?

Employees are a valuable piece of any company’s success. An employee who knows that they are valued and needed will be happier and work harder to help the company reach their goals. Training employees in multiple areas of the company not only makes them more helpful and beneficial, but they can make your job easier by creating an environment of accountability and trust. You know that the assigned tasks and duties will be done, which frees up the leadership team to work on their own development and tasks rather than being pulled in multiple directions “putting out fires”.


April Salsbury, MBA is a strategist, an analyst, an operational guru, a recognized leader and C-suite global healthcare executive with drive and focus for competitive markets. Co-host of The Business Forum Show and regular contributor to various business journals, she possess multi-functional and multi-national competencies with more than 15 years experience in business and healthcare. Her expertise is in invigorating revenue growth and infusing value of lean practices in growing companies through improvements to cash flow and operations management.

Fueling revenue, growth and profit, Salsbury & Co. is a consultancy firm focused on helping businesses and healthcare organizations achieve excellency. Our specialists have executive experience combined with deep functional expertise to provide our clients with services that drive real impact and results.

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