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Honing the Team Members' Skills 310 "Okay, I've learned my colleague's job, but when will I do it?" Another problem in cross-training is that new skills are easily forgotten if not used. A good example of this is what happened when Arlene took maternity leave. Arlene's job in the team was processing orders. She checked the order against current inventory to determine if it could be filled from stock. If not, she sent a replacement order to the production department. Her work kept her very busy. When the team leader instituted a cross-training program, each team member had to teach her job to three other team members. Arlene spent several hours a day for a week training them how to handle her tasks. After the training, all the members returned to doing their regular work. It was more than a year later when Arlene left on maternity leave for 12 weeks. Her work was divided among the members who had been trained in her job--but as none had even thought about the job since the original training, they all had to be retrained. To avoid this, the cross-training has to be reinforced over time. Periodic refreshers should be ar- ranged for this purpose. Even better, require all members to work on the job for which they were cross-trained from time to time. Heads Up! Practice does not make perfect. If people practice doing things wrong, they become perfect in doing things wrong. Practice makes permanent. When you train associates, periodically check out what they're doing. If it's wrong, correct it immediately, before it becomes permanently ingrained as a bad habit. Training As a Team Activity Just because you're the team leader doesn't mean that you have to train all your team members. The training function should be shared by everyone on the team. Some organizations encourage an entire team to share in the task of training new members; others assign one person to act as a mentor. Determining who will train new members or be assigned to retrain others depends on what the member is being trained to do. Caution: A person who knows the job best isn't always the best qualified person to train others. It takes more than job knowledge to be an effective trainer. Job know-how is essential for the person who will do the training, but it's only part of the picture. Look for these additional factors: · Personal characteristics.Patience, empathy, and flexibility. · Knowledge of training techniques.If a team member has the personal characteristics, he can learn the training techniques. Some companies provide "Train the Trainer" programs to build up the communications skills in people who will do the training. · A strong, positive attitude toward the job and the company.If you assign a disgruntled person to do your training, that person will inject the trainee with the virus of discontent. Whether the members will function in the future as permanent team leaders or take their turn in leading a self-directed team (see Chapter 24), training will be an essential part of their jobs. Time and effort spent in training members how to train is well worthwhile.