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Cross-training is the single most valuable part of an employee training system. For physical therapy practices, as well as other health-related professional services, it’s also the most overlooked and underutilized training strategy.
To cross-train is to teach employees how to do a spectrum of jobs within your practice. When you cross-train, you create a team with a range of specific, relevant skills that apply to your practice. Successful cross-training means no essential expertise rests with one individual person alone.
Someone’s out sick? You’re covered. Employee gives short notice that they’re leaving? No reason for a tailspin. Too many practice owners don’t cross-train their staff. There isn’t enough time, right? You’re already so overloaded, you can’t spend enough time training people to do their primary jobs, much less prepare them to pinch hit for other employees.
The investment you make in cross-training your staff will pay dividends in the future: in productivity, efficiency, time, worry and money. That peace of mind is priceless.
Here are 3 ways cross-training your team helps you build a more profitable business:
- It reduces errors
When your billing specialist actually gets what’s involved in your front desk work, and your front desk crew really understand what billing entails, everyone is more attuned to when something goes wrong. None of us is perfect. Having other team members know the correct process and outcomes gives each employee a powerful defensive line against mistakes.
Here’s a tip: I recommend that when employees find mistakes in someone else’s work, they not correct the error themselves, but rather bring it to the attention of the team member who made the error. (Unless, of course, it’s truly necessary to fix the mistake in that moment.)
This isn’t to shame mistake-making team member. Just the opposite. Allowing the employee to correct their error gives them the chance to take accountability (an empowering experience) and to learn (also empowering). Moreover, it greatly reduces the chance the error will happen again. Having your team learn to communicate constructively over mistakes also creates a culture of collaboration, support, and shared responsibility.
- It improves efficiency and productivity
When your employees are well-trained in a range of tasks, it allows your team to respond more efficiently to shifting workflow, and make the most productive use of their time. Phones ringing off the hook? Your PT aide can confidently pitch in with front desk staff, so no patient is left waiting more than a couple of rings. Quiet afternoon at the front desk? Your desk staff can help aides with ordering treatment supplies. End-of-year financial reporting due to the accountant? Your admin staff can rally together to meet your deadline. Cross-training helps you get the most out of your staff, their talents and their time.
- It saves you BIG money
Reducing errors and boosting efficiency and productivity have a dramatic and direct effect on your business’s bottom line. (I wrote not long ago about how a single type of administrative error could be costing your practice 10-25 percent of its revenue a year.)
Especially for small practices, cross-training is essential to reducing financial loss and unpredictability. When someone is out sick, or taking vacation, that single person might be taking the know-how for 2-3 critical areas of your practice with them. That’s a loss of money (and time) that can add up to thousands a year—unless you’ve invested time in cross-training other people.
Another place when cross-training can translate into major savings? During staff turnovers. Turnover happens even in the most stable, thriving PT practices. It’s an inevitability of business ownership.
Hiring the WRONG person is an expensive mistake. When it comes time to hire a new employee, if you’ve cross-trained your staff you’re in a much better position to take your time finding the right person for the job. On the other hand, if you’re panicked and trying to plug a staffing hole as quickly as you can, you’re much more likely to make a reactive decision, and extend an offer to the most convenient candidate—not the best candidate. That’s a mistake that can haunt you for the long-term, and cost you tens of thousands of dollars
Struggling to hire and retain the right employees?
Set up a no-obligation appointment to speak with me about your hiring and training challenges. During your free 45-minute call, we’ll talk about what’s holding you back from finding the right people for your practice, how to qualify them, and how to keep them on board. Limited times are available.