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I’m a 29-year old sales and marketing clerk in one small factory. My problem with my boss started when he asked me to transfer to the quality control department. Since my educational background is marketing, I cannot imagine myself working inside a grimy, unpleasant work environment fit only for manual laborers. He promised that this will only be a temporary assignment and I will be back to my original work after two years. Now, I’m thinking of resigning my job. Can you please help me in coming out with an intelligent decision? In the first place, what’s the motivation of management in pushing for cross-training? – Trigger Happy.
The head of a local branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had just hired a new administrative assistant, and he spent close to two hours explaining the work of the organization and the office routine.
“If you have questions as you go along, don’t be afraid to ask,” he told her before returning to his work desk. A few minutes later, the girl appeared in front of him, asking, “Is it all right if I swat a fly?”
More often than not, management would shoot its feet in urging their workers to become multi-skilled, hoping that in the long-term this would translate to higher productivity. One technique towards this end is to cross-train its people to do other jobs within, which in your case is inside an uncomfortable shop floor.
Your current concern can be summarized in one question: “Is it all right to swat a fly?” An employee asking this question is telling management something important. He has not yet properly understood the job. Therefore, before making a decision, you should explore answering the following questions with your boss:
Is there any other option for us other than this assignment? If none, what’s the possibility of decreasing the assignment from two years to one? Is this a demotion or promotion? Is there additional compensation for me while I am in this new assignment? Am I empowered to change something to make the shop floor a pleasant working environment for all, at least in compliance with labor standards? What’s in it for me? And why choose me of all people in your department?
Naturally, people are resistant to change. They don’t want to leave their comfort zones. As a result, workers like you won’t necessarily jump at the opportunity of learning another job, which if not properly explained by management can lead to a bigger issue.
In general, however, cross-training is mutually beneficial to management and its workers. In every case, management must exert great effort to sell the idea to the workers so that there would be no questions like, "Is it all right to swat a fly?” In addition, there are many motives for management starting a cross-training program.
Multi-skilling done through cross-training provides a greater sense of job security to its people. When management values its people in more than one capacity, this alone can create a general sense of well-being. This means that the organization need not hire additional personnel when it is confident that its current workers can do the job well.
Cross-training provides the answer to employees who complain about job fulfilment. By gaining knowledge of different jobs, employees gain understanding of how other departments and other units of an organization operate. Management encourages its workers to learn other jobs so that dissatisfaction which breeds downtime, poor performance, absenteeism, tardiness, if not high turnover, can be averted.
Transfering to a new job must not be forced to employees even if it’s part of management prerogative. Otherwise, there is a big chance that people may not agree to it depending on their personal circumstances or career aspirations. Workplace justice should prevail at least with management ensuring that they comply with occupational safety and health.
Lastly, you can test the sincerity of management in giving you this assignment. How amenable is your management in upgrading the work environment, so much so that they comply with the minimum standards of occupational safety and health?
Don’t resign your job on the basis of this proposed cross-training. Instead, take it as your best chance to be instrumental in making one big change happen for the sake of the “manual laborers.”
This column is for non-management people who can’t raise an issue directly against one’s boss for fear of reprisal. If you’re part of management who has an opposing or supporting view, then send us your feedback by citing your own experience or a published material by a management expert. Send feedback or questions to email@example.com
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