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Cross-Training: Preparing for the Unexpected

Meredith Mahon Morris October 10, 2012

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**Below is an excerpt from this month’s ACS Technologies E-News.

You may not think it’s important, but cross-training your office staff is critical. Unfortunately, in many offices, cross-training is something that leadership thinks is nice but not urgent, so it is put off again and again. Most ACS solutions consultants, trainers, or support representatives can share a situation in which a church or school office didn’t cross-train and suffered because of it. Let me share one I know …

A friend who worked with the ACS Financial Suite at a large church had an appointment to see her doctor. Imagine her shock when he sent her directly to the hospital for emergency surgery. In fact, it was so serious they wouldn’t even let her stop by her house to pick up items to take to the hospital.

Her surgery was successful, but while recovering at the hospital and at home, she had lots of phone calls from staff wanting her to teach them how to run payroll, work in Accounts Payable, and do month-end financial reports for leadership.

You probably aren’t surprised to learn she’s no longer on staff at that church. There is an upside to this story though; she has been a support representative for ACS for many years.

In this month’s e-news, Kelli Brannen talks in more detail about cross training in your church or school office.

— Carol Brown, ACS Technologies IDD

The Importance of  Cross-Training

by Kelli Brannen

Cross-training is not only a tremendous help when someone is out for a week with the flu or when someone moves away or retires, it is also helpful during busy times of year. For example, in many churches, the month of January is filled with year-end accounting requirements. In our scenario, the administrative assistant is the main person in charge of the People Suite tasks, and two other staff members are charged with creating the church bulletins, newsletters, and answering the phones. However, during the month of January, the administrative assistant will be occupied with making sure all contributions for the previous year have been entered and are correct, and getting all of the year-end contributions statements sent out. If the other two staff members have been cross-trained in the People Suite, they can help out with tasks such as posting attendance and editing member records.

Getting Started

Now is the time to come up with a plan for cross-training staff members. You may find it helpful to consider the best time to start and which tasks to start with. For example, decide if you want to start with the most critical tasks or with the tasks that are easiest to learn (which may or may not be the same thing).

Hands on cross-training is probably the simplest way to go about this. When people sit down together, show each other how their daily work is done, and then give each other a chance to try it out for themselves, they are likely to understand the work and remember it. They can ask each other questions and take notes in the process.

The password question

You also need to take into consideration what you will do about usernames and passwords, for example ACS and/or the Microsoft Windows operating system, in the event of absences. This may be a concern because some users may have administrative security rights in Windows and others may not. Some may have access to enter and post contributions in the People Suite while others may not. Administrators should decide how they want to handle this, and if they have any questions regarding security, seek advice from their IT person.

The places you’ll go

Once everyone has been cross-trained, do not let that information lie dormant in their minds. Switch tasks with one another from time to time to make sure the information stays fresh. This also gives you the opportunity to ask questions and get any issues ironed out should you hit a road block along the way.

The bottom line is that cross-training now can save you much stress, time, and heartache later. Don’t wait until the star of the show takes a two-week vacation to the Bahamas. Encourage everyone to cross-train as soon as possible so that when busy times or absences occur, you church, school, or denominational office will be well prepared.

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