Strategies to Manage Fast Growth


Female executive using cross-training to manage growth.

Growing a business fast is never easy. Fast growth companies often struggle with the increased workloads and demands that come with growth. And these increases tend to accelerate exponentially the faster you grow, making it difficult for you and your team to deliver quality products or services. A common strategy entrepreneurs employ is to “hire their way” through growth. Although this is great for job creation and may seem like the easy fix it does pose potential problems for the business.

First, hiring is expensive! Not only do you add to your overhead with labor costs but it takes a lot of money to find the right people. Advertising, referral fees, relocation expense and internal recruitment costs add up fast. Hiring is also extremely time consuming.   Estimates range from between 2 weeks for front-line employees to over 12 weeks for mid-level management positions. The drain on your internal resources can be tremendous. Hiring fast can also create “knowledge silos” in your organizations. These are individuals or small groups of people who hold the proprietary knowledge (and power) and don’t readily share it across the organization. This effect can have catastrophic implications over time. Finally, when you hire fast, you increase the chances of adding people to your team that aren’t a good fit. This can have a detrimental impact to your culture and cause superior workers to leave.

So, what are some better solutions to growing your business? Implementing a cross-training program is an excellent way to manage the increased workloads and demands that come with fast growth. Simply put, cross-training is the process of teaching employees who were hired to perform a specific job function the skills needed to perform other job functions. But this is not an overnight fix. Effectively implementing a cross-training program takes time and organization and should not be attempted during a crisis.

Here are some ideas on how to set up your cross-training program.

Define the Tasks – The first step is to have each department define the individual tasks that make up each function. For example, to define the task of building a website you may include the following:

  • Needs Analysis
  • Define Development Requirements
  • Content Analysis
  • Pick CMS
  • Develop Project Plan
  • Technical Design
  • Graphic Design
  • Wireframes
  • Code HTML/CSS/Java Script
  • Test
  • Deploy

By breaking down the job into smaller tasks you will be able to see where your strengths are – both from the employees’ perspective and by individual tasks. After you’ve agreed on what the individual tasks are you can move on to assessing your current state.

Assess Staff’s Skill Level – Next measure your staffs’ current skill level with each of the tasks. This will show who’s strong with each task and which tasks are a weakness for the department. There are a number of different ways you can evaluate each individual, including self-assessments or a 360 degree feedback process (where each team member rates the other’s skills and abilities). There is not one right way to do this. What you want is a relative ranking of each persons’ skill levels. A common rating system would be:

Skill Level Proficiency Rating(0 to 100 scale)
Not Trained 0
Beginner 1-25
Competent 26-50
Intermediate 51-75
Proficient 76-99
Expert 100

Evaluate Skills Gaps – Now you are ready to evaluate your initial results. Below is a hypothetical example of a team’s skill level on web development:

Cross training matrix with raw data

Although this chart shows you the individual proficiency levels for each member and the relative proficiency for each task, it isn’t very easy to analyze.

Here is the same data using a HuddleBoard dashboard:

Cross Training Matrix HuddleBoard

As you can clearly see, evaluating the results using a visual tool is much easier. You can quickly see that the strongest team member is Miles and the weakest is Mark. You can also easily see that building Wireframes is the team’s strength while Deploy is only performed by Miles (a good example of a “knowledge silo”).

Implement Focused Trainings – Now you are ready to start working on building your cross-training curriculum. In this case you may want to start by creating a focused training on “Deploy” since Miles is the only staff member who can complete this task. You can also use this matrix to determine who you should include in the development of the training. You can easily pick and choose which staff member would be the “expert” and have them be involved in developing the training.

Continually Measure Progress – Finally, it’s important to continually measure your progress. This give management and employees a transparent line of sight to the department’s overall progress and each individual staff member.

Bottom line? It takes time to implement a cross-training initiative but putting the building blocks in place early will deliver results in the future. To learn how Huddleboards can help you visualize your business, sign up for your FREE DEMO today!

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