Improving Cross-Functional Learning at the Workplace Using a Learning Outcomes-Based Approach to Training

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In our previous blog post, we examined how microlearning can be used to reskill and upskill your employees. Continuing this theme, we will now look at an area of workplace learning known as cross-functional learning or training, its needs, benefits, and how microlearning can be used to improve cross-functional learning with a special focus on learning outcomes.

What is Cross-Functional Learning?

Simply put, cross-functional learning or training can be defined as the act of training employees on multiple skills that need not necessarily represent their core function or designation.

Have you as a manager or business leader experienced a scenario where you have delegated a task to someone and unfortunately the individual is unavailable to undertake or complete it?

What would you do? Do you take the task upon yourself and finish it? Or do you have another employee as a resource who is adequately trained for specific times like these? If you have trained an employee or two to function as backup resources; then this is the perfect example of cross-functional training and learning.

What is the Role of Cross-Functional Learning in Skilling the Workforce?

Cross-functional learning or training is much more than just having a backup resource in the case of an emergency. Cross-functional learning offers the following benefits:

  • It improves communication and transparency within the organization as employees are aware and engaged
  • It increases trust among employees as knowledge is not stored in silos, and there is no favoritism. People know what work needs to be done and how to get it completed
  • Employees get a chance to work with and experience technology, tools, and software that would not necessarily be a part of their daily routines. This widens their skills and helps them keep motivated.  A constant finding in LinkedIn Workplace Learning Reports over the years is that  “Employees love to work in organizations, which give them a chance to learn new skills and offer them challenges that they can solve”.

Barriers to Achieving Success with Cross-Functional Learning

Cross-functional learning and training can be quite a daunting task at times. Some of the key challenges that can hamper effective cross-functional learning and training are:

  • Senior employees hesitate to train younger recruits properly and absence of a proficient  knowledge transfer
  • Inter- and intra-departmental conflict that prevents sharing of ideas and knowledge
  • Hesitancy among employees  to adapt  and learn new technical skills
  • Poor training content or absolute lack of training content to train employees effectively
  • Lack of  initiatives from the L&D team to guide employees using a thorough training plan
  • Poorly designed eLearning that does not match with the required learning outcomes.
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Adopting a Learning Outcomes-Based Approach for Cross-Functional Learning

For cross-functional learning to work effectively at the workplace, the senior members of the different departments must come together and create a thorough training plan. Before this can happen, suitable employees need to be identified for different roles and then a customized training plan should be created for them. It is here that the core L&D team of the organization can play an important role in building the cross-functional training plan and executing it with the right tools and learning content.

Steps Involved to Deploy Cross-Functional Learning

Once the best candidates for training are identified, the appropriate learning outcomes need to be mapped to training content. The training content could be an existing eLearning course or a series of video-lectures or printed course material. By aligning the learning outcomes and objectives with the training content; the L&D team can then chart out a training curriculum. Alternatively, the L&D team can design fresh training content that is mapped to help the organization achieve specific role-based learning outcomes.

 Training content is then deployed, and employees are advised to complete the training within a specific duration. Once the training is completed, employees can be given mock projects to work that tests the efficacy of the learning content and the knowledge acquired by the employees. Evaluation of the mock projects will help senior managers and the L&D team to gauge aspects of the training content. With effective feedback dissemination and guidance, the employees who have completed the cross-functional learning programs can be given opportunities to work on actual projects or tasks.

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Using Microlearning for Cross-Functional Learning and Training

In some of our previous blog posts, we have described how microlearning can be used for different types of training to upskill and reskill, ranging from sales and product training to employee induction and safety training. Similarly, microlearning can also be used as an effective tool to deploy cross-functional learning and training.

How Does Microlearning Help?

  • Microlearning-based cross-functional training programs are easier, faster, and less expensive to build
  • Device-agnostic microlearning ensures that your employees can learn on any device of their convenience
  • Microlearning-based training programs can be updated or modified quickly based on learner feedback
  • Microlearning-based cross-functional training programs can be offered to employees as a part of their daily work. This is a part of learning in the flow of work
  • Microlearning ensures superior learner engagement and retention of learning.

An Example of Cross-Functional Learning and Training

The Coca Cola Company is one of the leading global businesses that makes cross-functional learning and training as a part of their L&D and marketing strategies. In 2017, the company decided to launch a program that gave employees a chance to meet, collaborate, and share ideas to help improve the brand’s different offerings. As per this article, more than 300 submissions have been received since the inception of the program that have allowed teams to develop ideas and implement them.

How Cross-Functional Teams Can Drive Organizational Growth?

Cross-functional teams shall play a key role in determining the future of how organizations work. As the last 18 months have shown with the pandemic changing work patterns and schedules; more people are realizing the importance of upskilling and reskilling themselves. Sales professionals are training themselves on digital marketing. Content writers are picking up graphic design skills. Visual designers are learning how to code. This is an interesting scenario as people now are more inclined to acquire new skills, and become proficient in using them.

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Organizations are tapping into the skills of their existing employees and looking to promote people from within the organization rather than hiring a new employee. Cross-functional training offers this luxury of saving on new recruitment costs by offering both lateral and vertical growth for hard-working and savvy employees within the organization. The future is ripe with possibilities and opportunities for not just specialists, but for generalists; who are ready to acquire any skill needed to excel at the workplace.

Are you looking to develop and deploy a cross-functional training program for the employees in your organization? Origin can help you with the development of microlearning content and deployment of learning via our proprietary learning experience platform – Origin Fractal. Write to us at to schedule a demo.


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