Step 1: Compile a list of mission-critical tasks. For each item, it should be clear who is primarily responsible and who the second and third line of defense are. This is particularly important when an organization is looking to reduce staff.

Step 2: Make sure the backup staff have been properly cross trained. You might ask a backup to occasionally fill in for the primary staff member. This allows them to refresh their training at a time with little pressure, as the primary staff member is there to serve as a safety net.

In a few highly technical areas, asking a second employee to do advanced network repair or systems administration might not make fiscal sense. In those cases, you should contract a vendor. However, the vendor must commit to regularly interacting with district staff so they are familiar with the district’s systems prior to an emergency or staffing crisis. Be sure that your IT team keeps an emergency list of system passwords in your safe or other secure location.

A two-step process can boost your district's productivity

Cross training can save the district in productivity by continuing functions while staff are out for vacation, illness, or training. It can motivate staff to learn deeper skills or expand into a new area. It helps staff prepare for future challenges and promotion opportunities as well.

Leaders need to ensure that assignments are set so all important roles are served by multiple staff and the necessary training is provided to all involved.

About the Author:

Steve Baule, a former Midwestern school administrator, is an assistant professor of educational leadership at UW-Superior.


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