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Déjà Leonard is a copywriter and freelance journalist based in Calgary.

The new year is quickly approaching and more people will be thinking about their career goals, and potentially jump ship for other opportunities after they pocket a bonus. This reflective time of year, paired with the general chaos of the current job market for employers, spells trouble for the companies scrambling to attract and retain talent.

In this Forbes article, big brands such as Hershey Co., Lumen Technologies and Qualtrics outline how they are working to retain their talent. They suggest four major tactics: listening to your employees, bringing employees back to the office in phases, addressing employee well-being, and then iterating on your ideas and processes to keep a pulse on what your people need.

While this people-centered approach is sure to make an impact, Dorothy Spence, founder of Imaginal Ventures, a business advisory firm, says there may be another strategy employers can leverage – employee cross-training.

Cross-training is the practice of training people to work in more than one role, or training them on tasks for which they aren’t normally responsible.

“It’s like future-proofing the business because there’s always somebody that can step into a role if another person happens to leave,” Spence says. And there are benefits to both employer and employee.

“From an employer perspective … it provides flexibility, speed and agility. From an employee perspective … you’re learning and you’re developing new capabilities, which means that you have more skills to bring to the work force,” she says.

According to EdgePoint Learning, an e-learning company, cross-training also enhances collaboration and employee motivation, increases efficiency and overall can be a great return on investment.

Spence’s company recently created cross-training strategies for Placemaking 4G (P4G), a growing human resources recruitment company. Imaginal Ventures worked to cross-train P4G employees on P4G’s internal approach to working with customers – a skill that typically may only be learned by one team or one individual depending on the size of the business.

“We just watched their growth after the team emerged from this training, and it’s unparalleled. A lot of that has to do with everybody’s really aligned,” Spence says.

According to Spence, the biggest challenge for cross-training employees is “the investment of time and money.” She says companies should make sure that cross-training makes sense for their business strategy and then commit to the process.

Spence advises that companies typically need to be self-sustaining before they can focus on building capability for the future through this approach.

“The choice comes down to the strategic question you have of: How fast you do want to grow? The faster, the bigger the growth, the more [you need to] invest in people,” Spence says.

What I’m reading around the web

  • Immerse yourself in Ryan Moser’s story in Reasons to be Cheerful. It outlines how he, an incarcerated man, and many others are finding purpose and building skills by training in the water treatment field while they wait to be released.
  • Goldman Sachs wanted to ensure they were “leading, not just competing” when it came to attracting and retaining top talent and reducing burnout. So, the Wall Street giant introduced new employee benefits, like making it easier to take time off, expanding bereavement leave and allowing unpaid sabbaticals.
  • The Society for Human Resource Management has pulled together some interesting information, including data on the expectations of remote workers, how effective pay strategies are lacking, and different approaches companies can take to fairly compensate a dispersed work force.
  • Have you ever felt annoyed by someone’s (seemingly) innate kindness or morality? According to this article in BBC, “altruistic behaviours are often appraised from multiple angles besides the generosity of the act itself,” and instinctively, we often second-guess the reasons for other’s actions.

More from Globe Careers

What happens if I give less than the expected one month’s notice before quitting my job? In this week’s NinetoFive advice column, a reader who started a new job and realized immediately it wasn’t a good fit asks what happens if they leave with less than one month’s notice, as stated in their contract.

To-do lists don’t have to be intimidating Do you shy away from to-do lists? Our instinct is to fight the list and the individual elements on it, says David Allen, the productivity guru who popularized such lists in his trademark Getting Things Done method. But, he argues, there are three simple remedies to make to-do lists work for you.

Leadership Lab is a series where executives, experts and writers share their views and advice about the world of work. You can find all Leadership Lab stories at and guidelines for how to contribute to the column here.

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