What type of cross-training should shops consider? Why?

The first type of cross-training I want to discuss is what I refer to as open forum cross-training.  The goal is to have as many employees as possible acclimated with as many different positions as possible. The size of your shop can definitely impact this possibility, but my thoughts are and have always been, the more diversely trained your staff is, the better positioned you are in to face staffing situations.

Now, this does not mean everyone needs to be an expert in every position, although this would be a huge bonus. If they are skilled enough to keep things moving for the morning, the day, or a week, a burden would undoubtedly be lifted. In this open forum style that I am referring to, your screen printer may learn the basics of running an embroidery machine, your DTG person may learn how to coat screens, or your graphic artist could learn how to package for shipping.

Another cross-training option is to train by the different departments, which I refer to as departmental cross-training. This option helps ensure that everyone who works within a particular department is capable of performing more than one job within that department.  To facilitate this, generally speaking, look to a department head or a senior staff member who is well versed, able to communicate, and, if possible, has an attraction to teaching. For this cross-training option, let’s look to a screen printing department for an example. In this scenario, your printer could learn how to separate colors; your screen reclaimer could learn how to burn screens; your finisher could learn how to create graphics, and so on.

Cross-training, or the sharing of information, should also be considered for management. For ownership, it may be accomplished through the creation of a protégé. For other management positions, you may be able to achieve this by keeping your team abreast enough through weekly meetings, for instance, to pitch-in in other departments should the need ever arise. By being transparent and keeping the lines of communication open among your team, you are better positioning your organization for success.

Why cross-train?

It allows, or nudges, people to experience new things, offers a change of pace and scenery, and presents an opportunity for growth.  Also, the more knowledgeable people become, the more creative, understanding, and insightful they tend to be, which could be incredibly beneficial. When the need arises, it won’t be a hassle to fill any gaps. The result is efficiency and, in turn, a better customer experience.

Versatile staff = efficient operations = happy customers

—Kaptain Kirk Clothing Co.

Kirk Harris

Kirk Harris

Kirk Harris currently serves as president of Atlanta-based Kaptain Kirk Clothing Co. Harris' love of apparel began with retail in the late '90s and in 2006 he founded his first clothing line. In 2012 his journey led him to apparel decoration and in 2014 he settled into his current position. He's reachable at, 404-396-7171, or

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