If you’ve ever exercised it’s likely you’ve experienced the benefits of cross training -- varying exercise routines or activities. Maybe you are a swimmer who also likes to run. Or a cyclist who hikes on the weekend and has a home yoga practice. Mixing up activities not only keeps things interesting but strengthens different muscle groups. When you switch to a new activity or routine your muscles are challenged to burn more calories. On the other hand, repeating the same exercise routine over an extended period of time plateaus your body’s fitness and efficiency. Cross training also lowers the risk of injury because you are not overly relying on one muscle set.
Benefits of Cross-Training for Privacy & Security Professionals
Privacy and security professionals who cross-train can reap many of the same benefits as do athletes (or athletic people). Research tells us that cross-training results in better collaboration between team members, increased engagement, improved efficiency, and workforce sustainability. Those with understanding of how to perform tasks outside of their immediate domain may also be able to pitch in and cover for colleagues who are temporarily absent or busy elsewhere. Especially in today’s hot job market, managers who wish to engage and retain team members would do well to make use of cross-training’s appeal. Job offers may highlight cross-training to candidates as similar to more traditional perks such as the proverbial “room to move within the organization” and “opportunities for promotion.”
The complexity of privacy, security, data use and ethics issues that many privacy and security initiatives present are well served by cross-training. A privacy attorney working at a technology company should understand basic concepts of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Data use attorneys should know how data collection and analytics programs work in an operational and technical sense. By the same token, operations and technical professionals should have an awareness of relevant data protection legal concepts like privacy by design and data minimization. Simply put, cross-training strengthens ties between areas of expertise in the privacy and data protection field such as legal, operations, engineering, and data analytics.
Cross-training is also beneficial within the parameters of an in-house legal team. In a large organization a legal team may provide legal and strategic support for domains such as employee privacy, compliance, litigation, marketing, and integration for mergers and acquisitions. Although individual team members may specialize in and be responsible for each of these separate domains, a team member who cross-trains between supporting global compliance and marketing, or managing security and sales legal issues will broaden their career and professional development. Teams who make cross-training possible for privacy professionals encourage employee development and engagement and thus are more likely to provide more productive and in depth advice to business colleagues. When cross-training creates a strong workforce made up of people with “knowledge muscles” that are both wide and deep, more tasks can be delegated or distributed efficiently and completed with greater competency.
How to Implement Cross-Training at Your Organization
If you are introducing cross-training to your company, make sure to alert business colleagues and peers so everyone understands the reason for doing so and how to keep service levels consistent. If presented as an interesting learning opportunity that benefits the entire company, it’s less likely that people will view cross-training as “extra work.” Cross training can be introduced at various levels of engagement include sharing domain descriptions, job shadowing, small projects in a new domain, or job rotation.
· Sharing domain descriptions. Learning what goes on in other divisions of an organization is a kind of entry-level cross-training that fosters simple training and awareness of other domains. You may want to arrange a meeting for team members to share what they do. This could include day-to-day details or a big picture overview. Some organizations may want team members to put together a formal presentation while others may find a casual informative conversation perfectly adequate. Consider also inviting business colleagues with whom your team partners share strategies and tasks. Make sure to leave time for a follow-up Q&A period so individual team members can find out more specifically what they want to learn. For example, a mergers and acquisition manager may want to learn details about employee privacy regulation and company policies. A sales attorney may want to compare international compliance regulations. Recording the session will allow you to use it for other opportunities such as onboarding new employees or training business colleagues.
· Job shadowing. Select specific team members to spend 10-20% of their time for a set duration to learn ‘on the job’ by shadowing another team member. A software engineer could shadow a privacy attorney. A security professional could shadow a customer operations manager. Shadowing could include attending meetings with business colleagues and 1 on 1 training sessions. Bear in mind that the cross-training goes in two directions. The person job shadowing gets to learn about a different area of expertise and the job holder gets to see their role from another person’s perspective.
· Small projects. Assigning team members to work on small projects with others in a different domain for a set period of time ensures that a new “muscle set” will be developed. Privacy professionals, for example, may want to collaborate with team members developing a marketing campaign for a new product. When launched, the new marketing strategies are then more likely to be aligned with company privacy policies and standards. Cross-training on small projects offers secondary gains in terms of relationships or collaborations that may continue pass the set period of time and strengthen employees’ sense of belonging.
· Job rotation. At this most involved level of cross-training team members actually switch jobs for a period of time. Job rotation can be employee motivated – that is, an employee may want to try something new or no longer feel challenged by an existing role. Again, developing and retaining talent within an organization is often preferable to having to recruit, onboard, and train new hires.
Cross-training can be extremely beneficial for privacy professionals’ career and professional development, improvement to flexibility and leadership skills, and also leads to impactful results across an organization. It's time to flex your muscles.