Rotating workers into different positions for the purpose of cross training is a familiar management strategy. But the practice should get a fresh look for another reason: it can improve morale and build team spirit.

Walk a Mile in My Shoes DepartmentThe subject was highlighted in today's paper, which mentioned All American Window in Germantown, Wis. The 22-employee window installation firm (they put in Soft-Lite vinyl replacement windows, made in Streetsboro, Ohio) requires employees to spend about a week each year doing someone else's job - in four hour increments.

Terri Lodwick, the president of All American Window, told the Wall St. Journal the practice lets workers "get to see how they fit into the entire organization, not just their little cubicles." Installers switch off with service technicians, for example.

Establishing empathy across the department lines is important, especially as an organization grows in size. There can be a tendency for employees to grouse when other departments miss a deadline or make a mistake.

By trading places, it improves understanding and lubricates the gears for the the team machinery.

Sidenote: in the frequently asked questions area at All American Windows' site, a customer question is posed: "I like the maintenance-free benefits of vinyl, but I really like the look of a wood interior. Can I get a wood grain look on vinyl windows?"

The answer talks about laminates, not wood - though it suggests wood is the preferred "look":

Wood grain finishes are available with some vinyl windows. Elements™ windows offer four woodgrain colored interiors: Light Oak, Medium Oak, Cherry and Brazilian Cherry. You'll find, however, that many manufacturers don't offer woodgrains. The needed equipment is quite expensive. The process involves a tremendous amount of technical precision and complex calculations to custom bond the woodgrain material to each individual vinyl extrusion.

Yes. Today's better wood grain finishes are designed for a lifetime of maintenance-free beauty. They've proven themselves over time to resist fading, chipping, peeling, and blistering. So your wood grain finish should be covered in your warranty. Soft-Lite® windows use only the highest quality wood grain laminate (7 mils thick), and back it with a lifetime warranty.

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