5 skills your frontline needs right now

Health and safety was the primary training focus on the frontline between February and June 2020. 

Traditional priorities, such as compliance, onboarding, and product training, were pushed aside. Employees had to stay healthy so businesses could stay open and people could get the supplies they needed. Plexiglass went up. Physical distancing markers went down. Employees learned how to properly wash their hands and put on masks.

Eight months later, safety remains the top priority. However, our data shows that organizations have shifted from training to reinforcement mode. People know how to wash their hands and put on masks at this point. Now, teams are using daily practice and coaching to maintain good habits. This has freed up training capacity for other topics. But this doesn’t mean companies should just go back to the stuff they were doing before February (or nothing at all).

Here are five skills you should help your frontline workers develop right now.

Resilience

Resilience is more than a buzzword. It’s a skill everyone can develop. We’ve been dealing with the pandemic for more than eight months. People are tired. This is especially true on the frontline. Focusing on resilience behaviors, such as perspective, empathy, reflection and collaboration, will help your workers overcome the persistent challenges they face during times of great change. It may not stop them from getting knocked down sometimes (metaphorically speaking), but it will make it easier for them to get back up.

Listen to our resilience conversation with expert Dane Jensen on The 80 Percent podcast.

De-escalation

“Pandemic-induced aggression” likely isn’t covered in your basic customer service training. Your workers need to be equipped with simple tactics they can use to de-escalate challenging customer situations and avoid getting knocked down (literally speaking). This includes dealing with aggressive customers as well as customer vs. customer disagreements. Employees must be able to identify potential conflict before it escalates, approach situations with confidence and empathy and step away to get help before it’s too late.

Customer Service

How do you effectively engage with a customer who is wearing a mask and standing six feet away from you? This also isn’t covered during your regular onboarding program. Your employees need training on new versions of familiar customer service skills. For example, this video from the Axonify Content Marketplace demonstrates how to communicate non-verbally while wearing a face mask. 

Prioritization

Focusing on what’s really important and what you can control is critical during periods of change. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with everything going on in the world right now. Help your employees prioritize by providing clear guidelines and frameworks. What are the most important parts of your business strategy? What are customers looking for when they visit your stores? Make it simpler for your employees to make important decisions on the frontline. 

Brand

This is a brand-defining time. Your customers and employees will remember what you did (or didn’t do) to help them get through this crisis. Remind your employees what your brand stands for. Show them how they can bring your brand to life in their everyday actions. Make sure your managers are modeling these behaviors and acting as great brand ambassadors. 

Check out our #frontlineforward resources and get access to free training content.

Confidence is a critical part of frontline performance. What you know only matters if you have the confidence to apply your knowledge in the moment. Unfortunately, only 32% of frontline employees receive training that helps them feel confident in their ability to do their jobs. Focusing on these essential skills will boost your frontline workers’ underlying confidence and help them make good decisions as they navigate a very unique and difficult time. 

Be safe. Be well. And be kind to the frontline.

JD is one of the most prolific authors and speakers in workplace learning today. His practical approach integrates science, technology, storytelling and pure common sense to enable employees, improve performance and drive business results. For 20 years, JD has executed strategies for global organizations, including The Walt Disney Company.

Let’s work together to drive frontline performance in all the right ways.