Modern Training

Can your employees go beyond the checklist?

Posted on: February 11, 2021Updated on: October 7, 2022By: JD Dillon, Chief Learning Architect

Checklists are great! 

Everyone can benefit from a good checklist. Recipes. Store opening tasks. Equipment repair instructions. Emergency evacuation procedures. Step-by-step guidance is a great way to make sure routine tasks get done and known risks are mitigated.

That said, people don’t become great by just following the checklist.

Blue checked off checkbox

Think about your top performers. Do they stand out because they do only what’s required? Or did they become your go-to team members because they go beyond the checklist? 

Great employees find ways to stand out in their customer interactions. I’m talking about …

  • The drive-through attendant who gives your dog a biscuit in addition to completing your order in a timely and efficient manner.
  • The contact center agent who helps you stay calm by using their conversational skills while also solving the problem, rather than just following the script.
  • The grocery clerk who recognizes you from previous shopping visits and knows you prefer your items to be bagged in a particular way.

These employees can clearly follow the process. They know how to keep the drive thru moving. They always say the call disclosure. They know the eggs go on top and the meat goes in a separate bag. But the required process is just their foundation. They then use their knowledge, skill and experience to take their performance to another level and delight their customers. 

Frontline workers have become even more important due to ongoing economic disruption. The rapid acceleration of ecommerce has fundamentally altered the competitive landscape in every industry, from retail and healthcare to telecommunications and financial services. Everyone has improved their ability to deliver products and services via digitally enabled omnichannel models. Traditional competitive levers, such as price, convenience and location, have become commoditized. Experience is now the primary differentiator. 

Automation doesn’t create exceptional customer experiences.
People do.

Checklists, operating procedures and task management apps play an important role in delivering a consistent and compliant customer experience. They automate the workflow to make sure the necessary stuff gets done and people are held accountable. But it’s living, breathing humans–your frontline people–who ultimately surprise and delight customers. 

Here are four ways you can enable every frontline employee to go beyond the checklist.

  1. Adaptive learning technology can help them get beyond the basics ASAP so they can build the skills needed to wow your customers every time.
  2. Reinforce critical knowledge. There are some tasks that can always be completed using a checklist. But there’s also knowledge your employees must have top of mind so they can apply it immediately in the moment. Use reinforcement training to make sure employees remember the right things long-term.
  3. Make information available on-demand. Checklists only tell you what to do. They don’t usually tell you how to do it. Make sure employees can access job aids and other performance support using their job or personal devices so they never have to guess while working in unfamiliar territory.
  4. Coach to peak performance. Feedback is an essential part of development, especially as employees move beyond the basics and find their own unique ways to delight customers. Prepare your managers to have great coaching conversations by providing actionable data and insights for each team member.

Brands are built in the exceptions. Great companies are known for how they respond when things go wrong. Task lists will keep your business running smoothly. But they won’t make you stand out against the competition. This is where human skills, such as creative problem solving, customer service and critical thinking, come into play. Prioritize continuous learning and support so every employee has the opportunity to become a top performer. 

So, the next time you’re faced with …

  • A customer who’s angry about a new store policy…
  • A caller who doesn’t understand why their monthly bill went up…
  • An incident that requires split-second decision-making to keep your employees and customers safe…

…consider which employee you would prefer to deal with the situation. Is it the one who only knows how to do the job by following the checklist? Or would you prefer the person with the knowledge, skill and experience to quickly and confidently solve the problem by going beyond the basics? 

The choice is obvious.

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

JD Dillon, Chief Learning Architect

JD Dillon became an expert on frontline training and enablement over two decades working in operations and talent development with dynamic organizations, including Disney, Kaplan and AMC. A respected author and speaker in the workplace learning community, JD also continues to apply his passion for helping frontline employees around the world do their best work every day in his role as Axonify's Chief Learning Architect.