How to design training technology to meet the unique needs of the frontline

Frontline employees—the people who work in customer-facing roles, or in the production of or direction of a product—don’t have the luxury of sitting down for hours of training. So we need to be super honest about how we can actually fit training into their job realities. Our learning programs need to fit them, rather than trying to fit them into our learning paradigms.

Employee Checking Stock With Digital Tablet

I recently sat down with JD Dillon, our company’s Chief Learning Architect, on The 80 Percent podcast to share my thoughts on the right way to design training experiences for the frontline. Here are a few of the key takeaways.

Take a closer look at what goes into a learning solution that works with the way your
frontline works.

4 tips for designing frontline training that works for them

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to training design. By understanding better training for your frontline employees always comes back to what their day-to-day looks like, you can get your people doing the right things at the right times. Ask yourself what you need them to know in order to do their daily tasks and how you can fit this information into the reality of their learning.

1. Roll up your sleeves and get out in the field.  

Technology is never the first thing. The first thing is understanding the experiences we want to provide people. What do we need them to know in order to do their jobs well and how do we fit that into the reality of their days? Shadowing employees, having conversations with them about their experiences, watching them interact with different tools and observing how they interact with customers will all give you valuable insight into where the gaps in your business exist. Then you can look for technologies that are going to help you solve those specific problems. 

2. Help mitigate the firehose.

When onboarding a new employee, do you want them to be able to go through all the learning content at once, or do you want to spread it across a number of days to make the learning stick? Ideally, you want to have some level of trickling information to your frontline, because when you firehose people with information they’ll forget some of it. The reality: managers expect their new hires to learn quite a lot upfront (imagine starting at a retail store and learning how to use the cash, serve customers and all the nuances of the different products at the same time). So organizations need a solution that catches this on the back end and makes sure their people retain the most important information. To make sure employees don’t forget, they need continuous reinforcement.

3. Build a habit of learning. 

The point of engagement isn’t just to get people to log in and consume one piece of information in isolation. To me, the point of engagement is to build a habit so people come consistently back every day. The key is getting people into the platform and making sure there’s relevant content so they keep coming back. And then ensuring what they’re consuming is actually making them great at their job. Then you can build on that with all the other experiences needed for success—onboarding, employee development, finding knowledge on demand and other support assets.

4. Tune out the hype.

There are so many learning solutions out there, I sometimes even feel exhausted trying to read vendor websites and figure out what they do—never mind trying to categorize and differentiate between them, or see the nuance behind all the shiny features. I’m not saying shiny features are necessarily bad, but you shouldn’t buy tech without clear knowledge of the problem you’re trying to solve and an understanding of how any particular solution is going to help you solve it. 

You can start by asking some simple questions:

  • What are you trying to optimize for?
  • What are you trying to achieve with learning?
  • How will this solution fit into the constraints of your frontline employees’ experiences in their day-to-day? 
  • Can the vendors you’re considering go beyond the data sheet to tell you about real customers who set out to solve problems similar to yours with their solution?

The bottom line

Designing learning experiences that fit the real-world needs of the frontline workforce doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Start simple: get to know what your people really  need, and line up these needs with your company goals and training tactics. By applying practical insights, such as the ones above, you can give your frontline the support to help differentiate your brand and drive success. 

If you’re interested in my full conversation with JD on how to build a right-fit learning solution for your frontline, you can check it out over here.

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