Frontline support in a time with no playbook: what we’ve learned so far

It seems like there has always been a training gap on the frontline. Geographic separation. High turnover. Complex skills. Poor technology. Limited time. Even the organizations that have clearly valued the contributions of their frontline workforce have struggled to provide them with the right training and support.

Frontline employees have always been a critical part of organizational success. And that’s clearer than ever before as we face unprecedented disruption due to the global pandemic. While some people are lucky enough to be able to work from home, frontline workers are still clocking in every day at grocery stores, healthcare facilities, hardware stores, manufacturing facilities and logistics operations. They are among the heroes of this story, and they need whatever help can be provided to be safe and productive on the job.

Axonify has been working to support our customers in every way possible since the start of the pandemic as they rapidly adapt their operations and onboard thousands of new employees to meet sudden changes in consumer demand. They continue to be our biggest source of inspiration as they show us every day what it takes to enable a frontline workforce in a time of disruption.

Here’s what we’ve learned from our partners on the frontline so far …

 

 

Focus on what matters. Everything else can wait.

Frontline employees already didn’t have time for training. Now, they definitely don’t have time to take an online course or visit a classroom. Whether they’re existing employees or brand new to the job, they only have time for tasks that are absolutely necessary. People are still being trained. But the focus is on tactical readiness, not general learning. The focus is on specific behaviors an employee must execute on the job to keep themselves safe (priority #1) and productive (priority #2). Any topic that is now deemed a “nice to have” will have to wait.

 

Performance begins with awareness.

Communication is critical right now. The rules are changing on an almost daily basis. Frontline employees cannot execute on their priorities (safety and productivity) if they can’t stay up-to-date. Traditional communication tactics, such as breakroom postings and team huddles, can fall short, especially when the workplace is this chaotic. Digital communication is being rapidly adopted so management can communicate directly and consistently with specific employee groups.

 

Rapid change requires reinforcement.

Companies are asking their employees to change the fundamentals of how they do their jobs. They have introduced new cleaning processes. Physical distancing has altered customer interactions. Contactless delivery is now a standard. Employees must quickly learn how to complete new tasks, such as putting on and removing their face masks and gloves properly. Showing someone how to do something new once is not enough to change an ingrained behavior. These new skills must be continuously reinforced so they can become consistent workplace habits. Dedicating 2 or 3 minutes in the day to reinforcement training and coaching is helping employees rapidly develop these new habits and keep pace with ongoing business changes.

 

Managers are indispensable.

Frontline employees are working long, hard hours. They are constantly dealing with new expectations and high-stress situations. They are trying to do their best. Managers must be there to provide support as needed. They have to be there to intercept an upset customer who is angry about a purchase limit on a high-demand product. They have to be there to provide the tools and coaching employees need to be safe and productive as they work. They have to be there to do whatever they can to take care of their employees as people above all else. Managers have always been the most important people in workplace training. Now it’s easy to see why.

 

Our mission at Axonify has always been to ensure that frontline employees are supported with opportunities for knowledge and skill development. Because when you give them the tools to succeed, your business will too. For almost a decade, we’ve been building technology, strategies and content to help grocers, retailers, logistics providers, manufacturers and financial services firms (to name a few) improve their training on everything from safety and sales to productivity and customer satisfaction. We will continue to do everything we can to support the people on the frontlines of the pandemic. And we will continue to share what we learn about what it takes to enable these heroes with you as we go. Learn more about how to make learning stick with daily reinforcement.

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.