Technology and Product

Is hand-me-down learning tech hampering your frontline’s performance?

Posted on: April 16, 2021Updated on: April 16, 2024By: JD Dillon, Chief Learning Architect

Do you have older brothers or sisters? Then you’re probably familiar with hand-me-downs.

Rather than heading to the store to get a new outfit for the first day of school, your mom went shopping in your sibling’s closet. She emerged with a shirt from a brand that stopped being popular five years ago and pants that were a little too loose to look functionally natural. When it comes to footwear, you know what it’s like to walk several miles in someone else’s shoes all too well. 

Hand-me-down clothes don't fit

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with repurposing clothing. Who doesn’t want to get the most value for their money? But, while hand-me-downs may get the job done, they never seem to fit quite right. The extra bagginess in the legs and tightness around the shoulders are subtle reminders that these items weren’t intended for you. Now it’s up to you to make the best of the situation.

Get your practical guide for making learning personalized and adaptive to each employee.

Hand-me-downs aren’t just a family thing 

The second-hand dynamic can pop up in the workplace too. Desk chairs are less than cushy. Telephone headsets reek of disinfectant. Uniform colors are dulled after hundreds of industrial wash cycles. Then there’s misfit technology. For example, traditional digital learning was not designed for retail associates, manufacturing workers or food service employees who spend their entire shifts focused on their company’s customers and products. Instead, it was built for (home) office-based employees who sit in front of computers all day and have the time to browse online course catalogues to find the content they need. 

You can’t expect the frontline to make the best out of this hand-me-down situation. They need (and deserve) a digital learning experience that’s built for them so they can keep pace with business change and close their skills gaps.

Here are 4 ways to make sure learning technology is a right fit for your frontline. 

Make sure it’s mobile

Frontline employees should access the information they need to do their jobs where they do their jobs (just like their office-based peers). A warehouse worker is expected to stay on the floor and can’t go to the back room to complete training. Therefore, your learning apps must be mobile-ready and available on the devices people use in the flow of work, such as handheld scanners. Consider implementing a bring your own device (BYOD) policy so people can access training on the screen they already touch 2,617 times per day.

Make sure it’s simple

The average Netflix user spends 18 minutes trying to pick something to watch. A retail associate doesn’t have time to sift through thousands of courses in your learning management system (LMS). Their store manager definitely doesn’t have the staffing to let them complete a 30-minute course. Digital learning must fit within the time employees have available, especially when they don’t control their own schedules. 

If they have five free minutes during their shift, your learning app has to get right to the point and put the content they need front and center. Use microlearning to focus your training on the specific knowledge and skill required for each topic. This way, they can develop their skills during slow periods without leaving the sales floor. 

Make sure it’s engaging

Let’s face it: most digital learning is boring. Courses are overloaded with information that has little to do with the problems frontline workers face every day. The only thing employees usually learn is how to keep clicking “next” so they can finish the module without having to pay attention. Why would a food service worker spend their limited time and energy doing more of this when they can watch TikTok on their phones instead?

Transform your digital learning into something people actually want to do every day by making it relevant, fun and social. Deliver content that is specially designed to help employees solve problems they face on the job. Use gamification to make learning a challenging and enjoyable experience. Add competition and social features to make skill building something your team members work on together. 

Make sure it’s personalized

Your company may have 10,000 people doing the same frontline job. They have (almost) the same skill requirements and performance expectations. But they’re also unique individuals who come from different backgrounds. They learn at varying paces and have different levels of experience with your organization. If you want to provide everyone with right-fit support, you need 30,000 personalized learning plans for one role. Traditional learning tech can’t help you handle this kind of scale. Purpose-built frontline learning technology can.

Adaptive learning technology fits perfectly on the frontline. It doesn’t matter if you have 500 or 500,000 workers. Everyone gets the training they need when they need it. Adaptive learning tech uses advanced data and analytics to proactively identify and close an employee’s knowledge and skill gaps. This is the best way to make sure every employee—regardless of role, location or tenure—gets the training they need at the speed and scale of your business. 

The pandemic has forced everyone to rethink how work is done. It has also compounded some workplace inequalities. Many employees will continue to work from home while others are required to clock in for their shifts every day. Technology can help organizations improve workplace equity, especially when it comes to learning and development opportunities. However, mainstay corporate tools like Microsoft Teams and Zoom just don’t fit for everyone.

It’s time for management to properly size-up the needs of their frontline people and invest in a digital learning experience that fits them like a glove.

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

JD Dillon, Chief Learning Architect's Headshot

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.

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