Resilience and the road to recovery: stories from the (actual) frontlines

Nobody can predict the future, but these days the crystal ball is even foggier than usual. 

When the global pandemic hit, leaders had to scrap their carefully considered business plans and shift into reactive mode. With the immediate shock behind us, businesses are ready to get their plans back on track. But by now it’s clear that business recovery is not going to be a straight path. 

There may be setbacks, as new outbreaks put different regions back into lockdown. There may be detours, necessitated by shifts in consumer behavior. Or roadblocks, as government regulations continue to change. 

In the ‘next normal,’ agility wins the day. And your business’ ability to be agile depends on getting your frontline workforce informed, on board and ready to deliver on your strategy. 

Here are some real-world examples of how our customers are equipping their frontlines to navigate the winding path to recovery. 

Maintaining morale and connecting to the mission

Change is hard—and the frontline is bearing the brunt of it in their day-to-day work. But when the frontline knows their hard work is appreciated and feels connected to a larger mission, they’re more likely to persevere through the challenges. 

Leading companies recognize this, and they’re using their frontline communications to show appreciation, motivate employees and remind them of their important role. 

We’ve seen this in the grocery industry, which has had a front-row seat to pandemic disruption. Theresa Zawlocki, Associate Development Director at Festival Foods, explains, “We’ve used [Axonify] to stay connected with all our associates across the entire state by sharing important information, inspirational quotes and videos, and any other crucial updates to help keep our people safe and feeling informed.”

But it’s not just the grocery industry that’s prioritizing engagement with their dispersed workforce. For example, Eden Housing, an affordable housing non-profit, also ramped up communications to stay connected with their team of community managers, resident service providers and support staff. 

“We launched a survey to see how our staff is doing as well as promoted a contest through a company-wide broadcast message. And we’ve loaded a ton of COVID-19 content and work from home resources to enable our staff,” said Michael Dismuke, CPTD, Director of Talent and Organizational Development for Eden Housing. “Face-time is incredibly important, and it’s no different when you’re remote!” 

By adding that human touch to their frontline communications, companies can foster the engagement that will help them take on the challenges of recovery as a united team. 

Hear from industry giants on how they drive exceptional employee engagement at AxoniCom Sept 28-29

Delivering consistent training and communication, despite workplace disruptions

Even when business as usual is disrupted, training doesn’t have to be. When New Zealand went under mandatory lockdown in late March, Briscoe Group had to send 2,100 employees home. But that didn’t mean putting frontline training and communications on pause. 

As part of their communication plan to frontline workers, Briscoe Group delivered messages of encouragement and support from brand ambassadors, including famous athletes, chefs, and fashion designers, as well as key leaders from the business. “Keeping a human face was critical, and these were all people who had the trust and respect of our team members,” explained Aston Moss, Briscoe Group’s General Manager of Human Resources.

The retailer also recognized that their frontline workforce was hungry for information, so they acted quickly to deliver relevant training—both brand new content focused on health and hygiene, and product knowledge content that had been in development before the lockdown. 

Overall, 98% of employees accessed training on Axonify an average of three to four times a week. And they came back for more—extra training sessions per person went up from 11.3 to 15.1 per month. Communicating with employees and enabling them to continue training and learning throughout the furlough period paved the way for an easier transition back to work post-lockdown.

While we hope that full lockdowns are behind us, the unpredictability of the current health and economic crisis calls for adaptability in your frontline workforce. If you can quickly deliver the right training to the right people at the right time, your frontline will be better prepared to support business changes, from short-term pinch-hitting to long-term pivots. 

Using COVID-19 constraints as a testing ground

When you’re focused on firefighting, it can be hard to even think about launching new initiatives. But MOL Group, an oil and gas company with service stations across Central Eastern Europe, had a goal of delivering agile digital training to all 15,000 of their frontline workers. And they weren’t about to let the pandemic slow them down. 

When the pandemic hit, they had only rolled out Axonify to a small pilot group in Slovenia. With operating procedures and regulations changing on a near-daily basis, they saw the value of being able to deliver just-in-time communication and training directly to frontline associates. But to complete the rollout, they had to pivot from an in-person approach, complete with face-to-face meetings and training with franchise partners, to an entirely virtual one.

They saw the opportunity in adversity: after all, going fully digital was the goal, and this presented the perfect opportunity to test it—in Hungary, their largest market. 

“I couldn’t imagine a better time to undertake a project like this. People were hungry for information. We had a way to get it to them, we just had to implement it. And we weren’t going to let anything stop us—not even a pandemic,” says Gábor Mozga, Head of Group Retail Operation and Execution Excellence. 

It worked. The digital approach became the new template, and the team was able to adapt the process for each of the remaining eight markets (in seven different languages, for nine different cultures) and complete the rollout. This put relevant training at the fingertips of their frontline workforce, at a time when they needed it most—all because MOL Group’s leaders chose to see pandemic-related constraints as an opportunity to evolve their process for the better. 

As we said, you can’t predict the future. But you can prepare your frontline workforce to adapt to whatever comes next by keeping them informed, connected, and equipped with the right training. 

After all, when your frontline is ready for anything, your business is too.  

Ready to move your frontline forward? Join us on Sept 28-29 for AxoniCom LIVE—the only event dedicated to helping you build your most resilient, agile and engaged frontline workforce.

Carol isn’t your typical leader. She’s driving a revolutionary approach to employee knowledge, but she’s also a doors-open, come-see-me-anytime kind of executive. Carol doesn’t just talk the talk—she definitely walks the walk. You can read more from her on Training Industry Magazine, ATD, CLO and as a regular contributor for Fortune.

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