•   Article   •   3 mins

Developing Frontline Workers: Challenges, Strategies, Incredible Results

The majority of workers around the world don’t sit behind a desk. More than 2.7 billion people are frontline workers. And even though these people make up 80% of the global workforce and powering essential industries, Learning & Development (L&D) teams still struggle to engage this portion of the workforce.

A report by Emergence Capital revealed employers are primarily providing desk-bound devices to deskless workers, with over 80% of respondents surveyed stating they’re asked to use these less-than-ideal devices to do their work. Building and implementing L&D programs in this context can be challenging. 

Deskless workers tend to be highly skilled, often work with their hands and typically need to adhere to very strict compliance regulations. And because they’re not at a computer all day, it’s harder for them to be trained using many of the traditional training methods available. As a result, deskless workers can become more disconnected and disengaged than their desk-using colleagues. This contributes to high turnover and lower retention rates among deskless workers.

Finding new ways to engage — or re-engage — this segment of the workforce can have a number of benefits. For starters, job satisfaction will soar. As the backbone of the business, when deskless workers are more satisfied with their work, their productivity is boosted and helps the organization as a whole run more smoothly. By boosting deskless worker engagement with learning, you also empower teams to take their organization in helpful new directions. This is where using a learning experience platform (LXP) can be helpful, as it can help L&D teams get creative.

Personalize Learning

Frontline workers are often separated from the rest of the company. Communication tends to be difficult, leading to a disconnect between manager and employee, especially when it comes to corporate culture.

Instead of relying on traditional — and sometimes boring — training methods, you can offer personalized learning by incorporating new media into your strategies. Online, and especially mobile, learning is a great avenue to be explored; video courses and podcasts can make communication easier with workers on the go. Making the learning process short can help employees feel connected to the rest of the company.

Democratize Access

It’s important that frontline workers feel part of the team, even if they’re not in contact with their deskbound coworkers on a daily basis. This is why it’s vital all employees have easy access to learning resources at all levels of their careers. Mobile learning can be a massive ally when you decide to democratize access to learning.

Take the Ottawa Police Service, for example. Learning at the organization focused largely on executive development, and even then access was limited. Most people including frontline officers across the service had access to a limited number of online courses through a learning management system (LMS). A revolution came when the agency implemented the Degreed LXP with a more intuitive user experience, easy integrations, mobile access and the ability to function as a “front door” to learning. 

Since then, 1,600 people across the agency have used the LXP platform every month, exceeding the Degreed benchmark for success by nearly 50%. People at all levels explore leadership, wellness and resiliency — oftentimes together or using social learning features. Inclusion, cultural awareness, communication, self-awareness and community engagement are all top-ranking topics across the service.

Encourage Self-Directed Learning

Encouraging workers to learn on their own is as important as democratizing access to available tools and resources. When someone can learn in ways that work for them and set their own goals, they become the protagonist of their own development story. 

When Ecopetrol, a Colombian national oil and gas company, implemented new learning experiences, a new learning mindset was instilled in all levels of workers. In addition to traditional office staff, the learning vision included frontline operators, and the results were incredible. During a six-month stretch, people completed 440,000 learning items, only 20% of which came through the company’s LMS. The vast majority originated from people exploring personal areas of interest on their own. Learning leaders were surprised to find some of the biggest early adopters were people in operations and maintenance roles, not desk jobs. This engagement among frontline workers outpaced anything L&D had expected.

As companies increasingly innovate their technologies and processes, workers need to be equipped to keep up with the changes. A positive learning culture embraces multiple learning methods and is inclusive of all workers — not only those sitting behind a desk.

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