Digital transformation is more than just a buzzword—it is crucial to advancing nearly every organization. It has been slowly happening for years, but the pandemic and subsequent “Great Resignation” is expediting the need for many industries to modernize their operations through technology. Virtually all companies have accelerated digital transformation efforts, with 68% of organizations saying the pandemic has sped up initiatives greatly.
Technology is a tool for helping people do their jobs better, whether it’s completing tasks more quickly, eliminating tedious steps, allowing more collaboration between teams, or making physical jobs less strenuous.
Although the tools for how business is done are changing, most jobs still require people to do the actual work. Companies’ most critical employees are often the frontline workers who need the latest digital technology to do their jobs easier, better, and safer. In fact, 75% of deskless workers spend most of their time using technology.
For today’s frontline workers to be successful, they need to be proficient and comfortable with the technology they need to do their jobs.
When introducing digital transformation initiatives, organizational leaders too often overlook the human element. Critically, they fail to recognize that end users are anxious about change – and especially about technology change. With the introduction of Internet of Things for data capture, robotics for process automation, and mobile apps to drive
better inventory visibility and sales forecasting, many employees fear that new tech will lead to replacing frontline jobs.
When new technology is introduced the wrong way it gets in the way of the benefits envisioned from digital transformation initiatives. And the wrong way is forgetting that your essential employees are the most critical link in the chain that determines success or failure.
Although more and more technology has been deployed in an effort to modernize frontline operations in recent years, most organizations have not changed the way they support their frontline workers to ensure they can use digital tech effectively. When frontline workers don’t know how to use their technology, they become easily frustrated. That
frustration leads to dissatisfaction, higher turnover, and mistakes – all of which have adverse implications for the business.
To effectively manage complex change caused by digital transformation, organizational leaders need to introduce more effective methods to train and support frontline workers.
A technology-focused training approach for digital transformation is based on four key pillars :
These pillars provide a foundation for an instructional design approach tailored to frontline worker needs to develop proficiency with their essential technology.
The most important goal is to reduce friction inherent with the introduction of new technologies and provide an easier, more effective way for frontline workers to learn.
Let’s take a closer look at the four pillars and how they can be used to create more effective tech training and learning for frontline workers.
1. Delivering learning to workers’ primary devices
First, any effective tech training program must meet workers where they are - be it on the sales floor, on their delivery routes, or at the front desk. This means delivering learning content directly to devices and platforms that employees have access to. It makes little sense to develop a learning program that is designed for a desktop for deskless employees who only have mobile devices.
Example: delivery drivers often use handheld devices to log inventory, so designing training lessons for those specific devices is essential. By using the technology that workers have and use every day, they get hands-on experience with how it will function in an authentic setting.
2. Simulating App & Technology Experiences in Context
It is critical to design training with employee workflows in mind. Consider how workers will use their technology during their daily tasks to accurately mirror how it will be used in the field. It requires rethinking when and where training occurs, optimizing content for learning in-the-flow of work so that employees have the context of how digital technology is used in their jobs.
Let’s revisit the delivery driver example. If the company expects drivers to use their handheld mobile device to scan inventory when loading their trucks and scanning items out as they deliver throughout the day, the training needs to reflect this exact workflow and process.
Most importantly, this involves creating a training environment that is hands-on and interactive, but without the anxiety of making mistakes while using “live” apps. This can be accomplished by developing realistic simulations of applications that workers need to use – allowing them to learn in a safe environment and make mistakes and recover without negative consequences.
3. Emphasizing self-guided micro-learning
Taking a microlearning approach to training can help prevent cognitive overload. Breaking-up lessons into small digestible segments allows workers to learn at their own pace, increasing their comfort and focus, ensuring better long-term knowledge retention. Some studies have shown that micro-learning results in increases in learner engagement from an industry average of 15 percent up to 90 percent.
This approach is particularly important for frontline workers. In many cases, these employees have little or no time in their highly scheduled days to carve out for extended training sessions and online learning sessions. However, they often have natural downtime in the course of their day that they can dedicate to consuming learning content in 1-2 minute increments. Our now familiar deliver-driver may have to wait 15 minutes for another truck to finish before he can begin unloading his own. This otherwise unproductive downtime becomes an opportunity for him to become more familiar with his technology – at his own pace.
4. Providing on-demand support when people get stuck
Learning is rarely a one-and-done process. It’s important to provide ongoing support to workers adopting new technology. Although technology adoption is the desired outcome from up-front training, employees will need ongoing support. Frontline workers may encounter “outlier” scenarios in the field, requiring them to use application functionality that they rarely use.
Giving workers the ability to quickly refresh their knowledge on-demand, right before starting a particular job or work-order, provides the support they need to complete their tasks correctly. This not only reduces anxiety and frustration for employees, but reduces costly errors for the business.
The four pillars provide a foundation for any frontline tech training program. Studies have shown that combining mobile and micro-learning results in increase in knowledge, more certainty in decisions about practical applications, and an increase in confidence in performing skills.
This approach has many benefits for operations, learners, L&D professionals, and support teams. On-demand learning can reduce disruptions to already stretched frontline operations. More effective tech training leads to faster deployment of technology and accelerated realization of ROI for digital transformation initiatives. Reduced errors from misuse of essential applications can eliminate rework and translate to quantifiable savings for the business.
With many organizations combatting high turnover in their frontline workforces, quicker onboarding is imperative to avoid disruptions. Shortening time-to-value for new hires enables businesses to get new employees up-to-speed quicker and remain competitive. According to a 451 Research study, 90 percent of would-be job seekers said it would be important for a new employer to offer devices, applications, and other productivity tools to help them get their work done.
Delivering learning to workers’ mobile devices allows them to access content in-the-flow of work, when and where they need it.
The end result is reduced anxiety, better user experience, and productivity improvements. L&D and support benefits include the fact that businesses will have reduced expenses for trainers, content development and maintenance, and staffing needed for troubleshooting and support.
Using technology to teach technology leads to happier, more confident, more engaged frontline workers. More importantly, effective training results in successful digital transformation initiatives that drive results for the business.