The COVID-19 pandemic has made another gratefulness for many frontline workers who prop our economy up. They are the people who stock shelves, install equipment, repair machinery, and make deliveries. Most of them, who now number more than 24 million in the U.S., according to The Upskill Initiative, are issued enterprise mobile apps and devices and expected to learn and master them quickly.
Enterprises deploy mobile apps and devices to boost worker performance and productivity, often at the cost of hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. Apps track tasks and orders, handheld devices scan inventory, and wearable augmented reality headsets do a physical job more efficiently. But the great promise of using digital tools to do more and work more efficiently does not always pan out. A 2019 Deloitte survey found 40% of mobile workers said they were not using company-issued apps and devices because they were not comfortable with the technology. Further, 70% said they felt they did not receive the right training in using their smartphone or tablet for work tasks.
Are There Any Digital Training Challenges for Frontline Workers?
The significant digital training challenge many organizations face is primarily due to the mobile field workforce’s makeup, which varies widely. It includes veterans who have been on the job for decades, have done their jobs a specific path for a long time, and might be impervious to change. It also includes inexperienced workers who are recently out of school and need to learn the entire job and everyone. Deploying technology to mobile workers in the field is far different and requires a different kind of approach to training than deployment to office-based workers. The average skills set and the intermediate level of technical proficiency by the end-users are much other than the nature of the job and the tasks completed.
The good news is that if your workforce is experiencing significant frustration with a new mobile app or device deployment or there are continuing problems with legacy technology, you are not alone.
Here are five primary reasons why enterprise mobile apps and devices for frontline workers often fail:
1. IT downtime acts as an obstacle for enterprise apps
Perhaps the most significant obstacle to everything is time. Frontline workers are mission-critical, and operations leaders do not want them out of service or out of the field for any critical time. Hence, leaders need to consistently protect any action that will bring in downtime, making this exercise a lower priority.
2. Complex enterprise apps get in the way of daily tasks
Field workers usually do not know how to utilize an application or gadget. They will regularly discover approaches to work around it. It is not because field workers are sluggish or uninvolved. They need to complete their day’s tasks, so when technology gets in the way, they figure out how to work around it. Unfortunately, such an approach drives inefficiencies, errors, and wastes resources since workers do not use it as intended or realize the expected gains in productivity. When workers do not use enterprise apps properly, it also creates problems for back-end operations like billing and the potential loss of revenue and increases credits for returned products.
3. Troubleshooting enterprise apps are a burden for supervisors and tech support
Whenever frontline workers face any problem with their application or device, the first thing they do is either call the help desk or their supervisor. Simultaneously, supervisors are getting pressure from above to ensure everybody is utilizing the new application. Investigating on tech issues is not their activity. Simultaneously, technical support at the assistance work area might be overpowered with requests from workers who do not have the foggiest idea of how to utilize the innovation.
4. It is only human to forget training
After investing in this new technology to make a difference, end-users typically forget nearly everything they learn in training. The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve states that people forget 40% of their training after a few days and 90% after one month. But forgetting is not the fault of the person who is learning. Whether information gets retained or not depends on the way it gets presented. You have the power to create training that supports recall and application on the job.
5. Practical digital training is always an afterthought
Revealing another application or device is energizing. It is energizing to the point that we regularly disregard the preparation segment of the rollout. Organizations are periodically so enveloped with innovation that preparation gets unloaded in the lap of the administrator or group pioneer. As a result, there is no real arrangement for ensuring the innovation is utilized accurately. While most organizations have training programs for primary skills and processes of a role, traditional learning methods do not apply to digital tools.
Gartner predicts that up to 70% of enterprise mobile technology investments will be aimed at frontline workers over the next five years. It is hence critical to understand the key barriers to technology adoption for frontline workers. Practical digital training must ensure proper usage of on-the-job technology tools, adoption, and engagement over the long term. The goal is not one-time training but consistent employment and use of digital tools.
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