The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has created a new and profound appreciation for the millions of frontline workers who keep the economy going. Among them are the men and women of the cold food and beverage industry -- the people who make deliveries, stock shelves, install equipment and repair machinery. The vast majority of them are issued mobile apps and devices that they are expected to learn and master quickly.
With technology like apps to track tasks and orders, handheld devices to scan inventory and hands-free augmented reality headsets to do a physical job more safely and efficiently, mobile apps and devices are deployed as ways to boost worker performance and productivity. But, the great promise of digital tools doesn’t 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.
Training frontline workers isn’t easy. While organizations likely have training programs for the processes of a role, traditional training methods don’t typically apply when training on digital tools used in the field. Training leaders often aren’t sure how to provide the necessary digital training and ongoing support these frontline workers need.
Beyond the training challenges around the influx of new workers, problems also occur when new technology is introduced. When a company rolls out a new digital solution but fails to adequately train its frontline workers – and support them long-term – this tool won’t be adopted or used correctly. As a result, the time and money spent creating the solution is wasted.
To help business leaders and decision makers in getting the most out of their technology investments, below are five best practices for deploying any digital solution.
Use digital to train on digital
It’s important to train workers in the environment in which they will be working. For digital tools used on the job, this training should happen right within the application. Hands-on simulation is much more effective than just visually showing someone how to use a tool.
For guided simulations, it is a best practice to break parts of the app down into discrete bite-sized lessons, giving context to the app’s functionality by relating back to the specific job duties and business processes the worker will be doing. Each lesson should be organized into three parts: an overview or “walkthrough” of what the worker will learn; guided practice within the app; and an assessment to demonstrate competence.
Depending on the worker and their level of technology proficiency, each will have a different set of lessons unique to their role. Companies can also use video clips to demonstrate how to use specific features or how to use the app in context. Why video? Just ask YouTube. More than half of all YouTube users use the site to learn how to do new things. Plus, more than 70% of the time spent watching YouTube videos happens on mobile devices.
Don’t forget about devices
Many frontline workers, whether new or simply unfamiliar with the technology, need training on the actual devices – and peripherals – they will be using in the field. This can include how to: turn a device on and off; connect Bluetooth; discharge old, used batteries for new ones; troubleshoot technical issues; use onboard features of advice, like a barcode scanner; or connect to external devices, such as printers. The devices used for these applications aren’t always consumer-grade phones or tablets but are often more rugged devices meant to withstand the tougher environments of field work.
Measure progress with analytics
It’s important to have visibility into what’s working and what isn’t in digital training programs. Workers benefit from having a dashboard to track progress toward their own assigned goals. Managers and business leaders need higher level access to see their whole team’s progress, to identify if anyone needs extra help and to make sure the team is on track if a new application is being launched. Training or program leaders need the highest level of visibility to see all field workers’ progress and identify regions or teams that are having issues or need extra help. This is essential to monitoring workers’ progress, identify who needs extra help and deploy those resources early, and identify areas of the training that weren’t successful.
Offer ongoing engagement
Digital training can’t be a “one and done” event. According to the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve, without reinforcement, people forget 40% of their training after a few days and 90% after one month on average. Up-front training leads to competency, but ongoing engagement, guidance and reinforcement lead to mastery. Other reasons why ongoing engagement is so crucial -- annual field worker turnover rates can be anywhere from 25-100%, which makes regular training for new workers necessary; and when working with digital/mobile apps, there will likely be updates and new features added regularly, which necessitates additional training.
Help existing training teams
Digital tools are excellent to fill gaps where traditional training methods often fall short and greatly help existing training teams. It frees up their time and resources to provide more high-touch, high-value training for the workers who need it. There will always be some workers who require higher-touch support. This could be delivered through a virtual training session with an actual trainer, or even an on-site one-on-one training session for anyone struggling.
Since the bulk of the training has been digitized, trainers are now available to provide this high-touch, tailored support for the workers who need it the most. Offering this is important to augment the digital training offerings, so there is still an option to talk to a human.
Traditional training methods simply don’t cut it for large mobile workforces yet having a well-equipped field workforce is critical for success. Digital training and engagement are the future for frontline workers, and the future is here and now.