In a world where automation and artificial intelligence are replacing millions of jobs that people currently perform, frontline workers are feeling the pressure to keep pace with tech, or risk being outpaced by it.
Naturally, some people harbor fear over advancements in artificial intelligence and other high technologies, but most of that fear comes from worrying about the loss of jobs rather than tall tales shown in popular media.
In fact, 56% of frontline employees say that access to additional training would improve their chances of surviving in a job market that is constantly changing due to advancements in technology. The question is: what kind of tech should you be using to train your employees, and how?
Frontline workers and tech: enemies, or partners?
Advanced technology has already replaced millions of frontline workers, producing massive increases in productivity and wealth. But you might be wondering, at what cost? How many jobs will be lost to the robots?
The honest answer is less than the number of new jobs that are created as a result of these changes. But these new jobs demand different skills than the old ones, which means entire workforces are in need of reskilling. And it’s no accident that this training will demand the use of the very thing that brought this all about: technology.
But reskilling your frontline workers doesn’t have to be a battle between humans and machines. Read on to discover how using mobile training software, among other technologies, improves not only your training initiatives, but every aspect of your business.
Who are frontline workers?
There are more than 2.7 billion frontline workers in the entire world, making up 80% of the global workforce. These are the people who do a lot of the jobs we take for granted every day. They are nurses, teachers, truck drivers, construction workers, salespeople, and so much more.
Simply put, frontline employees are the people who don’t do the majority of their jobs from behind a desk. Instead, they’re on their feet and on the go constantly.
Unsurprisingly, these are the kinds of jobs that are being replaced by machines and technology as automation and artificial intelligence continue to be perfected. But that doesn’t mean that these employees are going to switch to desk jobs. In fact, a recent survey on the state of deskless employee training asked frontline workers if they’d be willing to switch to a desk job, given the same exact pay and benefits. 64% said no.
For many people, being away from a desk and a stationary position is the best thing about their jobs. Giving that up is simply not an option. That means that training and reskilling these employees is absolutely essential for employers who are looking to leverage automation and AI in their companies, while also retaining their employees.
5 reasons to leverage tech for deskless employees
If you’ve only embraced technology on your production line, then the benefit you’re gaining from it is nowhere near its fullest potential. With the right software, and the right implementation, you can acquire these five business benefits, with just one solution.
The very nature of being a frontline worker means that these employees are not stationary throughout their day. Not only are they constantly on the move, but many frontline workers don’t even report to a central office or company location on a daily or weekly basis.
Construction workers, truck drivers, consultants, salespeople – these employees can go weeks without seeing their managers or supervisors in person. Mobile communication software is essential for these employees to stay connected to management.
You might be thinking: “Why do I need mobile communication software to stay connected to my people? What’s wrong with email?” To answer that question, you may not need to look much further than your own inbox. Let’s face it, when you have important information to communicate to your people (i.e. updated safety measures, a new product, an emergency) then email just isn’t going to cut it. You’ll need a way to stay in contact with all of your people, at all times.
Beyond needing a way to quickly reach your people, it’s important to also consider the unique opportunity that mobile software presents.
Comparing mobile vs. desktop usage in the U.S. vs. the developing world quickly reveals the crucial role that cellphones play. In all of Africa, mobile usage surpassed desktop usage in July of 2015. This event happened three years sooner in India, with mobile usage surpassing desktop usage in July of 2012.
But for the United States, this transition didn’t occur until November of 2019, and it didn’t last long, as COVID-19 quickly caused desktop usage to take the lead again.
When we consider where the majority of deskless workers are located in the world, none of these dates are surprising. Deskless workers in Africa and India make up a significant portion of the total global deskless workforce population. In these same places, mobile phones dominate the market. It only makes sense for employers to use software built for mobile devices, not desktops, to better reach these employees.
While being on the move during the work day is a huge perk for many frontline employees, it also creates unique challenges for their employers, ones that companies with office-bound employees don’t face.
Since many frontline jobs require people to work away from a central company location for long periods of time, it’s not unusual for these employees to feel disconnected from their teammates, management, and the overall organization. In fact, 19% of deskless employees report feeling “somewhat” or “very” disconnected from their companies as a result of working away from a central location.
This disconnected feeling can have very real, and expensive consequences. Decreased employee engagement and morale leads to lower productivity, and higher turnover. Many frontline workforces already struggle with employee retention due to seasonality, high competition, skill shortages and more. That means that keeping employees engaged and morale high should be a top priority for employers.
But how? By leveraging mobile tech.
Communication software is the first type of tech that comes to mind when you want to establish strong connections between employees and management. Frontline workers need to feel heard and valued, and employers can accomplish this even when their people don’t all work from the same location.
By giving your frontline employees a way to communicate with upper management, you automatically show them that their voices matter. Opening up communication gives employees the chance to express any concerns they might have, giving the organization the chance to solve problems preemptively.
Tackling issues early and head on decreases employee dissatisfaction, and increases retention and company loyalty.
In addition to mobile communication software, you shouldn’t underestimate the power of mobile training software. Mobile training software allows you to put training in the hands of your people, no matter where their work takes them.
You might be thinking, “Do my people really want to be bothered with more training?”
The answer to that is a resounding yes. In fact, it’s not a bother at all. Not only do frontline workers want access to training to help them remain competitive in the job market, but it’s also a way to overcome the disconnect that these jobs inevitably create. Sixty-three percent of frontline employees agreed that access to additional training would help them feel more connected to their company’s values and missions.
Rolling out mobile training to your frontline workforce is an all around win. By putting training in your people’s hands you’re not only improving their skills, you’re also helping them feel more connected, boosting employee engagement and morale, and decreasing staff turnover.
There’s a common misconception that deskless employees aren’t as interested in professional growth as employees who work in more corporate, office-like settings. This couldn’t be further from the truth. No matter the position or industry, employees want to feel valued by their companies. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to show your people you’re invested in them by giving them the opportunity to develop their skills.
While nearly every job requires some form of safety or compliance training, these topics tend to be drastically more important for deskless workers than they are for office-bound ones. And that makes sense. Misfiling a form might be an inconvenience to fix, but at the end of the day, it is indeed a fixable mistake. On the other hand, forgetting to secure a machine, storing food at the wrong temperature, or mishandling equipment can have irreversible, costly, and even fatal consequences.
Employers know this better than anyone, which is why it’s no surprise that compliance training is the most commonly reported type of training that frontline workers engage in.
Source: The State of Deskless Workforce Training
Even so, deskless employees are only human, and people forget things. While it’s impossible to completely eliminate human error, it’s certainly possible to significantly reduce mistakes as a result of forgetting through the use of reinforcement training.
Reinforcement training is when you take time to review concepts after having learned them for the first time, with the intention of eliminating any lapses in memory. Research conducted by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus shows us that without reinforcement, people forget new information at an exponential rate. This rate of forgetting has famously been coined as “the forgetting curve”.
Source: The State of Deskless Workforce Training
Without any reinforcement, participants in Ebbinghaus’ study could only remember 21% of the new information they had learned after 31 days had passed. However, participants who regularly reviewed this new information could recall nearly 100%, even months later.
For many companies, compliance training is something that happens once or twice a year. And while this may make sense for businesses in terms of cost and time limitations, it’s not enough when it comes to knowledge retention.
Just like with regular skills training, mobile training software can put safety training in the hands of your people no matter where they are. Regular safety training is another all-around win for your business. Your deskless employees will always be up to date on safety regulations, which decreases their risk of workplaces accidents, as well as the risk to end consumers from mistakes in production or services.
Preserve job longevity
Automation and AI are no longer technological advancements waiting on the horizon. They’ve already arrived, and they’re here to stay. And while they are taking jobs that have been traditionally done by frontline workers, these technologies are also creating millions of new ones.
With the use of mobile training software, you can reskill your people to take on these new roles. The bottom line is that frontline workers don’t want to lose their jobs. And finding skilled labor to hire is incredibly difficult, and in some cases, impossible.
Deloitte’s 2018 report estimates that a skills gap will leave 2.4 million unfilled positions in the manufacturing industry alone between the time of the report and 2028. That means that employers will have no choice but to invest in reskilling their current workforce.
If you really think about it, this is a great thing. It means that millions of people will get to learn new skills, and keep their jobs. The companies that will see the biggest success in the years to come are the ones who recognize this path early on, and take steps towards implementing training initiatives faster than their competitors.
What software should businesses with frontline workers invest in?
Software technology is incredibly valuable to employers because it helps solve critical, yet intangible problems that inevitably arise in business: training a distributed workforce, communicating with employees, improving productivity and task management. These are all hurdles that have the potential to hold back businesses from succeeding.
They can also all be overcome with the use of mobile software. And before you start calculating the cost of providing every employee with a company phone, consider the possibility that you don’t have to. After all, 74% of deskless employees feel comfortable with using their own personal devices for work-related training.
Mobile training software
No matter your industry, training employees is a critical part of running a successful business. And when your employees are deskless, getting everyone together for an in-person training session is difficult, costly, time-consuming, and likely inefficient. Mobile training software tackles all of these issues. You can deliver training to your frontline workers via smartphone or tablet, saving everyone time and money.
One of the best perks of mobile training is that it doesn’t even have to take long. By choosing software that has been optimized for microlearning, you can train your employees with short, easy to consume, and consistent sessions. And the key here is that element of consistency. Just how tech has changed the way work gets done, it’s changing the way training happens, too.
Mobile communication software
When your frontline workforce is spread out and on the move, keeping people connected is a top priority. With mobile communication software, your employees can stay connected with their teammates, as well as management. Increasing morale and decreasing staff turnover can be as simple as checking in with your people regularly.
Mobile task management software
Let’s face it. Having your managers chase your people around with a clipboard and a pencil isn’t the most efficient way of doing things. With the help of mobile task management software, keeping track of every frontline worker and their progress is quick and painless for everyone involved.
Employers whose companies rely on frontline workers know one thing better than anyone else: the business only operates successfully when its people are successful. That’s why it’s critical that these frontline workers are given every opportunity to succeed, especially as the nature of their jobs continues to evolve with advances in technology.
While it’s true that changes in technology are eliminating existing deskless jobs, they are also creating many more new jobs that need filling. And the key to minimizing the impending skills gap that many industries are already facing is identical to the thing that started this fourth industrial revolution: technology.