Is There A Natural Bias In Corporate Learning?

“Once again reminded that many in L&D only deal with “knowledge workers” and not food service, environmental services, grounds keeping, etc. Not everyone reads at a 10th grade level or writes at 6th grade. Many are trying to work in language that’s not even their first. smh.”  –  @JaneBozarth

When someone exactly describes a pain that you also have been experiencing, it’s worth calling it out. As we have found ourselves helping more enterprises train their “frontline” workers, we are seeing this more and more.

Now to be clear this isn’t a critique of the instructional designers, content creators, and technology experts who are putting together content for the frontline folks – this is hard stuff. When it comes to trying to write effective content for a specific audience, the advertising and marketing world is supposed to be the leader. And yet we see how often they get it wrong, sometimes spectacularly.

The fact is the profile of a frontline worker is vastly different from those who come to an office each day insulated from the customer. Frontline workers may or may not have a college degree and many don’t have particularly good memories of classroom learning.

They are also more likely to change jobs easily and often. Customers tell me of contact center professionals in hot markets like Phoenix & Las Vegas changing jobs every quarter or to get a raise or take advantage of a “hot” company or truck drivers switching carriers for a $1,000 signing bonus. How does your 4-6 week long training program work in that environment?

What are the implications for Learning?

First, L&D professionals need to focus on getting people productive as soon as possible so that a frontline associate can become accretive to the bottom line. Instead of the full onboarding suite, is there a job function they can train up on the first week and start doing right away? Then, layer on additional activities. The combination of training plus real work experience should result in better learning anyways – unless the training doesn’t match the real skills and knowledge needed.

Second, they need to use quick, easy-to-digest, easy-to-access learning – focus on things they are likely to need to know in their job right away. And beware of gadget heavy training – a game or simple simulation is good for engagement scores, but you better have evidence that mastery and usage are being impacted or you’re wasting everyone’s time and money.

Which brings us to our third point – all these programs need to produce data that can be shared with the business to identify knowledge gaps. Managers need real-time information to evaluate if someone is ready to begin work, who have the most expertise and what a given employee needs coaching on TODAY. Whether you are impacting the business should be table stakes (it usually isn’t).

Finally, once the employee is on the job, L&D professionals need to partner with their business applications friends in IT to gather data on actual employee performance and then deliver more just in time training to the associate so they can close that gap.