What do frontline employees want from their training?

It’s a worthy question but one we don’t ask often enough, considering they’re the ones on the floor, meeting our customers and driving our bottom line … and the ones who will be impacted most by a coming shift in the workplace.

It’s no secret change is coming. In the next three years, 54% of all employees will need reskilling and upskilling to meet the demands of a changing — and increasingly automated — market, says the World Economic Forum. McKinsey estimates that 5% of occupations could be fully automated today, and “about 30 percent of the activities in 60 percent of all occupations could be automated.”

Frontline workers stand to be hit the hardest in that transition. As demand for manual work, which relies on dexterity, precision and endurance, drops — along with work requiring memory, verbal, auditory, speech and spatial abilities — experts expect that jobs on the assembly line floor, behind the till and manning the phones will be among the hardest hit.

The future of work is coming, and our frontline employees know it. In fact, 54% of working adults in the U.S. say that they’ll need training to develop the skills required to survive and thrive in their work lives and keep up with these changes.

So, Are We Providing the Training They Want?

Largely, the answer is “no.”

In a survey Axonify conducted with Ipsos, just over three-quarters of employees said the opportunity to complete additional training designed to develop their skills for the future would make an employer, current or prospective, more appealing.

But despite employees’ eagerness to receive that type of training, only 41% said their employer offers it. Here’s why those opportunities for development are important, from an employee’s point of view.

It Keeps Them Engaged

One way to keep employees engaged and happy at work? Training. Developing new skills is a powerful motivator, according to Sitel Group’s 2019 “Future of Work and Employee Learning” report — so much so that nine in 10 employees feel more engaged when they’re learning something new.

When it comes to training and engagement, the more, the merrier: Almost four-fifths of respondents to the Axonify survey agreed that more frequent training would make them feel more engaged at work.

It Makes Them More Effective

Although four-fifths of frontline employees feel that training helps prepare them for the future, not everyone receives training. Among those who do, only 59% feel it helps them succeed on the job today — which doesn’t even scratch the surface of what they need tomorrow.

This kind of training is critical considering many of our workers feel they have major gaps in their skills. In fact, more than one in three respondents to an edX survey said they were missing key proficiencies in at least one area. In addition, almost one-third of respondents to a 2016 Pew survey said they did not have the level of education they needed to advance in their careers.

So, what kind of training will help? Mostly soft skills, employees told Sitel Group, but technology, management and process skills are close runners up.

We Can Do Better Than 41%

If we want to attract, keep and engage employees and help them achieve their best, we need to rethink the training we offer. First under the microscope: where current training falls short. The top five reasons employees say their training falls short are:

  • They only receive training a few times each year.
  • Training is boring, not fun and not engaging.
  • Training provides too much information at once.
  • They only received training when they started their job.
  • They are trained on the wrong skills, and the training doesn’t help them do their job.

We can start by giving learners more of what works: training that presents information in an easy-to-remember way; that fits into their busy schedules with short, manageable and regular content; and that is fun and engaging.

Offering training that meets frontline workers’ expectations for today and tomorrow is an opportunity not only to power up and keep the workforce you have but also set yourself apart from the pack when it comes to attracting the best talent. When these employees say they want to prepare for the future workplace, we should listen.