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employee training frontline

Your Guide to Frontline Employee Training in 2024

Explore the evolving landscape of employee training for frontline workers in 2024. Better training means a highly skilled workforce and less turnover.

7 minutes read
Published on 16 May 2024 Updated on 14 June 2024

The need for better employee training is at an all-time high.

Our frontline needs effective employee training now more than ever.

Frontline teams are integral to:

  • Monitoring and managing complex machinery and processes 

  • Identifying and addressing issues

  • Ensuring overall safety and efficiency

Despite advances in automation and technology the bulk of frontline tasks still require human presence and intervention. But in order to do these jobs effectively, they need the right employee training throughout their career.

We’ll take a look at the changing face of frontline employee training and some techniques that you can apply today.

 

"Success in manufacturing starts with the workers on the shop floor. They rely on having the right knowledge, day in and day out." - MPE Europe at PepsiCo, on the importance of supporting the frontline with knowledge.

 

What's new in 2024?

  1. Massive developments in AI. Think: greater accessibility and customization to individual needs.

  2. Better digital job aids. Think: simple, powerful tools available at the moment of need for on-the-job training.

  3. Skills-focused training. Think: companies across the board are shifting to a skills-based structure in general, and frontline training reflects this.

  4. More collaboration. Think: digital transformation makes it easier to open up a feedback loop for continuous improvement.

 

employee training frontline

Understanding the Modern Frontline.

In order to effectively train frontline workers, it is crucial to understand their needs in the modern industrial and manufacturing landscape. Today's frontline workers require a combination of technical skills, problem-solving abilities, adaptability, and effective communication.

They need to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to operate and maintain advanced machinery and technology. This includes understanding complex systems, troubleshooting, and performing preventive maintenance. Additionally, they need to be trained in safety protocols and compliance regulations to ensure a secure and risk-free working environment.

Moreover, modern frontline workers need to be adaptable to changing technologies and processes. They should be able to quickly learn and adapt to new tools and systems, as well as be open to continuous learning and upskilling.

At the same time, we’re dealing with a workforce that’s restless and in need of inspiration and support. 

A lack of career perspective is one of the top reasons people leave their manufacturing job. 

  • 44% of frontline workers in manufacturing are not satisfied with their career prospects. 

  • 53% of frontline workers are considering leaving their manufacturing jobs in the next 2 years.

  • By 2030, over 1 billion people require reskilling as 42% of core skills for existing jobs were predicted to evolve by 2022. 


👉 This is a group of people who need to learn and master an incredible amount of complex information, and it needs to be delivered in a way that’s effective and intuitive.


Tailoring employee training methods to meet the frontline's needs.


To deliver training that resonates with the needs of frontline workers, it's important to tailor the methods and approaches used. 

Far too often, we see the frontline (especially in the manufacturing sector) fall behind because of an over-reliance on ‘traditional’ training methodology. This ranges from lengthy classroom training - to frankly outdated and ineffective tools like paper and pdf work instructions and SOPs.

Traditional training methods are simply not as effective at engaging and retaining the attention of modern workers. 

So how can we deliver employee training that sticks?

 

"New recruits go step by step to do the task at hand and they're all eager to use it again. We see that they are happy, they like the instructions." - Digital Project Manager at Orkla in Norway, on the success of digital job aids.

 


On-the-job training.

On-the-job training uses methods that involve hands-on experience. Employees learn by physically interacting with the subject, rather than memorizing it with more abstract concepts from a textbook or from a Learning Management System.

As new digital tools make independent on-the-job learning a reality, task completion becomes faster and more accurate. Going through step-by-step training at their own pace helps employees get the needed support and answers in real time, retain information easier, upgrade their personal and professional development and feel more confident in their work. 

Furthermore, on-the-job learning is a fantastic way to get new hires up to speed and working efficiently. This is absolutely critical in industries where time-to-effectiveness is tied directly to success.

Want to see it in action?

Here’s how Thermon cut training time for new recruits in half with on-the-job training.

Employee Training Frontline On-the-job training

Accessible and relatable employee training.

Our frontline workforce is the most diverse it’s ever been. Not only will you encounter a broad range of learning styles, but also a wide range of ages and skillsets in your teams. It’s essential that we deliver training experiences that are relatable and usable across the spectrum.

Here are two ways that you can increase the mobility and accessibility of your frontline employee training tools:



1. Multimedia.

For on-the-job learners, it’s been proven that ‘dual-coding’ instructions and training materials helps users complete the tasks and retain the information. What does this mean, exactly? It’s a matter of combining text with a visual reference like a high-quality photo or a short video or .gif. 

For classroom learning in an LMS or other comprehensive training system, it’s important to remember that different people have different needs and learning styles.

Delivering a mix of visual materials like infographics and videos alongside audio materials like podcasts or presentations can help reach a broader audience and make sure nobody is slipping through the cracks.

 

employee training mobile

2. Mobile.

We find that delivering job aids and training on mobile devices is an effective way to bridge this gap as long as the content is simple, visual, and logical. Younger generations, raised on cell phones and tablets will find the experience intuitive and familiar. Older generations will appreciate the simplicity and logical flow of well-designed training materials. Mobile.

Being able to reference the correct materials in a workflow means new skills are reinforced at the same time that common errors are reduced. The combination of learning and error reduction is a powerful one.

There will most likely always be a place for a portion of classroom or deep learning delivered through an LMS. But for the skills that can be reinforced on the shop floor or in the field, a comprehensive mobile platform is essential. 



Collaborative experiences.

Training and onboarding should never happen in a bubble. It’s essential to make your processes a collaborative experience with give-and-take. We strongly recommend - at the very least - creating multiple points for learners to deliver honest feedback about the training process and materials.


Not only does this serve to make the frontline feel included and valued, but it helps capture essential learnings and knowledge to continuously improve your efforts.

In an upskilling or continued-learning environment where training materials are being delivered to seasoned/veteran employees, it also provides an opportunity to capture essential tribal knowledge about your own operations.

 

Embracing AI.

AI is everywhere and on everyone’s minds. Its applications seem limitless and frankly, it can be overwhelming to determine exactly where and when it can make an impact in your training and upskilling operations.

We’ve highlighted a couple here:

Creating better and more understandable job aids and work instructions: Simple generative AI can go a long way towards creating the accessible text components of training materials that we discussed above.


Understanding and creating skills profiles: It can take a LOT of mental and physical effort to break down and prioritize each and every skill that needs to be taught and reinforced in a modern manufacturing operation. AI tools can help organizations break complex data sets like these into their manageable discrete parts, removing a lot of bottlenecks from the administrative end of frontline training.


Understanding skills and competencies.


It's essential that you understand which skills are needed throughout your entire workforce. 

The frontline industry is facing an unprecedented skills gap for a number of reasons, and it’s our job to deliver the correct training to correct this disparity. 

More and more, frontline trainers are pairing dedicated skills management and development software with their digital job aids and LMS tools to more effectively manage the competencies of their workforce.

This is the best way to understand the needs of both your operations of your workforce, and to most effectively bridge any gaps with the right materials.

 




Upskilling first.


It’s essential to focus on developing the skillsets already existing in your frontline workforce with upskilling initiatives

Upskilling is the process of developing new or existing skills that are relevant to a person’s current role in order to either broaden or deepen their area of expertise. Not only will it help close skills gaps, but it will help your teams feel valued and dramatically improve retention rates.

This is more important than ever, as turnover rates have skyrocketed to 40% in the US.

 

 

Leveraging Digital Tools.

Digital tools play a significant role in enhancing the delivery of frontline training. They provide opportunities to improve accessibility, interactivity, and flexibility in training programs.


1. Digital job aids. Digital work instructions explain the best way to complete a specific procedure. They translate procedures into a human-centered way of working that allows any employee on the shop floor to complete the task at hand.

2. Learning Management Systems. Learning Management Systems (LMS) platforms allow organizations to deliver online courses, track progress, and provide access to learning resources. LMS also enable the administration of assessments and certifications, making it easier to evaluate the effectiveness of training.

3. Augmented and virtual reality. Another important digital tool gaining more traction with the modern frontline in 2024 is augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). These technologies leverage wearable devices to provide realistic and immersive training experiences, allowing frontline workers to practice their skills in a simulated environment. 




employee training ar vr


Future-Proofing Frontline Employee Training Strategies.

As industries and technologies continue to evolve, it becomes more important than ever to future-proof frontline training strategies to ensure their relevance and effectiveness in the long-term.