In the highly competitive and low-margin outlook of the service industry, it is striking to see the level of investment in workplace education and training. According to Digital Promise’s recently released “Tapping Data for Frontline Talent Development” report, 89% of frontline employers offer them some kind of education and training opportunity. The marketplace demands customer training not as a source of growth, but to stay afloat, which is why training adds to overheads that often end up sinking the boat. (Mostly the little ships.)
Considering the burdensome cost of training under the light of high turnover rates and less than stellar job satisfaction, it sits even more baffling that little development in cost-lowering training solutions is taking place. At least until the Digital Promise report. Many of whose facts seem to explain why the question feels done for:
- 60% of frontline employers do not see upskilling as a “high priority.”
- Partly as a result, 51% of frontline workers seem the education “somewhat” or “not useful.”
- The low wages offset the costs of training and churning.
- Given the limited development opportunities, the common frontline worker has no incentive to invest in trade-specific skills.
The frontline open learning proposition
With that bit of reality in check, it’s worth taking a better look at the paths actually worth exploring. With the constraints of the sector, any learning solution needs to consider cost reduction in its value proposition.
In practical terms, this can mean figuring out the complexities of a training ecosystem fulfilled by a wide range of providers, where standards and certifications do not tend to reach beyond food safety issues. The learning provider should have a consolidated offer including technology, educational resources, learning outcomes (or Competencies) and standard certification. On top of this set of basics, innovative technology and pedagogy can be an added value. A cutting-edge microlearning platform, for instance, that does not address the fundamental issues is DOA.
Open source technologies have an edge in the space, as long as the interface is intuitive enough that the training about using the platform does not offset the savings of its implementation.
The Digital Promise report places a strong emphasis on data. However, given the low importance given to the service worker performance, it is difficult to believe investments in data are a first sole course of action.
But if the system already has a data layer, it stands to reason that the ability to collect and report on tracked learner performance and behavior will give it a competitive edge. Whether the customer understands it is a different issue.
If you are thinking about servicing the frontline service learner, you should consider the following:
- Focus on building a unique value proposition, but always keep an eye on cost-cutting.
- Anticipate issues of quality, regulation and standard certification, ideally before reaching out to potential leads
- Once you can ensure the basics, next-gen tech and teaching can help consolidate your brand. Mobile, gamification and yes, microlearning are relatively safe gets
If you are an LMS data believer, the sensible choice is an LRS that collects and standardizes performance and behavior data. This eases the implementation, especially with systems that can collect data in the form of xAPI statements, and gets you ready when an institutional ecosystem begins to emergef. Still, the frontline worker space does not appear to have a particular site appetite for data-intensive learning solutions.