As a learning and development professional, you know that the success of your organization depends on the skills of your employees.

Unfortunately, skilling the operational and deskless parts of a business is a practice that’s often neglected or forgotten entirely. Priorities for training are usually placed on developing the skills of teams sitting in front of screens.

In today's fast-paced workplace, it is more important than ever for frontline employees to have a clear learning path and to be given the tools to autonomously develop their skills. An employee with agency and resources is one who will stay motivated and engaged.

Frontline employees’ work demands that they learn new things quickly, adapt to change, and solve problems on the fly. If expectations are high but their future career development is unclear, it’s very likely that your most promising talents will leave.

What does this mean for you? Enormous hiring and training costs.

L&D managers should prioritize the skills development of frontline team members—which can mean overcoming significant challenges, including lack of transparency and incomplete assessment of current and needed skills.

The main problem: Lack of transparency

Frontline employees often struggle to develop their own skills because they lack transparency and visibility about what is expected of them. They don’t have direct access to a comprehensive list of skills and proficiencies needed for their job. They’re also rarely given clear information about how they’re performing against these requirements.

The frontline workforce often has only a vague understanding of what knowledge, skills, and behaviors are required for their job. Adding to this headache, they also often lack access to effective training materials that they can use to develop these competencies in order to reach their professional goals and prove their competency to future managers.

This lack of clarity and control over skill development has a significant impact on the futures of frontline employees. It makes it difficult for ambitious frontline employees to progress in their careers and move to a higher pay scale—and they know it.

Managers are playing catch-up

Frontline skills management poses challenges for training managers as well. Assessment mechanisms are lacking, making it hard to control skill levels accurately. Insight into assessment history is often unclear and outdated, hindering progress tracking and the creation of personalized training plans for teams and individuals.

Supervisors and team leads are also struggling. Ensuring seamless workflows, independent of the team members on the shift, becomes a daunting task. Planning shifts is a daily struggle. Control over training processes during compliance audits adds further complexity, since the overview of team members' current, developing, and planned skills may be nonexistent or outdated.

Analyzing skills gaps for upskilling, reskilling, or hiring purposes becomes a time-consuming endeavor, and identifying qualified replacements for specific tasks when team members depart is very difficult in a competitive job market.

How you can upskill & motivate frontline employees

Solution 1: Streamline procedures and enhance visibility

First, make sure to streamline procedures and enhance visibility in order to create a structured and efficient process that promotes skill growth. Sounds simple, but it can be complex and time-consuming. Start with these steps:

  • Set up a transparent competency framework
  • Make sure skills matrices are always up-to-date
  • Collaborate on training plans for teams and individuals with team leads
  • Grant frontline employees access to their personal development plans to follow progress
  • Make assessments a collaborative effort

Solution 2: Promote autonomous skilling

Another way to improve frontline skills development is promoting self-directed on-the-job learning with accessible training materials.

  • Training materials should promote upskilling and enable progress tracking. Training plans can be created based on skills gap predictions and consistency assured through assessments based on standards and levels. Progress and expertise can be proven and documented for compliance. These efforts foster a culture of skill development, empowering employees to thrive within the organization. Some steps learning leaders can take include:
  • Provide structured access to training materials for upskilling
  • Enable progress tracking so that employees can see how they are progressing and identify areas for improvement
  • Leverage accurate skills gap prediction to set up training plans and assessments
  • Implement accessible skill assessments based on standards and levels so that employees can showcase expertise and self-assess capabilities

Solution 3: Create a culture of continuous learning

By adopting efficient skills planning strategies, organizations can prioritize the most pressing skills gaps and allocate resources accordingly. This proactive approach ensures that frontline employees possess and showcase the necessary skills to excel in their roles and grow professionally. It also makes it easier to hire and onboard new more quickly talent, contributing to overall organizational success.

This culture of continuous learning will motivate existing employees to stay, while boosting your employer brand to attract new talent. Here are some ways to get started:

  • Create a central repository of information about relevant skills and training activities
  • Provide regular updates on new skills and training opportunities
  • Encourage employees to share their own learning experiences with each other
  • Adopt efficient planning strategies to prioritize the most pressing skills and allocate resources accordingly

Operational excellence is born from continuous improvement. Continuous improvement stems from a growth mindset of “always learning.” Let people grow in their roles and see them thrive.