A large population of today’s workforce does not work in an office or at a desk or even have access to a computer. These people are often referred to as “deskless workers,” a group that Google estimates makes up 80 percent of the global workforce. Industries well-known for having deskless workers range from healthcare to food services, and as diverse as they are, most do not have the consistent access and training infrastructure that other industries, which consist predominantly of office workers, foster. Therefore, learning and development is often difficult to implement, though it’s much needed to reduce churn and keep employees engaged.
In a recent survey focused on deskless workers, results showed that a mix of learning formats is necessary to engage this group across generations, but the commonality is interaction. Almost a quarter of respondents are interested in simulations to obtain new skills, and 21 percent of respondents thought group training was the most engaging. Meanwhile, only 25 percent of respondents said their employers have L&D programs in place to develop leadership skills.
Offering interactive and collaborative leadership instruction is essential to retaining talent, especially in industries such as hospitality and retail where turnover rates can be high. No matter their occupation, today’s employees are seeking L&D to further their careers. Luckily, technological advances allow employers to provide it to deskless workers in new and engaging ways.
1. Virtual Reality: Coming to a Headset Near You
Using virtual reality and augmented reality may not be the most popular learning format among deskless employees; however, Gen Z workers crave the latest technology, valuing simulation learning programs over other options. It’s clear this technology-savvy generation is looking for their employers to expand educational formats that include interactive and experiential technology, which they may be using in their personal lives.
AR and VR technology provide employers with a consistent and thorough format for educating employees. Any trainee can read or learn about a certain skill, but immersion will give them a true sense of what it is like to be on the job. VR creates a unique opportunity for employees to experience real-life situations that mirror their everyday tasks and processes. By using an immersive simulation scenario, employees can learn and develop the skills necessary to perform their jobs. It is a safer alternative to hands-on training for workers who perform physically challenging duties or tasks that are too dangerous without a required level of skill. This style is especially helpful to deskless workers, who may not have the time or resources to sit at a computer and refer to training manuals when critical issues arise on the job. By practicing in a first-hand environment, they will be more readily prepared.
And for employers looking for a way to provide deskless workers with “side-by-side” training, problem solving and execution, AR can be used to layer additional information on top of an employee’s direct view of his or her environment. When used, AR creates labels, captions and other helpful overlays to an on-the-job scenario. For example, a warehouse worker with GE Healthcare tasked with processing a new picklist order was provided with AR-enabled glasses. The worker was able to complete the task 46 percent faster compared with fulfilling the order via the standard process.
2. A Little Friendly Competition
By using the traditional elements of game-like situations and applying them to business scenarios, gamification allows for an increase in engagement within learning programs, specifically among millennials. Gamification is a great alternative to traditional programs as it can increase participation, encourage competition and reward hard workers, all while revealing employee behavior patterns.
Deskless workers will often rely on mobile interactions, making gamification a familiar and simple way to learn on the job. Also, when engaging in gamification, competition is expected and a reward system can be created; this is a great way to observe and monitor skill sets. If people will develop their skills in a game to earn virtual rewards, why not apply this tactic in the workplace? A large benefit of gamification is that many of these solutions offer real-time feedback, a factor that is critical for deskless workers who need to improve skills constantly and in a short amount of time.
3. All in the Palm of Your Hand
It’s not always practical for managers to pull remote workers out of the field for an instructor-led program as this can be costly and time-consuming. Instead, mobile learning is a quick, relatively easy alternative.
Today, virtually every process is available in handheld form, so it makes sense that learning solutions should be too. By implementing continuous performance training through mobile channels, employees can receive feedback based on regular interactions. By 2020, MarketsandMarkets predicts the mobile learning market will be worth $37.6 billion. As deskless workers are always on the move, mobile learning can be vital to these individuals.
Mobile learning is the easiest, quickest way to provide feedback in the field, with important employee information at the employer’s fingertips. With mobile learning, managers can quickly pull up a video or image that can help the employee understand a problem and develop a skill right at the time of need. While Gen Z workers value simulation exercises most, Gen-Xers highly value video instruction. Additionally, using a tablet, a manager has the ability to do an over-the-shoulder review with an employee and give feedback in small increments as training is taking place.
As the number of deskless workers begins to rise, it becomes increasingly important for organizations to have processes in place to address the unique learning and development needs of these employees. By rethinking current formats, organizations can bring these same successful L&D solutions to deskless workers. There is no one-size-fits-all approach for L&D programs, especially for workers with limited or no access to a computer, and each industry and organization has a unique set of needs and skills. Bringing new training methods to the deskless workforce will help to increase retention, improve skills and address issues quickly.
Doug Stephen is senior vice president of the Learning Division at CGS, a global enterprise learning and outsourcing company. Comment below, or email editor@CLOmedia.com.