Delivering Training for Deskless Employees – 4 Tips

A majority of the workforce today is deskless, even if we don’t always realise it. Retail, hospitality and manufacturing are just a few examples of industries where the majority of staff don’t have a desk. However, that doesn’t mean these employees don’t need training – they do! While being deskless poses a challenge for L&D, it’s still possible to deliver effective learning experiences to this group of learners. Technology can be an effective tool, however, we shouldn’t forget the importance of good design and planning either. Here are 4 tips towards successful strategies for delivering training to deskless employees.

1. In the absence of computers, go mobile

One of the key difficulties of deskless workforce is that they don’t have computers. For office workers, computers are generally the primary medium for accessing learning on the job. However, being “out in the field”, the majority doesn’t have that possibility. As computers are out of the picture, and traditional instructor-led training isn’t always a viable alternative, we need another medium. Luckily, almost everyone today carries a mobile phone of some kind.

While mobiles are a challenge themselves, if not just for the sheer amount of distraction they provide, they can be a helpful tool for training deskless employees. However, when designing learning for the mobile, there are certain peculiarities you should keep in mind (you can read more on that here). In general, adopting mobile should enable an organisation to roll out scalable training initiatives to a dispersed workforce.

2. Deskless workers benefit from just-in-time learning

Often, there’s a bit of difference between the learning needs of deskless employees compared to conventional office staff. From a learning perspective, the busy work environment doesn’t likely constitute a good environment for learning. That is, unless the learning is directly related to the job at hand. The beauty of the situational context for these workers is that they are often able to apply the learning immediately. Therefore, just-in-time learning can provide a meaningful and significant performance benefit right from the outset. Instead of cramming information and spending hours in training rooms, you can deliver value to the deskless folk by helping them to perform on their job. Often, the employees are quick to see the value too!

Generally, we may divide this type of just-in-time learning into two categories. Performance support resources provide a frame of reference for employees to check their own knowledge. Then, there’s the more experiential learning part. A way of providing formal training to deskless workers can also take the form of learning through experience. Instead spending great amounts of time beforehand, learners can go through content in the moment, and apply immediately. From a learning perspective, this produces a much greater impact to simply acquiring the knowledge.

3. Accessibility and ease of use are paramount to success

However, an aspect that can’t be over-emphasised enough is the importance of user experience and accessibility. Many of the key considerations for user experience are related to the situational context of learning. As deskless workers are mostly learning while performing work, it’s important that they can find relevant learning resources rapidly. This might take the form of a powerful search feature, AI-based recommendation algorithms or even a less is more -philosophy.

Other things to take into account are connection speeds, bandwidth requirements, user interface choices as well as the context of the work itself. Firstly, working in out-of-office locations, internet connection may be slow. Therefore, we should avoid excessive media and resources that require a lot of bandwidth to load. Secondly, as employees need to find relevant information rapidly, you don’t want to clog up the user interface with unnecessary features. Navigation should be simple and intuitive. Thirdly, as there are many kinds of deskless workers, the nature of the training should work for them. For instance, a construction engineer might have to keep his hands working while referencing resources. In that case, a voice control feature might become a key feature to ensure work safety.

4. Success metrics should base on the work itself

Finally, like any L&D initiative, a good deskless workforce learning strategy should include impact measurement. The great thing about operating in this type of environment, where most of the learning happens in the flow of work, is that we can also evaluate the outcomes of said learning based on the work. Essentially, this means that instead of knowledge acquisition and retention, we’re evaluating the learning transfer itself – whether people apply the learning or not. From an impact standpoint, this kind of impact assessment is much more powerful, as it enables us to establish links between learning and business performance.

While intuitive feedback in this regard may often be quite accurate (people tend to know when a resource helps them doing their work better), organisational learning analytics can prove to be a big powerhouse. A proper analytics setup enables you to capture both the learning, as well as the impact on people’s performance. Furthermore, some of the most advanced AI-based analytical tools can help you to even identify the best kind of resources for a particular setting.

Final words

Training deskless employees is an important issue. Arguably, a lot of the job nature’s of the deskless workforce may undergo changes in the near future, which further reinforces the constant need of upskilling and reskilling. If you’re running a deskless organisation and would like to use learning as a tool for performance, you can contact us here. We’d be happy to take a look at your problem.

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