Closing the Skills Gap in Frontline Operations

Michelle Lucas

March 17, 2021
closing skills gap in frontline operations

The workforce is rapidly evolving. A skills gap exists in many industrial and frontline service sectors.  High rates of retirement of baby boomers who have served for years are creating a dearth of not only soft skills but knowledge of how to satisfactorily fulfill the requirements of a variety of manufacturing positions.

Other factors include excessive turnover rates. Turnover rates actually surpassed 100% at times in some industries, like quick service restaurants (QSRs), in recent years. The need for continual training reduces the profits of these companies.

Workers who change jobs require intensive instruction and reminders until they become proficient at their new position. In view of these issues, companies who only use traditional training methods are at a disadvantage in today’s digital age. 

Traditional Training Approaches Often Fail in Closing the Skills Gap

Traditional, upfront training is performed in some form by every company. New employees are instructed in the techniques needed to properly manufacture parts, serve customers, whatever actions their job requires.

But it’s not easy to learn and remember everything we are told. In today’s fast-paced, sometimes understaffed workplaces, a dedicated mentor cannot be spared to stay with a newly hired worker for an extended period. Reminders are needed weeks or months if not long-term, in order for workers to perform every step of a task properly,

Questions will arise when unexpected issues occur. There won’t always be an experienced veteran worker to consult when help is needed. Paper instructions are no longer practical and can be easily misplaced. The information workers need is likely contained in the company’s digital records, but frontline workers cannot easily access them. 

Some jobs require checks, reports, responses at varying intervals or under certain conditions. It’s difficult to remember these details, especially for those new to a job. They are often forgotten even by experienced staff members.

The Problem with the Traditional Learning Process

Traditional “upfront” training methods are not effective in many cases. Employees need continuous reinforcement to combat the “forgetting curve” while climbing the learning curve. According to this article in Training Industry Magazine, as much as 90 percent of information is forgotten within 30 days, and 70 percent of that loss happens within one day.

The article goes on to introduce the concept of Content Chunking, a concept that was first introduced back in 1965 by Harvard psychologist George A. Miller. Miller hypothesized that the short-term memory could only hold five to nine “chunks” of information at a time.

What new workers face is not a “learning curve”, but a continuous cycle of learning and forgetting until mastery sets in.

Additionally, digital culture is rapidly advancing. Learning through digital means comes naturally to those new to the workplace. Thus, workplaces must adjust to support the needs of these new workers, according to Pew Research


Combining Digital with Analog Bridges the Gap in Frontline Operations

Adding a digital component to analog experiences (in this case analog is defined as physical processes and interactions completed by humans in real-world environments) supports effective ways of learning for those new to the workforce and serves as a reminder system to ensure critical tasks and key information are not forgotten. It also helps to divide up the content and learning into more easily digestible “chunks” that are reinforced with real world context.

Digital prompts, reminders, easily accessed resources are the answer to the problem of how to train today’s frontline workers, and to supporting their successful performance, thus ensuring accuracy of production in manufacturing, a positive customer experience in retail, food service, hospitality, health care, senior citizen or child care services.

A System That Eliminates the Frontline Skills Gap

TrustPlace offers a system that can supplement tribal knowledge of how to perform a task correctly. It can make important information available to frontline staff at the proper moment.

TrustPlace’s contextualized reinforcement direction – provided by digital tools – can combat the “forgetting curve”. It offers digital natives the tools they are used to as students and consumers; processes to which they can relate.  The system effectively addresses issues of contextual knowledge and decision-making and just-in-time consumption, for greater efficiency of procedures key to business success.

Curious how this can work? Schedule a demo to learn how digital tools can help in closing the skills gap in frontline operations

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