Survey: Many frontline workers feel left behind

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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A new survey indicates four in 10 frontline associates perceive a lack of preparation for their job.

According to the annual Global State of Frontline Employee Training Study conducted in July/August 2020 by global market research firm Arlington Research for frontline employee training solution provider Axonify, 39% of all respondents don’t feel prepared to do their job in the current environment. 

The survey of 2,000 frontline employees across a range of industries including retail from the U.S., U.K. and Australia also shows 30% of frontline workers don’t trust their employers or are ambivalent about their employer’s ability to deliver the training they need to do their jobs effectively, with associates in the U.S. having the lowest confidence (64%).

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 49% of all respondents had been furloughed, with fewer in the U.S. (31%) compared to Australia (59%) and the U.K. (57%). However, nearly all furloughed employees indicated there was some form of contact while being furloughed (98%).

Issues arose when asked to describe the communications, with just under half of frontline employees said the communications were “relevant” to their job (46%), and only four in 10 described them as “reliable” (40%) and “timely” (39%).

Throughout the overall survey, grocery and retail workers scored lower than frontline workers in other industries. Only 61% of grocery store and 62% of retail employees felt supported by their manager, while professional sales employees (73%) and those working in contact centers (72%) felt more supported.

In receiving regular training, only one out of two respondents reported receiving it for grocery (50%) and retail stores (52%), compared to 64% in contact centers and 65% in professional sales. When frontline employees were asked to take on additional tasks or a new role, only 65% of those in a retail environment felt they were provided with the training and support they needed. And one-third of grocery store associates felt their employer had not taken proper action to keep their staff safe through the COVID-19 crisis.

Almost half of those surveyed (46%) had taken on new tasks as a result of the pandemic, while 23% had filled a new position altogether. When asked if training had been provided when taking on their new role and/or task(s), only 48% of frontline workers agreed. Respondents who had received training gave the following responses when asked to describe different aspects of their program:

•    Easy to understand and remember 34%
•    Knowledge or skills had improved 31%
•    Helped to feel confident in the ability to do my job 32%
•    Could info more info on topic after training 29%
•    Training was personalized and relevant to my role 28%
•    Training was enjoyable and engaging 21%

“It is no question that the grocery and retail industries have been directly in the eye of the storm, so they have certainly been dealing with more chaos than the average employer,” said Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify. “But this is the canary in the coal mine. If they don’t turn their attention to the actual training and support needs of their frontline soon, they risk getting swallowed up by competitors who are.”