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Is training failing deskless workers?


There’s a great quote in this Microsoft video about deskless workers, where they are described as feeling so isolated, it’s like being stranded on an island.

Depending on who you listen to, there are anything between 500 million (Microsoft estimate) and three billion (Google’s figure) of these deskless workers, stranded on desert islands all around the world. Google say their estimate amounts to 80% of the global workforce. That’s a lot of people.

But who exactly are these deskless workers? They’re pretty much everyone not based in an office. These workers are remote, mobile, on the go – and often, on their feet or behind a wheel.

They work in retail, hospitality, construction, transportation, manufacturing. They’re shop staff, field service workers, delivery drivers, warehouse employees. Some are working in the new gig economy. And they are workers from right across the employment spectrum. Many might not even have a work email address, let alone a desk, while some will be doing tough, dangerous work on a daily basis.

A lot of deskless workers are out of sight – and out of mind. This is a huge mistake. Why? Because these employees are critically important to the success of the business. They are the public face of the company. They’re on the front line, interacting with customers and delivering services directly to them. If they’re bad at their job, your business has no chance.

These employees don’t just need relevant knowledge and information to do their job; they need it to hand now. And yet, because they don’t have a desk or a computer, they’re often left out when it comes to training.

No wonder they feel disengaged, forgotten about, cast adrift. It’s time to go out and rescue them…

Deskless workers: A 5-step rescue mission

Getting deskless workers the support they need will be increasingly important, as the way we work becomes ever more mobile and agile. There are challenges, of course.  But there are solutions, too, and none of them involve a desk.

  • Step 1: The learning needs to be within their working context and environment. It should be taken out to them and made available as close as possible to the workflow.
  • Step 2: Related to step 1, focus on line managers. They are the closest link to many deskless workers, and they are uniquely able to shape their day-to-day experience.  Give them the support they need to be learning champions. 
  • Step 3: The deskless workforce  cover a broad spectrum of employees so design learning with everyone in mind. Use technology to personalise and adapt the experience.
  •  Step 4: Treat your deskless workers as customers of your learning.  Make certain it’s relevant, easy to access and enjoyable, otherwise like regular consumers, they’ll go elsewhere.  
  •  Step 5: Focus on business outcomes and work backwards to the behaviour of your deskless workers. Ask yourself if the learning you are providing supports deskless workers to contribute to end goal.   
"A lot of deskless workers are out of sight – and out of mind. This is a huge mistake. Why? Because these employees are critically important to the success of the business."

So, how do you get this rescue mission off the ground?

Microlearning encompasses all five rescue steps outlined earlier and ensures that deskless workers get the inspiring, empowering learning they need to do their job confidently. The digital learning, accessed via devices, is personalised, relevant, engaging and bite-sized – it requires just three to five minutes each day.

Because it can be adapted and updated, microlearning is also continuous.  And it’s available on-demand, which customer-facing employees need. A smart platform such as Axonify is a cost-effective way of reaching deskless workers across your organisation with bespoke learning that is aligned to pre-defined goals.

It’s clear that digital offers a real solution for deskless workers, but too many organisations are failing to embrace this opportunity.  In a recent webinar poll of learning professionals, technology was cited as the biggest single barrier to training deskless workers.  To overcome this, businesses will need to be open-minded to new technology solutions, such as microlearning.

Deskless workers are the beating heart of an organisation. But they might be in need of a lifeline from their employers. 

For more on how to empower deskless workers with better training, catch the recording of our webinar.