Internship organizing shelves in supermarket under supervision of the store manager

How Can L&D Support Frontline Workers?

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Dear Tim,

I work as a learning program manager for a large restaurant chain, and we’ve been working hard these past few weeks to virtualize our learning content in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While many of our corporate employees, including myself, have been able to transition to working from home, our frontline restaurant staff are still working hard in our restaurants to serve our customers with to-go orders.

What else can we be doing to help support our frontline workers from a learning standpoint? I’d love to hear what advice you can offer.

Thanks for reaching out and for asking such a great question! I think it’s important that we do everything we can to support our frontline workers, whether they be in a restaurant, a grocery store, or an emergency room. From a learning standpoint, especially right now, I think it’s important that we strike the right balance between acting as a helpful resource, rather than attempting to throw one more thing on their plate. In fact, this sentiment should apply all the time.

What can we do to support frontline workers right now? Here are a few general tips.

Ask What They Need

Too often in the world of learning and development, we dictate what our learners need and bestow it to them. In this situation, I think the best thing we can do is to ask our frontline workers for what they need and do everything we can to provide it to them. Whether it’s additional resources on the use of personal protective equipment or otherwise, as learning professionals, we can be the conduit between what our learners need and how the business can provide it. This leads me to my second tip.


Adapt and Be Flexible

Right now it’s important to remember that these aren’t normal times. Frontline workers are quickly adapting to different social interactions and work practices at lightning speed. Frankly, this is not the time to roll out a new soft skills course about running effective meetings or something that doesn’t actually help them get their primary job done. This is not to say soft skills aren’t important, but they can be put on hold until this is over. What this means is that we need to adapt what we’re doing and be willing to flexible.

Make Their Lives Easier

My final tip is a simple one: Do anything and everything you can to make their lives easier. That’s it! Whether that means giving an extension on that annual compliance course or something else, it’s important that we find every opportunity to make what they’re doing easier and safer.

I hope these tips help. Best of luck!



What other tips do you have for supporting frontline workers? Share them by commenting below.

Do you have a learning question you’d like me to tackle? You can email them to [email protected] Also, visit the Ask a Trainer hub to check out all of your questions and my answers.

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Please note: Content shared in this column is provided by the author and may not reflect the perspectives of ATD.

About the Author

Tim Slade is a speaker, author, award-winning
e-learning designer, and author of The eLearning
Designer’s Handbook.

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