Training Programs
Is Your Front Line Aware of Development Opportunities?
Thursday, March 3, 2016

Is your frontline aware of development opportunities? Probably not, according to new research from the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) and Aspen Institute's UpSkill America. Data reported in Developing America’s Frontline Workers finds that nearly three-quarters of organizations don’t know if their frontline workers take advantage of development opportunities. 

The study included input from leaders at 365 U.S. employers and was conducted in support of the Upskill Initiative announced by President Barack Obama in his January 2015 State of the Union address and later launched at the White House Upskill Summit.  The objective of the study “is to support businesses in their efforts to educate, train, and develop low-wage and entry-level workers,” writes Erik Samdahl, director of marketing and technology at i4cp, in a blog post highlighting the data. 

The study also finds that while 89 percent of organizations currently offer development opportunities to frontline workers, and 98 percent of these indicate plans to maintain or grow these programs, 73 percent indicate that their organizations don't track that metric. What’s more, the study found that 59 percent of organizations fail to measure and reward managers for developing these workers. 

“These findings are significant when compared to the study's most important finding: when frontline workers take advantage of development opportunities, it has a high correlation to the market performance of the organization,” says Samdahl. 

Among other key findings:

  • Of the organizations that track development of their frontline, most organizations (58 percent) indicate that fewer than half of those workers actually access available development opportunities.

  • Not tracking manager effectiveness at developing frontline workers is correlated with poor market performance and is pervasive among low-performance organizations (63 percent vs. only 29 percent of high-performance organizations).

  • While only 34 percent of organizations reward line leaders who encourage workers to take advantage of provided opportunities, it's a practice that is 2.5 times more prevalent at high-performance organizations. 

Kevin Oakes, CEO of i4cp, attributes the problem in large part to weak follow-through and poor communications. In fact, the data found that an alarming 60 percent of respondents do not perceive that their organizations place a high priority on developing this worker segment. 
Here’s the good news: “When frontline workers take advantage of development opportunities, it has a positive impact on the market performance of the organization. The opportunity for positive bottom-line impact through frontline worker development is significant as it impacts those who often work most closely with an organization's customers," says Oakes. 

You can download a complimentary copy of Developing America’s Frontline Workers. The report includes case studies from Walmart, Hilton Worldwide, McDonald's, and Newport News Shipbuilding (a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries), as well as four strategies and three critical enablers for companies to be more effective at developing frontline workers.


About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs, as well as ATD's government-focused magazine, The Public Manager. Contact her at 

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