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"My Frontline Workers Don't Have Access to a Mobile Phone - How Can I Train Them?"


We’ve got a quick quiz for you to take. What do: 

  • 90% of millennials always have nearby? 
  • 80% of the world’s population own?
  • we check an average of 221 times a day? 

There can only be one answer: the mobile phone. 

The prevalence of the mobile phone makes it a great vehicle for delivering workforce training - one that’s cost-effective, integrates easily into the day-to-day, and encourages continuous learning. But despite their benefits, not every company gives their workforce access to one during the working day. 

If you’re reading this blog post, we’re guessing you’re working for one of them. And while we won’t tell you that a lack of mobile phone access is an ideal situation, we will tell you there are other ways to train your workforce effectively. 

In this article, we’ll explore what these alternatives are and dive into their pros and cons. You’ll come away with a better understanding of the different options for your workforce and what benefits you should be looking out for. 

Ready? Let’s get started. 

Why is mobile learning the gold standard for frontline worker training?

We’re not going to sugarcoat it. If you can’t give your frontline workforce access to a mobile phone, company-owned or otherwise, you will miss out on the benefits of mobile learning:

More time efficient

Frontline workers who undertake training on their mobile phones complete it 45% faster than those who learn on a desktop. Mobile-first training tends to use microlearning principles: delivering lessons in bite-sized formats. These are quick to consume and easy to digest, which improves recall and the chance to put learnings into practice straight away. 

Accessible anywhere

Frontline workers often don’t have regular access to a desktop computer. If they’re on the shop floor, working in a kitchen or out making deliveries, for example, taking the time to sit at a desk and complete training as part of their shift becomes more difficult. Mobile phones, however, come with them anywhere - and every worker has one to themselves. Use them for training, and you’re able to reach every member of your workforce wherever they are. 

More engaging

Mobile-first learning experiences can mirror the content we consume in our free time. Take TikTok, for example - you can watch short videos, swipe through them, and engage with what you watch through likes and comments. Deliver training in the same way, with swipeable videos and in-lesson knowledge checks like quizzes, and your training becomes more engaging than a typical course undertaken at a desk. 

Builds loyalty

The more a worker engages and interacts with your brand, the more likely they are to engage with it - 92% of employees think that workplace training positively impacts their engagement. And with 39% of frontline workers viewing their current role as short-term or temporary, you want to keep hold of as many of these workers as you can. 

Encourages continuous learning

Your workers will be able to learn or refresh how to do a task right before they have to undertake it, rather than separating the act of working and learning. For example, you might have a QR code leading to a lesson on forklift operation affixed to a forklift, so workers can use their phones to scan it right before undergoing their task. 

The more on-the-job learning you can offer, the more your workforce will improve. Leading companies now practice continuous learning to make sure their employees have relevant, timely knowledge, which helps them to effectively support the business’s mission and vision. 

With all that said, for some businesses, it’s just not feasible to give workers mobile phone access. In that situation, what’s an L&D professional to do?

Alternatives to mobile training for frontline workforces

Let’s explore the main alternatives to mobile training for frontline workforces: shared tables, handheld computers, and shared desktops. 

1. Shared tablets

These tend to work well when your frontline workers spend the majority of their working days with others - in retail or hospitality, for example. For more isolated roles like delivery drivers they’ll be less effective. 

Pros of using shared tablets for frontline training

Similar capabilities to mobile phones: training can be delivered in familiar formats that are engaging and time-efficient. 

Multifunctional: shared tablets can be used for other tasks, like assisting customers and checking stock, for example. 

Reasonably accessible: being on the ground means that there are still minimal barriers between the frontline worker and learning. 

Cost-effective: providing one tool between many workers is less expensive than providing one tool per worker, particularly when a frontline workforce might have tens or even hundreds of thousands of people. 

Cons of using shared tablets for frontline training

Learning isn’t embedded in the flow of work: if a worker doesn’t have a tablet to hand, they’re still going to have to leave their task to complete a training module. 

Sharing a device adds more friction: if a worker can’t access training instantly, they’re less likely to complete it - plus, digital friction like logging into a specific app or forgetting a password can decrease productivity by up to 40%.

Results aren’t trackable: if multiple workers are using the same device for training, it may be difficult to track results like completion rates and training effectiveness, depending on the training software being used. 

2. Handheld computers 

Handheld computers are popular in industries that require employees to work more independently or across a larger site, such as transportation and logistics, manufacturing, construction, and warehouse and distribution. Popular brands include Zebra, Panasonic and Datalogic. 

Pros of using handheld computers for frontline training

On-person: like mobile phones, handheld computers allow for training to be accessed almost instantly and therefore embedded in the flow of learning. 

Familiar format: handheld computers may allow training content to take a similar format to content we consume in our own time, as well as be easy to learn for new employees.  

Well-suited to particular industries: handheld computers are the only option on this list that work for industries that require employees to work independently, or are in conditions that may not be suitable for certain devices - such as outdoors or on difficult terrain. 

Cons of using handheld computers for frontline training

Expensive: providing a handheld computer for each worker can become very expensive, very quickly - particularly in comparison to bring-your-own-device schemes which require a smaller investment from the employer. If you choose to provide one per multiple workers, you create the same barriers to training a shared tablet has. 

Difficult to integrate: handheld computers may be difficult to integrate with other communication methods such as email. In this instance, you might experience a drop in uptake and completion rates. 

Poor capabilities: handheld computers are often not as technologically advanced as smartphones, which might limit training formats. This in turn leads to lower engagement metrics and less effective training.  

3. Shared desktop 

We’re going to be honest. This option is at the bottom of the list for a reason - we don’t think it’s an effective way to train your workers. Frontline workers might have access to a shared desktop in a break room, for example, or they might have to travel to an office to use one. 

Pros of using a shared desktop for frontline training

Integrates with LMS systems: if you have an LMS set up already, this training delivery method allows you to keep what you already have rather than introduce something new. 

Integrates with communication channels: channels such as email lend themselves well to desktop computers. 

Familiar format: workers should intuitively understand how to use a desktop computer - either because they’ve used one before, or the technology is not too dissimilar to their mobile phones. 

Cons of using a shared desktop for frontline training

Multiple devices: requiring workers to switch between multiple devices - using a shared desktop for training, and a shared tablet to assist customers, for example - requires them to context-switch, which negatively impacts concentration and productivity. 

Not transportable: rather than being able to access training anywhere, workers have to go to a different location just to access training. This is particularly problematic for workers who have to do tasks quickly and precisely, and might even be paid based on how fast they are. Doing so takes time out of their day and prevents them from automatically putting what they’ve learned into practice - meaning they’re less likely to do the training, and more likely to make mistakes while working.  

Sharing devices adds more friction: when workers share a device, you’ll have to consider scheduling or staggering its use. Once an individual has their turn to use it, they’ll have to leave the shop floor to use the device, then find the right app and log in to complete their training. 

As mentioned above, digital friction reduces productivity by up to 40% - and having to wade through irrelevant information to find what they need can waste up to 2.5 hours every single day. The lesson becomes non-contextual and less relevant - and in a retail or hospitality context, this loss of time results in a worse experience for the customer.

Training frontline staff without a mobile device: final thoughts

Can’t deliver frontline training through a mobile device? It’s not the end of the world - as long as you can find a training tool to accommodate your workforce’s needs. Whatever you choose, make sure that it’s integrated into their working lives as much as possible to reduce friction, maintain efficiency and keep productivity levels consistent. 

If your chosen device largely has the same benefits as frontline training delivered via a mobile, then you can consider your job a job well done. 

Looking for a training tool that can deliver irrespective of the device you choose? We think we know one that can help. eduMe is the only device-agnostic training tool that invisibly embeds training: 

  • Within any device (personal devices, company devices, other handhelds/tablets)
  • Within any third-party or proprietary software (Workday & Teams, or your company's own app)
  • Through external channels such as QR codes or email

Our team will help you find the best solution for your business. Get in touch today (or watch a quick product walkthrough video) to find out more.