Client-facing frontline employees in the finance sector receive some of the most effective and consistent training, an Axonify survey found.
And CFOs in all industries can learn from investing in that training, Carol Leaman, president and CEO of Axonify, told CFO Dive.
"In most organizations, CFOs are the keepers of the business's financial health," Leaman said. "And the financial health of a business [can be] impacted in so many ways, but one of the most critical is employee performance."
Axonify, a micro-learning platform, released its third-annual State of Frontline Workplace Training Study. The company conducts the survey of frontline employees and managers across a number of industries, including finance, insurance, professional sales, manufacturing, logistics, contact centers and retail.
Finance employees well trained
Finance employees receive more training — by a significant margin — than those in many other professions, the survey found. About 67% of finance and insurance staff are effectively trained, and only frontline staff in professional services (70%) tend to be more effectively trained.
CFOs may not think employee performance is within their purview, Leaman said. But more and more, CFOs are coming to consider it and "are asking, 'how do we invest in [our] employees to drive performance, that then we can tie to the specific business outcomes we're looking to achieve?' CFOs are now starting to understand that employees don't stick around nearly as long as they used to, and the cost of turnover for an organization is astronomical."
"As stewards of the organization's financial health, [effective frontline employee training] would be hugely beneficial for CFOs," she said.
Asked to what extent the C-suite should be directly involved with frontline training, Leaman said, "100%, all the way up to the top."
It would be a mistake to ignore the training of frontline employees and focus instead on the performance of higher-profile (and higher-paid) corporate workers, Leaman said.
"For whatever reason, rightly or wrongly — and I would suggest wrongly — frontline workforces have had much less investment, from a skill perspective," she said. "The reality is that for an organization with 20,000 frontline employees and 3,000 corporate employees, what those 20,000 people do day in and day out has a huge impact on financial business."
The frontline workforce is "the face in the organization, in many respects, to the customer base," Leaman said.
In her research at Axonify, Leaman said she has noticed a renewed awareness of how critical frontline employees are to a business's bottom line. "Now, with the skills shortage, employees can stick their hand up and say, 'You're not investing in me, and I can get $2 more per hour at the competing company across the street, so I’m leaving,'" she said.
Leaman said she "absolutely" finds a direct correlation between company profits and employee preparedness from focused training. At Axonify, managers take three minutes a day to ask their frontline employees three to five specific questions in "very granular areas of knowledge" to track what they don't know. "If you're looking at an organization with thousands of frontline workers, we [want to] know their specific knowledge gaps at any given time, and that amount of data is enormous," Leaman said.
Whether driving sales or reducing expenses, people do what they know and skip what they don't, Leaman said.
With modern technology, organizations no longer have to "pull people into the room and fire-hose them with one-size-fits-all information, and then send them out, hoping they'll do the right thing, not really being able to measure how that training is that effective," she said.
CFOs must actively consider how best to partner with the human resources department to drive performance and business outcomes, Leaman said. "[Training] isn't just an HR problem, it's an organizational problem," she said. "And CFOs who support their frontline workforce will benefit enormously."
This year's study included questions on long-term career development, Leaman noted, adding that 54% of the global workforce will need "significant re-skilling" within the next three years, according to the World Economic Forum.