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Skills capability building - knowledge workforce vs frontline workforce

Skills capability building – knowledge workforce vs frontline workforce

The novel Coronavirus has left most of the companies in uncharted waters to struggle with the waves of uncertainties. The brain (knowledge workforce) and the face (frontline workforce) of the company, play a vital role in outmaneuvering these uncertainties. 

Let’s clear the air and see who falls into these categories before we delve deep into unlocking the capabilities of these two important resources of the company. 

Engineers, system analysts, researchers, web designers, architects, IT professionals, etc. fall in the category of knowledge workers. While employees directly facing the customers like delivery executives, restaurant waiters, retail sales reps, etc are considered frontline workers. 

Whether your employees are behind the desk creating a new product for the customer or on the field connecting directly with the customers, they need the right skills and capabilities to drive utmost customer satisfaction. 

The changing learning scenario: pre and post-pandemic 

Due to digital acceleration and changing customer expectations, skill capability building has become even more crucial post-pandemic.

A drastic change in the learning patterns of the frontline and knowledge workers has been visible pre and post-pandemic. 

When the pandemic struck, there was a 70% increase in the average time spent on learning by frontline workers. 

The average learning hours for knowledge workers rose from 1.5 hours before the pandemic to 2.6 hours per month during the pandemic.

The digital disruption and changing market trends are keeping both knowledge and frontline workforce on their toes.

The frontline workers are embracing new techniques and strategies to deal with the challenges that have increased post-pandemic. 

For instance, delivery executives are learning new techniques and skills as post-COVID purchase orders have increased as more customers are tapping the digital space. So they need to manage high volume products efficiently. They cannot deliver the wrong product or delay delivery. This will affect the reputation of the company. They need to learn new skills and technologies that help in effective order tracking and delivery. 

The knowledge workers on the other hand are trying to accelerate their pace by learning new skills. New roles have emerged due to the changing demands post-COVID. If the knowledge workers do not learn new skills they won’t fit in the modern digital-first business environment.

The knowledge workforce needs to adapt to the rapidly changing conditions and develop various cross-functional skills to be more job-ready. Nowadays most advanced learning solutions are equipped with modern features that help in expanding the skill set and prepare the knowledge workers for new responsibilities. For instance, with role-based skill benchmarking in disprz you can identify and benchmark the skills needed for a particular job, and accordingly, you can design your learning programs. 

The learning approach needs to be modified and integrated seamlessly with the workload that the knowledge and frontline workers are facing. It is pivotal to craft a skill capability-building strategy that develops frontline and knowledge worker’s digital, technical and cognitive capabilities. 

Understanding the knowledge and frontline workforce for effective skills capability building 

skill capability building

Both knowledge and the frontline workforce have different needs and requirements. An in-depth understanding of both is pivotal for successful skill capability building. 

Push vs self-paced for knowledge: what do frontline and knowledge workers prefer 

Though the learning journeys of the frontline and knowledge workers are different, their pathways cross at a common junction, i.e self-paced learning. 

The completion ratio for the self-paced module is 75% for the knowledge workforce and 85% for the frontline workforce

Self-paced modules are more learner-driven, unlike the push-based learning module where the management controls the way the employees learn. In traditional push-based learning, the knowledge and frontline workers are told what and how much they have to learn.

While self-paced learning modules give employees the freedom to choose what they want to learn at the time that suits best for them. They get access to information at the point of need to complete the tasks at hand successfully. 

So while focusing on skill capability building ensure you develop a learning module that captures the learners’ interest to see greater utilization of the learning material. Self-paced learning is the just-in-time learning that both knowledge and frontline workers need in the post-COVID era.

The source of knowledge differ for frontline and knowledge 

The source of knowledge isn’t the same for knowledge and frontline workers. The frontline workers are on the field facing different types of customers. So various challenging scenarios propel them to move beyond their boundaries and learn more. They need to stay abreast with the fluctuating market and industry trends to cater to the changing requirement, So, most of them do their research and enhance their knowledge to address the pain points of the customers. 

Knowledge workers on the other hand gain functional knowledge by working with various departments of the company. They have to coordinate with other teams to reach the common goals of the company. So they often gain cross-functional knowledge. Moreover, they often make the most of every opportunity given to learn as the digital landscape is changing and they need to stay on top of all the emerging technology trends to succeed. 

How do knowledge and frontline workers learn  

Knowledge workers often learn through the web at a rate 2X more than the frontline workers. Knowledge workers tend to move beyond core work so they learn more skills. 

Frontline workers, on the other hand, learn in the flow of work as they are most of the time on the field, however, to level up their game Post-COVID, the frontline needs to embrace mobile learning. Through bite-sized content, they can learn at any hour of the day. One of our clients who is a leading pharmacy retail chain in India adopted the microlearning strategy to upskill their employees. Their frontline workforce could stay up-to-date with knowledge nuggets on how to stock up medicine, prescribe the right drug, etc. 


Both knowledge and frontline workers have their own set of challenges Post-COVID. With the right learning approach, you can upskill and build their capabilities to address these challenges.  disprz an AI power skilling suite can help you in empowering your knowledge and frontline workforce. Through this all-in-one skilling suite, you can personalize learning to meet the unique needs of your employees.  See a preview to experience disprz in action 

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