Is Frontline Training a Missed Opportunity for Associations?

It’s a telltale sign of someone’s true character: how they treat a restaurant server, fast food counter person, store cashier, or anyone who interacts with the public for a living. The red flags go up if the person you’re with doesn’t really see the person behind the apron or uniform. Many peoples’ eyes were open during the pandemic when frontline workers finally got the attention and respect they deserve, out there working while many of us stayed safe at home.

Frontline workers don’t usually get attention from associations either. Associations provide education to managers and executives in charge but rarely to employees in public-facing roles. Is frontline training a missed opportunity for associations?

Why an association would want to offer frontline training

In many industries, employees who work on the frontline, no matter their employer, need the same set of skills or an understanding of the same regulations. Companies often handle this on their own during onboarding and occasional training, but some associations recognized a market need and developed frontline training programs for their industry.

Meet an industry-wide need.

Frontline training programs are a valuable service for member companies—and also for non-member companies at a much higher price, of course. Employers don’t have to pay consultants to design, run, and keep training sessions updated or hire staff to manage these time-consuming duties. Instead, the association relies on the expertise of its staff and subject matter experts to design and update programs based on the latest industry practices, developments, and regulations. When a need exists across the industry, who better to fill it than the association serving that industry.

Offer on-demand training 24/7.

Employers don’t have to deal with scheduling issues. When online programs are available on-demand, training can start right away. At the New York Credit Union Association, credit union employees go through a series of on-demand webinars in the Frontline Compliance Certificate Program.

frontline training

Provide information companies need to track employee progress.

Your association’s learning management system (LMS) can track employee attendance, send out due date reminders, and administer quizzes and exams. Supervisors and HR staff can pull reports to monitor employee progress. For its Frontline Compliance Training, the American Bankers Association (ABA) produces reports for member companies and bank examiners. ABA offers more than 120 online courses in this program, each taking between 15 to 60 minutes to complete.

Strengthen relationships with member companies.

ABA makes it easy for companies to stick with their training program. ABA provides support during implementation and beyond, such as assisting company administrators in creating user accounts and performing other backend tasks.

Corporate training programs tie companies more tightly to your association since they use this service year-round, especially if frontline positions have a high turnover rate. However, a well-trained employee is more likely to stick around when they see their employer investing in them.

Increase brand awareness across all levels of the industry.

Many of the Colorado Safety Association’s (CSA) educational programs are aimed at management, but they also offer programs for frontline supervisors and employees. CSA’s Frontline Safety Training program for frontline supervisors is solving a management challenge: “Safety leaders understand the pivotal role that frontline supervisors play in shaping the safety mindset in the workforce, and often wish that frontline supervisors understood this as well.”

CSA also offers programs for employees, such as driver safety, safe lifting, ergonomics for the home office, and reasonable suspicion training. The association is making a connection with employees on the frontline, supervisors, managers, and executives. Start a relationship with people when they enter your industry. Some frontline employees come and go, but some will stay in the industry, rising up in the ranks.

Frontline training gets your name out there with entry-level employees, their supervisors, HR professionals, and others at the company. Don’t lose that connection when the program is over. Create, curate, and send content that will interest them, for example, related articles of interest.

frontline training

How to get started with frontline training

An Associations Now article said, “The typical product development process takes nine months to a year, but now many associations are launching products in two to six months.” It took only three months for the Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI) to launch their COVID-19 Disinfection and Safety Course for cleaners and janitors on the frontline during the pandemic. BSCAI recognized the urgent need to train cleaners on new COVID sanitation protocols. They took action so companies didn’t have to “re-create the wheel.”

The program is offered in English and Spanish, and awards a certificate of completion at the end. BSCAI is marketing it not only to frontline cleaners but to supervisors, operations managers, facility maintenance staff, and property managers too. The program exceeded revenue projections, “providing the kinds of resources that our members needed at a price they could afford to really deploy it broadly.”

If you’re considering this type of program, first identify all the job roles at member companies so you can get a sense of employers’ training needs. Find out how employers are providing frontline training now: who does it, what content is covered, how often the content is updated, and how much the company spends.

BSCAI got to market quickly with the help of a “world-renown expert in the janitorial industry and a veteran trainer” and “rigorous contractor peer review.” Put together and get feedback on a prototype and pricing. You could copy a move from online entrepreneurs who take money (registrations) first before developing their product, since it’s one thing for a potential customer to express interest and another thing to put their money where their mouth is.

If there’s enough demand, go forward. The program doesn’t have to be perfect. Test it at a lower price with beta testers and tweak it as you go.

Options for pricing frontline training programs

Pricing educational products is an art and science with many variables to consider. Here’s how some associations offer their frontline training programs.

Member benefit. ABA membership includes unlimited access to frontline training for all employees at member banks. A benefit like this was once called a “golden handcuff.” Members find it so indispensable that it keeps them renewing year after year.

Sponsored member benefit. The International Parking & Mobility Institute offers its Frontline Fundamentals program free to members. However, the program is “generously supported by [an] exclusive sponsor.”

Higher non-member price. The National Systems Contractors Association prices their non-member training fees $600 higher than the member rate—the difference is about the cost of membership.

Bulk discounts. In addition to offering individual registration, BSCAI bundles its program in 10, 25, 50, and 100-license bundles. Their non-member prices are 2.5 times higher.

Corporate licensing. BSCAI also offers an enterprise license for companies with their own LMS.

Customized corporate programs. The American Management Association customizes its Frontline Customer Service Representative Training for corporations around the world. One company offers it in 27 countries in 13 languages.

Consultant services. ABA offers its company members a free Compliance Training Roadmap for Frontline Staff. They help employers develop employee training plans and identify appropriate courses for employees. You could definitely charge for a program like this.

Wouldn’t it be great if members found you indispensable? Frontline training is one way to strengthen ties between your association and a company’s executive, HR, managerial, supervisory, and frontline employees.

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