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Platform-Led Transformational Upskilling is a project led by Caribou Digital and supported by the Mastercard Foundation

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The face of the platform: Lynk’s Pro training

Imagine: It’s Monday morning, you're rushing to work and discover a leak in your bathroom. Your heart sinks. You quickly send WhatsApp messages to your friends and post on all the local Facebook groups: “Anyone know a good, reliable & affordable plumber near Muthaiga?” You wade through the water and responses, trying to figure out how to differentiate one recommendation from another. You call a few plumbers whose phones are off, and eventually arrange to meet two, one doesn’t show up and one is late. You hope she knows her stuff and can fix your leak because it’s now Wednesday and your patience with the mop and bucket is wearing thin. 

For many this is an all too familiar scenario. Connecting with trusted and well-trained tradespeople in countries with no directories or platforms where customers can find and review them is challenging to say the least. Moreover, many of the four out of five working Kenyans who rely on informal work for their income, struggle to prove their trustworthiness and qualifications to customers and end up relying almost exclusively on word-of-mouth referrals. 

Lynk aims to change this: Its online marketplace allows Kenyan tradespeople and artisans—Lynk calls them Pros—to promote their services, receive job requests from clients, and build reputations through customer reviews. For a company whose tagline is “Get instant access to reliable and affordable services,” being able to assure customers of the quality of their Pros’ work is key. Although Pros are not employees, they are the face of Lynk—they even have branded uniforms and kit bags—so the customer’s opinion of the Pro and Lynk go hand-in-hand. Accordingly, Lynk’s success depends on on-point customer service. 

Lynk quickly realized that ensuring high quality craftspersonship and customer service was a challenge because so many of its Pros had been trained at discredited institutions or vocational colleges teaching outdated techniques. So too, few had received customer service training. “We started out with a relatively low-touch auction-based platform model, but soon realized that we would need to get more involved in service delivery in order to gain happy customers and build the reputation for quality that we’re aiming for,” said Akinyi Ooko-Ombaka, Lynk’s Segment Manager & Education Focal Point, whose role was created specifically to address what has become a critical component of Lynk’s model: training. Lynk’s Pro training addresses skills gaps that would otherwise hold both the platform and Pro’s back. 

We have categorized these topics as vocation-specific, digital literacy, and soft skills. Here are a few examples.

 

Vocation-Specific Tutorials

Because skills were lacking in some verticals, Lynk realized they could increase worker incomes and customer satisfaction by providing technical training. The company has tried to develop relationships with local technical and vocational education and training institutions (TVETs) and continues to explore this option, but owing to a number of challenges, they decided to bring Pro skilling in house. They train workers in domains ranging from painting and beauty, as part of onboarding. 

For areas with deeper technical requirements, they are testing a further step with FundiWorks, their apprenticeship program. FundiWorks currently focuses on carpentry and provides end-to-end training in a fully operational production workshop where Pros can apprentice with master carpenters to improve their techniques, raw materials procurement and storage practices, and furniture design, to ensure high-quality finished products. Once carpenters have completed this apprenticeship they are better equipped to sell high-quality services both on the Lynk site and elsewhere. 

Digital Literacy Training

Lynk has developed a Pro app to help workers create and maintain a profile and receive jobs. However, the team noticed that Pros were not receiving job notifications and thus missing opportunities because they were turning off their mobile data when not actively searching for something in order to conserve their data and battery. Interestingly, Lynk found that a lot of Pros’ internet packages were going unused because their expiry dates were reached before all the data had been consumed, findings consistent with our own research. Lynk decided to address this lack of knowledge about managing data consumption and determining which apps are draining data and battery in their onboarding training. 

Soft Skills

Lynk also understands that soft skills are critical. It provides this training during onboarding, but Lynk has also experimented with reinforcing soft skills through small reference cards. These cards, provided to each Pro, map out the steps for delivering a service to a customer complete with explanations about the importance of punctuality and sample scripts for different scenarios, for example, what to say if they were late or how to deal with an unsatisfied customer. 

The team at Lynk is actively testing out new modes for providing training. 

Interpersonal Training

Like most of the platforms we spoke to, Lynk places great importance on face-to-face training. All Pros receive in-person onboarding training at Lynk’s office as well as refresher training. And carpenters can take part in the FundiWorks program.

 

Online Training

Lynk Lounge is an area of the Pro app that contains videos and text-based training modules on various topics including how to create an appealing profile, provide good customer service as well as vertical-specific tips.

 

In-Workflow Training Moments

These are in-workflow nudges that upskill users while they are using the main functionality of the platform. For instance, Lynk sends reminder messages via SMS —like: “your appt is in one hour,” “time to leave soon,” “these are the items you will need to deliver this service,” and “call the client to let them know you are on your way”—to reinforce the importance of good customer care.

Hear from Lynk about their approaches to training 

Through these upskilling activities, Lynk is beginning to fulfill some of the roles traditionally played by vocational schools, with the added benefit of an immediate and refined feedback loop between customers and training content. What makes these upskilling efforts particularly impactful is that they transfer skills that are generalizable and portable. The worker can utilize the skills learned both on the platform and in other areas of their lives, potentially transforming their livelihoods and narrowing the skills gap in the overall economy. 

We’re interested in hearing your training story too. If you are a platform, or work within the broader training ecosystem, please get in touch.