Spreading the message Featured

11:15am EDT July 31, 2002
Training is an integral part of developing a company's work force into a team that plays by the same corporate rules. But training is expensive, especially for companies with multiple locations, and delivering a consistent message can be challenging.

Technology can fix that. The majority of businesses surveyed in this year's SBN/ERC Workplace Practices Survey -- 64.1 percent -- indicated a willingness to try Web-based training. Although that's down from 70.1 percent last year, companies are still finding that technology can solve training woes.

Westlake-based TravelCenters of America manages 153 locations, with employees who range from diesel mechanics to waitresses. The company has found CDs to be particularly effective for its training needs.

"The reason why we choose to do a lot of training by CD is because everybody is getting the same message in the same format," says Dave Raco, manager of safety and training development for TravelCenters. "By taking the training and assisting the managers with the process, it really aids their location. It adds a lot of consistency."

Cleveland-based Pioneer Standard Electronics also likes the consistent message technology can deliver.

"We are doing our training computer-based to the greatest degree that is practical and appropriate," says Jim Richey, vice president of operations for Pioneer's Industrial Electronics division. "It makes the training very consistent and you can stress the things you want stressed and not have to rely on a different person delivering the course in each location."

Richey also likes the fact that once the program is developed, it requires little funding, making it less likely that training gets slashed during corporate cost-cutting in a down economy.

Both Pioneer and TravelCenters tie in their training programs with testing to assess employee knowledge. TravelCenters' programs are tied into a central database that instantly updates each employee's progress, while Pioneer is implementing a similar system.

Richey and Raco stress that these technology tools are just another option for getting your message across to employees and should supplement traditional methods, not replace them.

"We still send people to regular training courses," says Raco. "Online training is just a nice complement. We do not want to cut out the face-to-face time with our employees, because it helps the home office stay current on what's going on in the field."

As with any project any project, careful planning will net you the best results.

"You need to define what the purpose of your training is and determine what the return should be before you go out and pick a media and build anything," says Richey. "Once you do the work, you may not need to develop anything. Just go buy it and save yourself some money. Your needs may not be as unique as you think they are." How to reach: www.pioneerstandard.com; www.tatravelcenters.com