SAN ANTONIO -- H.E. Butt Grocery Co. here will begin beta testing this fall a computer-based training system using compact disc read-only-memory technology and interactive video simulation modules.
The chain is developing the program from scratch together with a software supplier and incorporating creative multimedia features tailored to H-E-B's specifications. The first training program will focus on food safety practices, said J.R. Clark, multimedia training coordinator.
Testing of the system will continue into next year, when the chain's training facility will pilot the system, but there is no timetable established for rollout at the store level. Clark said H-E-B expects computer-based training could potentially slash training time in half, but project development will proceed gradually.
"We're not going to rush things," he said.
H-E-B chose to develop its own program because off-the-shelf software fell short on functionality, Clark said. "There were some features that H-E-B wanted but we couldn't find. One that comes to mind is a 'virtual notepad,' where a student can add notes, print them out at the end of a session and take them home."
Clark said an effective CBT program is one that gives the student control and provides meaningful interactions that promote learning.
"For example, in our current design we have a need to tell people about the growth curve of bacteria. Through a simulator, the user can manipulate a virtual thermometer to set the temperature of a food product and press another button to run it over time and watch as the [computer-generated] bacteria cells grow."
H-E-B will develop, together with Strategic Systems Associates, Des Plaines, Ill., additional training programs covering other areas of store operations, but those areas have not yet been established.
Clark said in addition to reducing training time, H-E-B expects computer-based systems to increase retention, and improve flexibility because staff can train as time becomes available.
"Sometimes we have employees that work overnight and maybe have 45 minutes that could be used for training, and then maybe have another 30 minutes a few hours later," he said.
The ability to more effectively control the distribution of information is another key benefit of CBT.
"We won't have to update manuals or workbooks, rewrite scripts for training classes or worry about getting them distributed to all our stores," Clark said.