FLEMING COS. OFFERS CBT UNBUNDLED FOR INDEPENDENTS

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Fleming Cos. here earlier this month began selling updated computer-based training packages in an unbundled format designed to make CBT affordable for the 3,000 independent retailers it services."The industry has been moving in the direction of CBT for the last three to four years, and alternate [retail] formats are using it as a primary way of educating their employees," said Paul

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Fleming Cos. here earlier this month began selling updated computer-based training packages in an unbundled format designed to make CBT affordable for the 3,000 independent retailers it services.

"The industry has been moving in the direction of CBT for the last three to four years, and alternate [retail] formats are using it as a primary way of educating their employees," said Paul Adams, director of Fleming Retail Education Services. "We felt CBT was an educational solution we could also bring to our independent customers."

Several large chains use CBT packages customized for their specific needs, to reduce training time and costs as well as ensure consistent messages are being sent to employees in widely dispersed locations. Fleming, however, is offering independents the option to purchase only the modules that apply to their needs.

Titles available in the CBT program offered by Fleming include cashier training, customer service, produce identification, food safety and sanitation, safety skills with Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines and a harassment-awareness module. The entire set consists of more than a dozen modules.

Each module includes an administrative function that allows managers to track who has taken the course and which specific questions gave each employee the most difficulty.

Retailers can purchase the entire program, individual modules, or participate in a subscription option to use the software on a month-by-month or week-by-week basis for a fee.

The CBT programs are from Payback Training Systems, Morristown, N.J. Fleming's alliance with PTS will allow it to make the program very affordable for its independent retailers, said David Brown, manager for CBT at Fleming, adding that the wholesaler currently uses the company's CBT programs in its 270 company-owned stores.

Goodner's Supermarkets, Duncan, Okla., a retailer with six supermarkets, participated in a beta test of the updated CBT program from May 15 to June 15.

"I started out with department heads, brought them in and made them go through every module that pertained to their department," said Jerry Goodson, store supervisor at Goodner's Supermarkets, who is in charge of human resources and training. Assistant managers and managers in grocery also went through the modules.

"We got very positive feedback" from the managers, he added. "They felt everyone would have standardized training. It was also hands-off training, where the trainer could go away and let the trainee go through the program. Then the trainer could come back and review the results with the trainee and go over problem areas."

As a result of the success of the beta test, Goodner's will purchase a personal computer so each store will be able to offer CBT by the end of this month. The independent also intends to purchase CBT modules that are appropriate for its business in the near future, including customer service and cashier training. The retailer employs about 150 cashiers. These two areas "are where the focus on training needs to be, because the trainees are typically entry-level applicants and they generally don't have any experience coming into the business on handling customer service," Goodson said.

"Customer service should be a top priority in any business," he added. "We all have like products out there and similar processing, but the customer service may really differentiate the customers' final decision as to where they shop."

Jim's SuperThrift, Guthrie, Okla., a three-store retailer, also participated in the beta test. "We saw a measurable difference in the associates' performance and confidence, among those personnel using" CBT vs. traditional training methods, said Jim Barnes, owner of Jim's SuperThrift, in a statement.

While declining to cite specific figures, Brown said the program price is at least 50% less than it was a year ago.

"We saw an opportunity to provide a solution for a single store operator who may not have the same capital as a larger store," Brown said. By offering this option, "there are no retailers who can't participate in CBT. There's no reason not to do it."