iPod as Teacher

By Burger chain cuts training time by a third | April 01, 2007

Pal's Sudden Service, a Tennessee-based regional burger chain with 20 locations and more than 650 employees, relies on 120 hours of on-the-job training (this includes training for 56 individual jobs) for its hourly employees in the production area. The industry average hovers around 40 hours.

Several years ago, TJ Schier, founder of Dallas-based podTraining ( www.incentivizesolutions.com ) approached Pal's about using iPods as an additional training tool. He believed the iPod could push the organization to new levels. Thom Crosby, president and CEO at Pal's, agreed. Pal's integrated 30GB video iPods into its traditional training process in February 2006 with materials produced by podTraining. Pal's video training features short bursts of information -- four minutes or less on each subject ( for a total of three hours of material). The iPods provide a standard, pre-recorded message for the first of a four-step training method : tell, show, practice and coach. 

"We were seeing a little inconsistency from site to site in the past and realized each coach in the 20 locations took a little different [approach] with the training material," Crosby says. "Using the iPods has really helped pull operations to a more consistent delivery of the standard."

Hourly employees today using iPods achieve 100 percent certification through training in about 13 days, a process which used to average three weeks. "By cutting one-third of the time to achieve certification, we can delight the customer much quicker," Crosby relates. "And people are excited about working with us!"

Pal's data reveal a lower rate of mistakes and strong double-digit sales growth since using the iPods. Turnover averages 91 percent for hourly employees and 4 percent for assistant managers. The company expected to reach payback for purchasing approximately 200 video iPods and the video production in 12 to 15 months. It actually reached a full return on the investment in 6 months.

"Our real goal is that we want training to be very effective, truly change behavior, and align with achieving the results we've targeted," Crosby says.

Pal's added another component to its iPod training in the fall of 2006 with just-in-time management refreshment training.  Managers watch iPod videos as needed for activities that are completed on an annual cycle, such as strategic planning, sales projections and expense projections, which Crosby says have been very effective.

Pal's is the first organization to earn the Tennessee Excellence Award twice (2001 and 2006) and the only restaurant to ever earn
the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award given by the Secretary of Commerce in 2002.

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