Training at the Click of a Wheel; iPod Training on Demand - By Todd Horchner, CEC Entertainment

Finally there's a blend of high-tech and high-touch training thanks to the iPod. Todd Horchner shows how CEC is using the new iPod to bring video training to the front line. He discusses how creating playlists of short video clips, integrated with hands-on practice, can help new employees reach a productive level quicker than ever.

CHART - Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers As trainers we are always looking for better ways to train our employees, using the newest and most effective technology we can get our hands on. We are all constantly reassessing our training needs. So, the first step is to ask yourself: What are the current training needs? Common answers include: to shorten training time, to improve productivity, to roll-out new concepts efficiently, to execute promotions effectively and to create reference and refresher materials that really do the job. Your organization may need improvement in selling and check averages, in speed of service or in back-of-the-house procedures.

There are many ways that we currently use to train our employees today. How are employees most often trained today? The most common training materials include print materials, VHS and DVD video training. But there's a new blend of high-tech and high-touch that especially appeals to the younger generation today and that is iPod Training.


The iPod training process allows one to modify and create content in short video clips, presented in a portable, handheld solution. Clips are designed to create interactivity and skill-building validation after each step to ensure both knowledge and skill transfer. There are many benefits to iPod training, including:

• iPods are portable

• Easy to update

• On the wavelength of the current generation

• Shorten training time

• Enhance productivity

• Include on-demand reference

• Can be used for pre-shift meetings

• Use turnkey scripting

• Include filming editing and loading devises


The training challenge we all face is how 'to deliver what is needed, where it's needed, when it's needed.' podTraining(TM) can determine the critical path of success grouped into interactive clips and playlists that can be loaded on portable devises. What podTraining(TM) is not is a process of cutting up existing videos and putting them in a portable devise. There are a lot of existing entities to help in iPod production, but before I get to that, let me go through how CEC decided to test podTraining(TM).

CEC had in existence a mix of print, video and hands-on (Tell-Show-Do-Review) training options. We tested e-learning with a lukewarm response and found that this option was also expensive. We decided to try a pilot program in podTraining(TM) as part of orientation and we modified an existing video for the test.

As part of our research, we looked at Pal's Sudden Service, a quick-service chain headquartered in Tennessee. By using podTraining(TM), they lowered their training time by 30%, increased revenue, decreased service time and reported fewer mistakes.

Our next steps were to use podTraining(TM) to train for one front-of-house job function and one back-of-house job function. We measured the impact podTraining(TM) had on check average at the cashier vs previous check averages, the savings in training time for the two positions and used licensed content-- NTSTS , Language of Life and Walk the Talk Leadership content. The test was successful and CEC continues to use iPod training.


Let me talk a bit about why I think podTraining(TM) works. First of all, it keeps the trainer involved via an interactivity created in the scripting. It's also extremely portable, gives employees access to information as needed (training-on-demand), and gives managers tools to reinforce information, very useful at pre-shift meetings.

Here are some other reasons podTraining(TM) really works:

• Quicker, more effective knowledge transfer

• Leaner controls the experience

• The devise is of today's generation

• More minutes (content-rich clips) of video in short burst coupled with interactivity to keep attention span and get employees the practice needed.

From a trainer's perspective, podTraining(TM) is also more cost-effective than typical E-learning, is easier to update and add new materials, is more consistent in its delivery of information, is more simple in its navigation and is easier to bring onsite to the job.

Compared to E-learning, podTraining(TM) is more portable, gives more on-the-spot reference, allows one to show clips during pre-shift meetings, gives employees small chunks at a time to digest and is easy to use. With e-learning, one cannot test or track how training goes and trainers have to constantly manage the devise.


The resources I used to learn how to implement podTraining(TM) include PodTraining and Legacy Productions (see references below). The first step was to determine the 'critical path' of training to achieve excellence in execution. Then you need to review your existing materials and content, deciding what will best translate to podTraining(TM). The next step is to create and/or convert your current content into podTraining(TM), in other words, create the playlist. And then load the devises and deploy to your employees.

In addition to training, the iPods can be used for communication to employees including recognition for a job well done and weekly messages (the audio for this tool is very inexpensive to create and distribute). One can also play flash files, add audio to PowerPoint files and convert them to play in iPod, and use the devises in group training with an instructor since clips are already broken up into lessons.

The costs you must incur are for the hardware, 30GB iPods, protective cases, Y splitters to allow more than one person to use the devise at a time, 50 earbuds and power adapters, in all, $400 for the kit. Development costs are $1,000 to $1,300 per finished minute for video.

The payback is that you have content creation similar to video, your employees become about 30% more productive and you save 12 hours of training time. At $8.00 per hour average employee wage, that is a savings of $96 per employee. Plus, you have now better use of your trainer's time, allowing them more follow-up and time to validate skills.

podTraining(TM) is also a great recruitment tool since it communicates to young employees that you are 'cool.' The information is consistent and the materials stay updated, there is a cost savings in updating materials and the elimination of printing and shipping manuals and DVD's. And, you can get information to operations more quickly for promotions, changes and introducing new items.


Can I train a group? Yes! iPod can be plugged into a TV or LCD projector and provide a crystal clear picture.

Can two people listen at once? Yes! With a 'Y' splittter.

Can I update material easily? Yes! Either by posting the clips on your intranet/website or 'podcasting' them out.





Legacy Productions



Logos, product and company names mentioned are the property of their respective owners.