New Hires Exchange Classrooms for Computers

June 1, 1996
Currently, when Value Rent-A-Car hires a new rental sales agent, the agent is sent to a week-long classroom-based training course. Because there are only three training centers throughout the country, new agents often have to wait until a course is scheduled, keeping them off the job for up to a month after they're hired. Considering the company's high turnover rate for sales agent positions, this sometimes leaves rental desks understaffed.

Add to this the cost of sending employees to these training centers and you begin to understand why Value Rent-A-Car is now in the process of developing an interactive, multimedia-based training program. When complete, the program will allow new hires to undergo training at their own sites immediately upon being hired—saving time, cutting expenses and boosting customer service in the process.

According to Steve Jensen, national training and development manager for the Boca Raton-based company, the new CD-ROM-based program will help new hires learn the car rental process by walking them through various procedures, including how to operate the rental computer system and complete paper-based rental contracts. With the help of onsite supervisors, employees will be able to practice these procedures while leasing cars at the rental desks. "This will allow employees to be productive during their on-the-job training," Jensen says.

Because the program is interactive and makes extensive use of simulations—for example, new hires are presented with a customer situation and must choose how to resolve it—Jensen also believes retention will be higher. At the end of the four-day training course, the computer conducts an assessment to determine whether or not the employee is ready to work unsupervised.

Although the CD-ROM eventually will replace the classroom training that currently exists, this doesn't mean the company's trainers will be out of work. Trainers, who are currently very involved in the development of the multimedia training program, will eventually shift their focus to work with company management on such matters as group facilitation and strategic goal setting. "Stand-up trainers won't be displaced because of technology," Jensen emphasizes. However, their role will change to one of performance supporter.

To survive this change, he says trainers must acquire skills in how to develop technology-based training. "My staff includes instructional technologists who are well-versed in computer-based training authoring tools," he says. Trainers must also begin to work more closely with line managers to determine performance issues. When done right, technology is a better way to learn, a better way to capture information about how well someone learns and a better way to boost performance, Jensen says. "That is what HR is in the business of doing."

Personnel Journal, June 1996, Vol. 75, No. 6, p. 130.