If technology is the way of the future, then it would follow that online or other computer-based training would be becoming more prevalent. For some operations, that statement is true. The training option is easily reviewed at later times, convenient—people can choose when and where to complete the training— and easily administered for those companies and institutions with multiple locations throughout the country.
There are some challenges, however, because people have to know how to use the technology, which prevents some operators from employing e-training techniques. Others say that face-to-face training is the best way to ensure competency. We spoke with five operators who are using various degrees of e-training to find out how they have overcome challenges to teach their employees online.
Tapping into the system: Last year, the dietetic interns at Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pa., were given an assignment to develop an online training program. The three interns created Power Point presentations on MSDS (material safety data sheets), the values of healthy eating, and sanitation and food safety. Each presentation consisted of information broken down into subtopics followed by a short quiz.
To access the presentations, employees log into the health system’s online goals course system, where they are required to complete all three modules. “They are more for reinforcement,” says Steve Cerullo, director of foodservices. “We are constantly doing training and this is just one aspect of that.” All employees in Geisinger’s system are required to complete a certain number of training courses each year. These presentations are included in those mandated hours. Cerullo says most employees do the training while at work. They are compensated for the time. New interns will develop other presentations to place online.
“It’s very hard to get groups of people together for training,” he adds. “People are working at the hospital 24/7 and having the training online gives them more time to complete it.”
Culinary growth: At the 40-bed Martin Luther King, Jr. Multi-Service Ambulatory Care Center in Los Angeles, Lisa Trombley, director of food and nutrition, uses online training developed by Morrison, the hospital’s contract company. “There is an e-culinary site with different modules with procedures and recipes,” Trombley says. “The training is geared for people with limited culinary background.”
The videos are 20 minutes each. For the most part, Trombley says, her 29 FTEs select which of the courses to complete based upon their own skill set and the area in which they want to improve. She says the courses on preparing fish dishes have been particularly popular among the staff.
Selective staff use: Stan Hodes, operations manager and executive chef at the 577-bed Baptist Hospital of Miami, has found that online training is most effective with his management staff. “It is worth it to do the online training with the managers because they use computers more in their day-to-day responsibilities,” Hodes says. “I find that my general culinary staff still use computers for entertainment and recreation. They still haven’t migrated toward using it as an educational tool where they can sit and focus.” Hodes also says he is leery about doing too much computer-based training, especially in large groups. “If you get a large amount of employees sitting around a console, it becomes more of a social hour than an actual learning hour.”
Online training for Hodes’s staff includes Webinars focused on customer service, communication skills, core competencies and ethical practices. Although the employees are encouraged to do the training during regular work hours, Hodes says he is not going to tell them when and where to complete their online training. “The goal is for them to get the information, not for me to micromanage it,” he adds.
Supplementing hands-on training: For the schools in Aramark’s education division, e-training is being used in conjunction with hands-on training. “We try to do hands-on training first,” says Michael Pursell, assistant vice president of marketing for Aramark education, “but sometimes speed to market or availability of resources doesn’t allow us to do that.”
He says, hands-on training is best because it often takes personal interaction to learn a new program, and feedback from those undergoing the training is valuable when implementing the program at another location. For topics such as food safety that are refresher courses, or for the annual summer training meeting, online training options work well.
Pursell says generational differences also affect what type of training is done. “Gen Y is much more tech savvy and they are much more comfortable with e-training,” Pursell says. At the same time, Pursell says he doesn’t want to rely on one medium through which to do all training because of the differences between the generations, as well as those found within different people within the generations. In addition, he says, retention of the learned information is much higher when hands-on training is done.
E-training techniques Aramark uses include taping of hands-on training sessions, which are then placed online, interactive CDs to show how to install new programs and Webinars.
Moving in the digital direction: At the 692,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District, Laura Benavidez, deputy director of food services, admits the district is a late entrant into the digital world. Benavidez says that before the department can start using online training, the employees first have to become comfortable with the technology. Courses are currently offered to help employees gain this comfort level before the district makes the switch to a computer-based POS system in the next year. With the new POS system, employees will be able to access training online at their stations covering topics such as hand washing and learning HACCP procedures.
something they could use.”
Tailored to Fit
PSU reaches different workforce groups with online training.
For part-time and student employees at Penn State University and its Commonwealth Campuses, ServSafe training is not an economical option. “Plus, our students can’t make the two-day commitment,” says Jennifer Garvin, manager of program development for housing and foodservices for the Commonwealth Campuses. Instead, three years ago a new online training program through FoodHandler, a company specializing in food safety training and equipment, was introduced.
With the program, students are given an authorization code to log into a Web site. They then complete a one-hour course, which is broken down into four 15-minute sessions. “It is convenient because they can stop any time and then pick up again later,” Garvin says. The course goes through scenarios one typically finds in a kitchen, such as washing hands, dealing with people when they sneeze, food handling and temperatures. The students watch a video, which is followed by questions. Once the course is completed and a passing grade is achieved, the students print out a certificate to give to their supervisors.
The students are paid for one hour of work, even though most complete the training during their off-hours. “They can be in their dorm rooms or wherever they happen to be near a computer,” Garvin says. She adds that while the program is intended for the part-time employees, some managers use the training as a refresher for their full-time staff.
To use the program, Garvin buys a license, which is good for 99 people.
The university system has also used online training in conjunction with face-to-face training. A couple of years ago, the department brought in a speaker for the managerial staff to talk about discovering personal strengths. Before the training with the speaker, the managers were asked to complete a personality assessment online. The result is a list of a person’s top five strengths.
After the initial assessment, the managers met with the speaker to learn how each person’s strengths worked for and against another person’s strengths. The initial leadership training was done with a limited number of the staff, but the speaker agreed to train some of the managers so that they could then train other staff members at a later time.
Garvin says online training has been particularly useful because of the high number of locations in the university system and the distance between them. “It is really difficult to get a day in which people can travel to a central location for training,” Garvin adds. “Plus, the use of technology has come so far. And I think people are becoming more apt to learn at their own pace versus in a group situation where there are a lot of distractions."
Working with Webinars
Healthcare associations partner to create online training series.
Denisa Cate, director of food and nutrition services at the 140-bed Henry County Medical Center in Paris, Tenn., and president elect for the American Society for Healthcare Food Service Administrators (ASHFSA), has been on the Webinar planning committee for the collaborative effort between ASHFSA, The National Society for Healthcare Foodservice Management (HFM) and Management in Food and Nutrition Systems (MFNS). Since October 2007, several Webinars have been hosted for the members of the three organizations. Cate talks about the program and how she uses it at her operation.
“This partnership started last year with four Webinars and we’re doing another four this year. The first is in November. The series was very successful last year, and we’re expecting it to be even better this year. This year, the topics include healthcare trends and issues; healthcare basics including financial, budgeting and calculations; and kitchen design and renovations.
The first Webinar was in October 2007. We were looking for different ways that we could help our members, especially the ones that could not get to the conferences. ASHFSA has been doing Webinars successfully for several years and we have proven that people are going to attend them. I mean, you get to sit at your desk and watch your computer screen for two hours. That’s great. I pull all my managers in my office and we pay one fee. They are really good training tools. If you did that session somewhere, it would be at least three days off work. You’d be flying one day, attending the next and flying home the third.
What we do is, we have one person as the moderator and we will get two or three professional speakers. In November, we’ve having one on food safety and security and we have a lady from the FDA and an attorney who works with her as our speakers. So we get experts in the field to do the education. The sessions are generally an hour and a half for the Webinar and then 30 minutes for questions. Webinars can be interactive and participants can either type questions in on the computer or they can ask them over the telephone.
I have a lot of hospitals here in Tennessee that are in a crunch. The first thing they cut is travel. So they get their continuing education hours with Webinars. Many members of all three organizations just do not have budget money to attend conferences or other forms of education in which travel is required. This is a great way to get several hours each year on current, relevant topics without even leaving your office. We do four a year so if you did them all, you would get eight hours for continuing education.
There are some Webinars that are free from consultants and manufacturers. But you have to be careful about these because some of them, as we say here in the South, are souped-up commercials. You get a little information and then a commercial.
I use Webinars at the hospital for my managers’ education. We attend all the ASHFSA/HFM/MFNS Webinars and a few others throughout the year that are typically shorter, less informative, but also free. My managers are all CDMs, so they also need continuing education hours each year as well. They come in my office and watch them. Mostly because of space, I will only have my managers come in. More than six people is really just too many.
We don’t do any other online or web-based learning. For my staff, access to computers is what is limiting me from doing more. Because I am the one who has to get a lot of continuing education hours, I will attend something or watch a Webinar and then tweak it to fit my staff a little bit better and give them some kind of presentation so that they don’t have to sit for an hour in front of a computer.
There is really nothing intimidating about Webinars. I would say the only thing is that you might not be quite as prone to ask questions just because you have to type it in or pick up the phone. That is probably the only hindrance. As far as retention and quality of education, I think Webinars are very comparable to face-to-face training.”