CSD: Family Express Builds Cyber Training Center

Discussion
Nov 17, 2010

By Erin Rigik

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion
is a summary of an article from Convenience Store Decisions magazine.

Family
Express’ new corporate headquarters in Valparaiso, IN not only features offices
and a fitness center, but combines two other training centers into one cyber
training center, including a fully-merchandised Family Express store, built
to scale with equipment and gas pumps.

The learning center’s mock Family
Express store will not be open to the public, but will be used by the human
resources department for training, and by the marketing department for strategic
planning initiatives.

The learning facility ties into the chain’s concept
as "the living
brand," where employees serve as live ambassadors for the Family Express
brand.

"Training and cultural engagement are an integral part of how we go
to market," said Gus Olympidis, president and CEO of Family Express,
which operates 52 upscale c-stores in northwest and north central Indiana. "Consequently,
distance becomes a hurdle to further development for the growth of Family Express
unless we find ways to circumvent its adverse effects, and this new facility
has given us a way to substantially neutralize the effects of distance."

The
new learning center is intended to serve both new and existing staff. By virtually
connecting with individual stores, it eliminates distance from the learning
equation — allowing employees to develop the skills they need
without having to travel for training, Mr. Olympidis said. "We are visually
connected now with all of our stores and can combine as many as 16 stores into
a single teleconference, and we can overlay spread sheets and video onto the
screen, so we’re able to connect without moving people," he added.

Discussion question: What do you think of Family Express’ cyber training
center? What are the advantages as well as any shortcomings of mock learning
stores in general? Should other stores be exploring setting up cyber training
centers?

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5 Comments on "CSD: Family Express Builds Cyber Training Center"


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Steve Montgomery
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

Most of the training that goes on in the c-store and other industries is done OJT. In many case this means the local person doing the training puts their own spin on the training. The result is that training “drifts” from the original processes, etc. into something else. By have a centralized training facility, you eliminate this and many of the OJT issues.

However, centralized training involves taking people out of their stores, time lost to travel, expense, etc. The use of cyber training addresses these issues. Is it as good has having the people on site, perhaps not (depending on the subject matter) but is better than relying on strictly in store training.

Bill Bittner
Guest
Bill Bittner
10 years 6 months ago
The biggest technology impact over the last five years has been the expansion of the wireless network, not only its breadth but also the quality of service. A lot of the hype has been its effect on the consumer, while a more subtle impact has been on “middle management.” Middle managers had traditionally carried the corporate message to remote store locations and summarized local results for corporate reporting. Both these roles have become redundant as Internet broadcasting has carried the corporate message and Blog and Business Intelligence applications have provided corporate insight. But to get the full advantage of these technologies requires people to be comfortable with it and, more importantly, know how to apply it to the business goals. The Family Express approach recognizes the benefit of these tools and the need to focus employee attention on how to apply them. It should have a big impact on the success of their organization as employees can easily move from one location to another with a consistent set of business processes. With less “field supervision,”… Read more »
Fabien Tiburce
Guest
Fabien Tiburce
10 years 6 months ago

Unfortunately the article is long on words and short on details. Are we talking video-conference coupled with web-based training (e-learning)? Both of which are already in widespread use. The article is interesting but further details would have been great. Inquiring minds want to know.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
10 years 6 months ago
I attended 7-Eleven store manager training schools twice: When I managed a store while working my way through college, and again twenty years later when I became Southland’s corporate ad manager. I saw no changes in the curriculum. A few new machines, but pretty much the same. During my Southland tenure, however, we did install a full, upscale, state-of-the-art training facility and store in the new corporate HQ in Dallas where I worked. It’s unfortunate that Southland sold out before the training facility could really be put to use. The 7-Eleven operation in Japan had a very advanced training system at the time and, since they eventually took control of Southland, I’m guessing they translated their training methods to their U.S. operation. Is there a problem with mock learning? Isn’t that what we’re trained to utilize throughout our formal schooling? Due to the progress of electronic communication, cyber training is now widely used in many school systems and online courses and curricula are available nearly everywhere. But it’s still mock training. Nothing new except, apparently,… Read more »
Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

Why isn’t the facility used for R&D with real customers being interjected? Why wouldn’t a retailer want two lab stores; one at headquarters to be used for training, merchandising and display testing, store promotions set-up and documentation for the field, etc. and a second store for on-going testing with real customers? This second store would have camera and other recording devices embedded in the store to gather real time customer reactions to the store. For a store the size of a c-store, it would seem feasible.

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