TIFFANY’S MULTIMEDIA TRAINING

Byline: Andree Conrad

BALTIMORE — “Training is the transfer of knowledge in a manner that’s performance-driven and verifiable. Instructor-led training is a lecture, and there is no guarantee the trainee can apply what’s been taught. With multimedia training, you can make that guarantee.”
That’s the message from Keith Meyerson, director of security, operations, training and development for Tiffany & Co, who spoke at the National Retail Federation Loss Prevention Conference here in June.
It’s the educational premise Meyerson used to get management approval for a loss-prevention training program on interactive multimedia CD-ROM.
The program replaced costly and sometimes ineffective “train-the-trainer” programs that involved travel expenses.
Impetus to change the training delivery methods was prompted by the need to support security personnel in the company’s 38 locations in the U.S. as well as its other stores around the world.
“Change didn’t come easy,” said Meyerson. “A lot of our culture was face-to-face networking. People liked to come to New York to be exposed to our traditions.”
Meyerson persuaded the company to go for the multimedia project by citing parallels at other companies where CD-ROM training resulted in cost reductions of 50 percent or higher.
The technology, which is catching on among retailers, has made significant inroads among Big Five accounting firms, insurance companies and high-tech companies. One company Meyerson referenced cut training costs from $3.3 million to $1.7 million by converting to CD-ROM.
Production costs for a multimedia CD-ROM depend on how elaborate the sound, graphics and video are, and can range from $10,000 to $200,000 if developed internally, Myerson said. “Costs can be considerably higher if you have a vendor do it for you,” he added. “We did it using existing personnel. I had one security manager retrained as a training specialist, and she became my programmer.”
Though cost reduction was an important consideration, increasing the effectiveness of training was the primary concern. “With instructor-led training, you don’t know what type of impact you are having,” he said. “With multimedia training they are already doing it before they leave the CD. They can live and die in the safety of their own computer.”
The Tiffany training CD scores both security personnel and sales associates on security-minded scenarios. Choices offered test them on how they will control risk on the store’s luxe merchandise in the presence of customers.
“We capture how they play the game and we know how they scored,” Meyerson explained. “We want this to be fun and enjoyable, and not to make people feel stupid or intimidated.
“It’s ‘windowpane’ training,” he added. “Your mind thinks in pictures. People are visual and they remember what they see. Multimedia training gives the user total control over what they are doing and the retention is much greater.”
The issue about using multimedia training isn’t whether it’s effective, said Meyerson, but rather, “Do you have an audience that can use, or learn to use, a PC? Do you have stores that have PCs, and access to them, and do they need to be taught to use them? And then, if you have PCs, do they have CD drives, sound cards, speakers and Internet hookups? And then, will they accept this method of training?
“You can’t design programs and force them on the stores. You have to design with buy-in so you are filling a need.”
Meyerson says he believes face-to-face, instructor-led training will always be appropriate for new personnel who will be involved in actual apprehensions. “You can use CD-ROMs to train on the five elements of apprehension, but not interviewing techniques.”
Even for experienced security agents, CD-ROM training can be an effective answer for continuing education, Meyerson said, citing the example of a New York State law mandating an annual eight hours of training for security guards.

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