Pilot Travel Centers, headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn. and founded in 1958, is the nation’s largest operator of travel centers. Pilot Travel Centers employs approximately 14,000 employees in 260 locations located in 39 states. The company employs team members in a wide variety of occupations, beginning with hourly field positions such as cashiers and restaurant workers, through all levels of corporate management, including the company’s senior officers.
Diverse Needs Pose a Challenge
Pilot Travel Centers’ diversity of job positions made it difficult to keep all team members up-to-date on training requirements. With a high turnover rate in the restaurant and travel center sector, the company soon realized that to instill a higher retention rate, corporate training was the answer. Executives reveled in the idea of a corporate university to develop the employees within and to keep an interest in the company. After years of thought about costs, Pilot Travel Centers decided to build a state-of-the art corporate training facility at its headquarters.
Although the million-dollar Pilot University was perfect for those located in Tennessee, Pilot Travel Centers executives soon came to realize that with team members geographically displaced across the nation, a more accessible blended learning approach would reach more team members and, in turn, be a cost-effective solution. Pilot Travel Centers chose GeoLearning’s GeoMaestro learning management platform to power enterprise-wide training and development.
Blended Learning and Consistency
Through Pilot University’s new blended learning solution, team members have a wide-variety of training components. Pilot University incorporates e-learning, classroom instruction and self-paced activities into each course. Team members have specific e-learning modules to complete prior to attending instructor-led training (ILT). After the ILT, an on-site computer-based test is administered to ensure they have acquired the necessary skill sets. After the course is completed, team members are assessed via a customized action plan that has been created for them to follow. This self-paced activity is closely monitored by their direct supervisor to guarantee knowledge retention.
Mark Romano, director of human resources at Pilot Travel Centers explains, “Due to the diverse number of job positions we have, the extensive geography, and the limited training and development resources available, we have employed a blended learning approach. We have online training to deploy a consistent message to all our team members, as well as classroom and hands-on, in-store training. We believe that online learning will help deliver a consistent message in a timely manner, but since our business is dealing with customers, it is critical that we follow-up with hands-on training and coaching to ensure that those practices learned online are demonstrated appropriately. Our classroom training still provides the appropriate face-to-face interaction paired with actual case studies that add real, situational experience to the training.”
Not only is it easier and more convenient for Pilot Travel Centers’ employees to complete training, but the courses located within Pilot University are designed around the competencies that are needed to be effective in their work environment. Pilot Travel Centers ensures that the competencies are aligned with the key business strategies for success. Aligning with corporate initiatives ensures that Pilot University is a critical contributor to Pilot Travel Centers’ effective success.
“The ability to strategically manage learning content will help us accomplish our training objectives given the diversity we have in our team-member base,” Romano said.
The training platform now provides Pilot Travel Centers with a centralized location to track, capture, create, manage and share knowledge to improve workforce productivity and employee retention rates.
Pilot Travel Centers has experienced many benefits as a result of its blended learning initiative. Not only has the company seen retention in employees, but currently more than 80 percent of the employees at Pilot Travel Centers are active learners in the LMS and Pilot University. With the success internally, Pilot University now partners with community not-for-profits, such as the United Way, Junior Achievement, Emerald Youth Foundation and Boys & Girls Club to help these organizations facilitate training sessions. Looking to the future, Pilot Travel Centers plans to add an additional Spanish interface to the LMS to allow for even more employees to see the benefits of Pilot University.
Ann Torry is marketing communications manager at GeoLearning Inc. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.