On-The-Job Training and Things to Master
On-the-job training is exactly what it implies: obtaining training in a normal working setting or situation. This training is obtained through direct instruction and supervision, where the employee (the trainee) undergoes one-on-one instruction with someone who knows how the work is done, at the workplace or the actual site of the job.
On-the-job training, or OJT is what usually takes place in order to teach a newly-hired employee how to accomplish his tasks and assigned activities, and it begins the moment they have been introduced to the company.
You may also find OJT applied when there are major changes within the organization, such as change in staffing, policies, operations, or promotions.
In fact, each individual is a recipient of direct instruction. From the moment they are born, and well into their childhood, they will be learning directly from their parents or guardians. This is considered to be the most basic example of direct instruction and, in a way, OJT (even if it’s not really a job, not in the business or career sense).
In this guide, we explore 1) why on-the-job training is great for bringing employees up to speed, 2) the two types of OJT, and 3) what employees and employers should master with regards to on-the-job training.
WHY ON-THE-JOB TRAINING?
Over the decades, various training methodologies have been introduced and used, but one of the most commonly-used is still OJT. In fact, even large companies and multinational corporations adapt this training method and integrate it in their human resource management programs.
OJT is a preferred practice, for many reasons. Let us take a look at these reasons, which are also considered the benefits or advantages of applying OJT.
- OJT is easy to arrange and manage. There is no need to look for experts outside the organization, or coordinate with various parties for the conduct of the training. All it takes is a person who knows the task and how to do it, and it can start from there. The person providing the instruction will be directly responsible for the person being trained, and the whole training process, which takes a load off the manager’s mind.
- OJT has the benefit of being realistic. After all, it takes place on site. This is not like in the usual classroom setup where the instructor will spend hours talking about theories and concepts, painting the picture of the place where these concepts will be applied. There will be none of that here, because they are already in the actual place where the concepts are going to be put to use. There is no longer a need for the trainee or employee to imagine, because he is already physically present where the work takes place.
- OJT is inexpensive to implement. Unlike other training methods, OJT does not require the use of special equipment and materials other than what are already available and currently in use on the job. This means that the company will also be spared the expense of paying often costly professional fees of trainers.
- OJT will save the company a lot of money in the long run. OJT is, fundamentally, an investment on the company’s manpower, and it is an investment that is worth making. Manpower turnover costs a lot of money, because the company will have to spend on frequent conduct of recruitment and training every time employees quit after working for the company for only a few months.
- OJT improves the company’s reputation, both as an organization and as an employer. As an image booster, the general public and the industry will look favorably on the organization if it is able to prove that it provides excellent training for its staff. As a recruitment tool, it will also enable the company to attract talented jobseekers.
- OJT is very good for employee retention. In a survey, 40% of employees who are newly hired into companies and receive poor or no training tend to quit or resign even before spending a year with the company. This means that companies lose 4 out of 10 employees. It may be mostly due to low job satisfaction, when employees feel that they are not growing or developing professionally.
Overall, it is safe to say that OJT helps the company grow. However, OJT is not without its imperfections. It is widely accepted and frequently used, yes, but that does not mean there are no issues.
- Assigning an employee as trainer or coach for the OJT means having to rearrange or rework schedules to make room for the training. For example, if the chosen trainer used to devote 8 hours working in the production process, it may be cut down to half, or less than half, because they will be spent training a new employee. Similarly, the resources that should have gone 100% into the production process may also be taken out, for training purposes.
- The company may have to put up with low productivity. OJT programs can take up a lot of productive time. Companies hire new employees, partly because they are in urgent need of manpower. If the new hire is focused on being trained, this means that he will not be able to put in 100% of his efforts. The new employee is still in the learning process, so he won’t be expected to put in what the company expects of him. At least, not yet. Also, this has the tendency to push management to shorten the training period and administer the OJT hastily.
- Errors and mistakes may be committed. In fact, expect that they will be committed. The trainees are bound to make mistakes in the production activities. The quality of the products or goods that they make may also be low. If they make mistakes, this means that there may be additional rework costs. Worst case scenario: there is also the risk that the trainees will suffer injuries or accidents during the learning or training phase.
TWO TYPES OF ON THE JOB TRAINING
OJT can be classified into two types, depending on how it is carried out.
In this type of training, the set up involves the new employee learning from a more experienced employee.
They could have sit-down sessions together, where the experienced employee will talk and discuss with the new employee, often using a casual approach. Often, it also involves the new employee shadowing the experienced employee, following him around as the latter shows firsthand how the job is suppose to be done.
There are cases, especially in large and established companies, where training programs are institutionalized. Pretty much all employees hired into the company will be required to go through this prescriptive program before they are left on their own.
OJT: WHAT EMPLOYERS SHOULD MASTER
Not all companies are experts at conducting on the job training, however. There are others that are better at it. What makes the difference, you ask?
In all likelihood, it is because they have better OJT programs in place. After years of implementing these programs, they are able to master a few things.
Technical aspects of the job.
Trainers should know the job inside and out. Employees will feel more inspired and motivated to learn from someone who they know is an expert or highly experienced in the job they are training for.
A new carpenter will be more motivated to learn how the process works if he is to train under the tutelage of a master carpenter in the company. A new programmer will also feel more positively toward training when he knows he will be getting it from someone who has been doing programming for a long time, and have shown great results and accomplishments to date.
Consistency in integration of OJT.
According to training expert Jeff McLanahan, the most difficult part about combining learning and working, and integrating the two for the new employees to learn their everyday work, is consistency.
In order to ensure consistency, organizations are encouraged to make OJT one of its many core values. This is so that the company can commit to it fully and enhance it, from conceptualization to implementation. This will also prevent them from finding reasons to cancel or not go through with scheduled OJT sessions.
This implies that the company needs to prioritize employee learning and development. The reasoning of many employers who do not subscribe to this philosophy is that, during the recruitment process, they have already selected the person who they know can do the job, or is an expert at it.
However, expert or not, new employees that are coming into a new work environment will still require training, no matter how short it will be.
Assignment of trainers.
The company should have a fine-tuned trainer’s training program. In order to ensure the effectiveness of the OJT, the company should first focus on honing the training capabilities of the managers and supervisors. After all, they are the ones who will be conducting one-on-one mentoring and coaching with the new employees who will require training.
Choosing trainers should not be limited from among the managers alone. Employees should also be trained to train their co-workers. They may not be of a higher position or authority, but the longer time that they have worked on the job equipped them with the necessary knowledge and experience to be able to teach new employees.
In fact, many may prefer having employees teach their co-workers, so that the managers will still be able to focus or concentrate of overseeing or managing, instead of dividing their time between supervising and doing their respective tasks. Some new employees may also feel more comfortable getting instruction from a peer, since they might be intimidated being trained by a higher-level supervisor.
The trainers need to be trained how to train. The teachers need to be taught how to teach. Therefore, the job description of managers and supervisors should include training, coaching and mentoring.
Conduct of interactive hands-on training.
The conventional way of learning is through the classroom-style approach. It works, but times are changing, and more and more employees and workers prefer a more interactive approach, one that lets them learn hands-on. In a study, 33% of respondents showed preference over hands-on learning, while only 19% still favor taking the classroom-style approach
Employers should be able to easily combine the two approaches, in order to obtain the best results. They should be able to successfully blend the classroom-style with the interactive hands-on style, for a richer and more effective learning experience.
Adapting to changing learning circumstances.
Employees have different preferences on how they want to be trained. The company needs to take this into consideration so they can tailor the training method or approach to use. During the recruitment, the employer may already have an assessment on the capabilities of the new employee for learning.
If the employee shows great aptitude for assimilation and can learn quickly, the training may be done at a fast pace. However, if it is the opposite case, the training should be tailored to match his pace.
The training approach will also depend on the type or nature of the work that the new employee will be trained in. Manual work, for example, is more easily assimilated using the hands-on approach. Meanwhile, there are jobs where classroom-style lectures and discussions would suffice, because they may be purely theoretical in application. Jobs in areas such as finance, marketing and sales, on the other hand, may require a combination of the two styles.
There is also a need to consider the industry’s best practices, new technologies, and new applications. These will have an effect on how the training structure will go. Even if the company has established an OJT program, it should be done in a way that it remains flexible, able to adapt easily in the face of evolution and change.
Fostering good employee relationship and teamwork.
The company should also master promoting and fostering teamwork among its employees. This is common sense, really. If organizations want their goals achieved, then they should make sure that all members share the same determination towards attaining those goals. It is the same in the context of OJT.
Employees who are able to work harmoniously together will be more willing to help each other out, especially if there is a new employee coming in. Managers will feel more positive towards providing training, even if it is a job requirement on their part. Employees will not begrudge sharing their knowledge and expertise, because they know that training the new employee will help them and the company as a whole.
Mastery of training tools.
Employers also often use various tools and technologies to facilitate the training process, and this means that they should also master the usage of these tools and technologies. This can also go with the trainer’s training, where the managers and employees will be tasked to do the direct instruction of the new employees.
Mastery of the above points may be gained by the company by considering the following tips when implementing or conducting its on-the-job training program:
- Repetition. If you want to inform an employee about something, you can tell him about it once or twice. If you want to train him and help him become an expert at it, you have to do it more than twice. In fact, you may have to repeat it several times in order for the employee to assimilate and fully understand the information. There are some employees that are quick learners; they can get the hang of it after being taught only once. However, not all employees are able to do that.
- Ask questions. In this setup, the experienced employee is like a teacher, and the new employee the student. In order to see whether the student understood what is being taught, the teacher conducts tests and examinations. This is similar to that. It will also aid the new employee’s memory recall of what he has learned so far.
- Encourage questions. Allow the new employee to ask questions, instead of doing all the talking from beginning to end. He may have something to clarify or verify, and he’s only hesitating out of fear that the trainer will think he is incompetent for asking. Put him at ease and encourage him to inquire about anything related to what is being taught.
- Teaching over time. Learning and teaching takes time. You cannot expect to be able to teach the new employee the ropes overnight or in one work day. Repetition of instruction alone will last for several days, even weeks. The danger of speeding through the instruction is that the new employee may be overwhelmed and feel pressured, so that he may quit before the end of the OJT period. Or he may push himself to learn what he could, but will suffer burnout.
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OJT: WHAT EMPLOYEES SHOULD MASTER
At the end of the OJT duration, the employee is expected to have learned how to do his job and accomplish it properly and productively. He should also learn and master the following:
The technical aspects of the job
It is not enough for the employee to learn how to do the basics of the job; he has to master doing the job. Granted, it may be too much to ask, considering how the employee is still new in the workplace.
However, since the OJT is conducted on a one-on-one basis, it is expected that he should, at least, know more than the basics. This is so that the employee who trained him will be able to let him work on his own with confidence.
By obtaining training in the actual workplace, in “real time”, and exposed to other workers and members of the organization, the new employee can early on learn how to behave and act like a professional. Professionalism pertains to how an employee conducts himself at work, from the way he presents himself to how he acts in certain situations.
Most people associate professionalism with “looking smart” or “dressing properly for work“. That is not all there is to professionalism, however. It also refers to how the new employee respects and uses time. Punctuality will put him in a favorable light, because it gives the impression that the employee values his work enough to show up on time.
Another sign of being a professional is by leaving personal matters at home. If you are in a bad mood due to an incident at home, you should not bring this mood with you in the workplace, since it is likely to affect how you carry out your work. If you committed an error or mistake, own up to it. Apologize if you must, and find ways to rectify that mistake.
As early as the training period, the new employee should work on his communication skills. At first, he may be primarily communicating with his coach or mentor, but in the course of the training, he will be exposed to other people in the workplace.
Be polite and courteous when dealing with others. Choose your words carefully so you can convey your message without offending anyone.
The new employee may be a newcomer, but he should keep in mind that he will be working with everyone in the organization for the long, indeterminate future. Avoid gossiping about other people, and offer help when you can.
The on-the-job training setup may not be the perfect training methodology, and it may not be the most effective or efficient either. However, it has been known to provide results where other methodologies were not able to. When done right, and when it is tailored to the specific circumstances surrounding the job, the employee and the organization, everyone is sure to benefit from it.
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