The best job training happens at work
If you are a small or medium sized businessman with a limited
training budget but committed to employee development, on-the-job
training (OJT) may provide your the best answer.
OJT is job training that occurs in the work place. The new employee
learns the job while doing the job and while earning his or her salary.
OJT is also called hands-on- training.
OJT has many advantages, but it can also have a few disadvantages if
it is not properly planned and executed. One major drawback can be
finding the right time for it. The person responsible for giving and
evaluating the training has to be sure that his or her other job
responsibilities are being met.
Another disadvantage is that it can be difficult to find the right
person to conduct it. The person doing the training must have the
knowledge and skills with the same equipment or services that the
learner will be working with.
Care must also be given not to pass on sloppy work habits or
unintentionally teach irrelevant or inefficient work methods to the new
If these disadvantages are eliminated, however, OJT can be beneficial
for both the company and the new employee. It can be cost-effective for
the business since a separate training program isn't required and the
training is part of the actual work shifts.
No extra equipment is needed as the new worker learns on the
equipment or services needed for the job anyway.
OJT often works out really well for the new employee since
traditional training periods tend to have a training allowance that may
be lower than the regular pay scale for the job.
Also, there is no need for the new worker to have to travel to one
place for the training and another for the job.
Many times the person who will be doing the training and evaluation
is the new worker's supervisor or manager so this also establishes job
expectations right at the start. The feedback during the training is
also immediate, so the new employee may experience faster growth in the
job than he or she would in other types of training situations.
On-the-job training is still the predominant form of job training in
the US and most European countries, particularly for non- managerial
employees. Numerous studies indicate that it is the most effective form
of job training.
OJT is particularly appropriate for developing proficiency skills
unique to an employee's job - especially jobs that are relatively easy
to learn and require locally-owned equipment and facilities.
Morale, productivity, and professionalism will normally be high in
those organizations that employ a sound OJT program.
Two different types of on-the-job training are frequently
distinguished: structured (planned) and unstructured (unplanned).
Unstructured is the most common kind and refers to loose on-the-job
training programs that largely involve a novice employee working with an
experienced employee, who serves as a guide in an observe-and-imitate
The new workers largely learn by trial and error with feedback and
suggestions from experienced workers or supervisors. Unstructured
training is designed based on work requirements, not on imparting job
skilled needed by new workers.
Consequently, unstructured on-the-job training often fails to impart
needed skills fully or consistently, because experienced employees
sometimes are unable to articulate clearly the proper methods for
performing a job and they sometimes use different training methods each
time train new workers.
In contrast, structured on-the-job training involves a program
designed to teach new workers what they must know and do in order to
complete their tasks successfully.
An analysis of the major job requirements (identified in the position
description and performance plan) and related knowledge, skills, and
abilities form the basis for setting up a structured OJT plan.
To establish a structured program, parameters must be set regarding
issues such as who will conduct the training, what material will be
covered, and how long training will last.
In addition, the following topics should be considered: selecting and
preparing OJT trainers and coaches, working with supervisors for
successful implementation, developing and or selecting training
materials, setting trainee prerequisites, evaluating performance,
granting company certification to trainers, coaches and trainees.
The process begins with the selection of qualified trainers and
trainees: trainers must know the tasks and know how to communicate how
to perform them and the trainees must be able to learn the tasks.
In addition, the tasks to be learned and the training goals must be
identified. Based on this information, companies can establish a
training program. Next, the training program is implemented: the
experienced worker prepares to train the novice worker and takes steps
to ensure that the trainee understands the tasks to be learned and that
the trainee actually learns to perform these tasks. The implementation
of the training program also follows a specific timetable and hence it
should help new employees learn needed skills more quickly and
systematically than unstructured programs. Finally, the training outputs
result from the training inputs and the training program.
Trainees must be active participants in a coaching-based structured
OJT program. They need to understand how coaching will benefit them. For
the trainee-coach relationship to succeed, the trainee must be ready to
learn, open to communicating honestly, and respectful of his or her
Trainees who commit to the relationship and see training as an
opportunity to increase their skills will be most successful.
Supervisors should communicate trainee roles to each of them before
Some level of basic knowledge, and sometimes skill, is required
before learning any new job. The prerequisites to the job should be
determined and documented as part of the OJT program. Formalizing the
prerequisites will give everyone an understanding of what is minimally
expected of someone new to a given job.
Trainers will be provided with a starting point, and trainees feel
more confident knowing they have met certain standards. If trainees do
not meet the prerequisites, what additional knowledge or skills they
need before OJT begins will be clear.
If all goes well the training outputs should include the trainee
being able to complete assigned tasks adequately in accordance with the
training goals. After a training program is finished and new employees
begin to work on their own, the training process-inputs, the training
program, and outputs-must be assessed to make sure that it successfully
prepared workers for their tasks and any necessary modifications should
Investing in employees
An ongoing OJT programme can set any company ahead of the pack.
Employees, particularly in younger generations, are eager to work for
places that offer more than just a pay packet. They want to learn new
Investing in workers will show a company's commitment to employees,
which in turn fosters commitment in them. Not training employees creates
the opposite of what any wants - indifferent, unmotivated workers.
In fact, trained employees need less supervision. That frees a
company hierarchy on building its business, growing its customer base
and improving its sales. All of which boosts a company's competitive
edge. Not a bad deal!
(The writer is a company director involved in human resource
management and development)