Andrea Ibañez is a Freelance Content Writer for HR and Fintech companies. In her natural habitat, you can find her planning her next trip, cooking something Mexican, or annoying her cats.
Disengaged employees, high turnover rates, and low-quality work. Sounds familiar? According to Lorman, 70% of your employees might leave your company for an organization known to invest in learning and development.
So, you need to step up before that happens.
On-the-job training (OJT) is a cost-efficient strategy that helps employees develop the necessary skills to do quality work.
It improves engagement, increases satisfaction, and supports company culture.
In this article, we'll discuss what OJT is, its pros and cons, how it works, and how you can integrate it into your overall training strategy.
On-the-job training (OJT) is a hands-on learning experience that helps employees acquire the skills, knowledge, and competencies they need to succeed in their roles.
The training happens at the workplace, where a manager or an experienced employee shows the trainee how to perform a task and then supervises the trainee doing it themselves.
The trainer then gives immediate feedback, making room for correcting errors and for the employee to learn their new responsibilities faster.
HR Expert Jennnifer Hartman sees OJT as a way to increase an employee's chances of success:
"Implementing on-the-job training can help employees learn new skills, become more engaged, and improve their performance. This type of training allows employees to learn in a practical setting, which can help them develop better job skills and increase their chances of success."
For example, experienced floor workers teach new employees to assemble, inspect, and pack parts in manufacturing companies. Then, the experienced employee supervises the recruit until they gain the skill and knowledge to do it independently.
Another example is the succession of a management position. Often, when a department or organization leader decides to step down, they enter a transition period where they'll mentor their successor to ensure a smooth transition to their new position.
The main difference between on and off-the-job training is that while on-the-job training happens at the workplace and has a practical approach, off-the-job training takes place in a classroom and focuses on knowledge acquisition.
They also differ in:
So which one is better?
It depends on what you want to achieve.
On-the-job training is better if:
Off-the-job training is better if:
OJT happens in one of two ways: structured and unstructured.
Unstructured OJT occurs when an employee asks for help when someone informally teaches them how to perform a task or when they observe one of their colleagues doing their jobs.
While uncostly, unstructured OJT is not effective because:
On the other hand, structured on-the-job training (S-OJT) is designed to teach everything the employee needs to know and has a strategy to back it up.
With S-OJT, both trainer and trainee know what's expected of them. At the same time, managers know how their employee is doing, and they can track, measure, and improve the training.
A successful S-OJT strategy needs:
On-the-job training helps new employees ease into their new positions and adapt to your company culture. It also allows you to create a job enrichment strategy to encourage established employees to learn new skills and grow within the company.
Nina Pączka, Community Manager at Zety, explained how training increases productivity and improves the perception of employees about the company:
"[Training] should engage, motivate and create bonds. Nothing boosts employee productivity like relationships with the company and other employees. Employees feel valued. And if they see that the company cares about them, they care about the company. It's a simple quid pro quo in its positive sense."
Well-rounded development plans also need off-the-job training to supplement on-the-job training, bring new ideas to the workplace, and clarify concepts in formal training.
There are many methods to deploy on-the-job training, such as:
While they have different approaches to training, all of them involve the employee performing tasks they'll use in their job and receiving immediate feedback on their performance.
Here's how they work.
In coaching, a training manager analyzes how an employee performs their job and provides feedback. This one-to-one strategy helps the employee develop and improve their competencies while gaining confidence and learning to take responsibility for completing the task.
Unlike coaching, mentoring is an informal training method. It focuses on developing a relationship between the trainee and the manager or expert employee. The mentor supports and guides the mentee to learn the skills they'd need to assume the mentor's position when they retire, change roles, or leave the company.
During job rotations, employees work at different departments or workstations within the company, intending to understand how the company operates as a whole. This method helps manufacturing companies and apprenticeship programs.
Apprenticeships are long-term programs that combine OJT with classroom training. It helps inexperienced employees learn the skills they need to perform a specific position that the company needs to fill. The employees earn a certification or license to perform the job without supervision.
Understudy programs prepare an employee to take on the role of their supervisor, making it a key method in succession planning. The trainee learns how their supervisor performs their job while observing and assisting them and develops relationships with employees that support the role they'll assume in the future.
In job instruction—also known as the step-by-step method—the trainer demonstrates how to perform a task step by step to the employee. Then, the trainer observes the employee performing the task, provides immediate feedback when they make mistakes, and recognizes good practices.
Committee assignments usually involve many trainees. The trainer assigns the trainees a real company problem and asks them to solve it. This kind of training encourages teamwork, promotes company culture, and helps the trainees develop new skills and relationships with their co-workers.
Internships are short-term programs where trainees get exposure to a new industry and gain general knowledge about it. It helps the trainees become familiar with the activities they would perform if they pursued a career in that field.
Now that you understand what on-the-job training is and what it can do for your organization let's go over some of the best practices that make this approach work.
Find the people that show outstanding performance and have a deep knowledge of their job. Then, identify who of them would make good trainers.
Good trainers are willing to share their knowledge, have excellent communication skills, and are interested in training new employees.
Once you've identified who your potential trainers are, you'll need to train them so they learn how to:
For your OJT to be successful, you'll need a structured plan that shows what the employee needs to accomplish and how they'll do it.
Start by having a detailed view of the employee's role in your organization.
Next, create a list of the tasks, skills, and competencies they need to succeed. Then, assess the gap between the desired profile and your employee's profile to determine what they need to improve.
Pro tip: This step is easier when you have a competency model in place.
From that, work with the OJT trainer to gather and develop training materials and documentation to support the employee's learning experience. Don't forget to create an assessment checklist to evaluate the employee's progress.
Wrap everything with a training schedule to help everyone stay on track and know what they need to work on.
Measure and track the employee's outcomes—such as changes in knowledge, behavior, and attitudes.
Use the assessment checklist you created to measure how your employee is performing in their training. To keep your employee engaged and motivated, recognize what they're doing well and give feedback to help them improve the skills or competencies that don't meet expectations.
Talk to the trainer and trainee to learn what worked, what needs improvement, and what doesn't work at all. Create an exit survey that gives you insight into how your employee is doing and how the trainer did their job.
From that, assess which skills they need to develop further and how you can improve the overall training experience.
During onboarding, a buddy system helps new employees ease into their position. A 'buddy' is an employee with outstanding social skills, who shares their knowledge, best practices, and experiences with the new recruit.
A buddy system is an excellent complement to your OJT plan. It has a positive impact on retention and helps the employee become fully productive in a shorter time.
A learning management system (LMS) helps you organize your training materials and create a library your employees can use whenever they need to solve a problem, consult a company policy, or recall a process.
It can also automate tasks such as assigning training, sending reminders, and even assigning 'buddies' to recruits.
For example, with Zavvy's LMS, you can create an onboarding training journey and automatically enroll new employees on it. Zavvy's system combines learning methods such as spaced repetition, microlearning, and social learning to keep your employees engaged and motivated.
But there's more: Zavvy lets you set up an overall development process, combining competency models, development plans, and feedback to guide both your on-the job and off-the-job development strategies.
One of the best ways to create a training plan is to use the ADDIE framework. ADDIE stands for Assess, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate.
By using this framework and the best practices we've discussed, you'll be able to design and implement a successful on-the-job training program.
Creating a well-rounded training plan may seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be. Start with critical roles and work your way down. Remember that training is not solely the responsibility of People Ops—recruit managers and key employees to help you determine training needs and develop the training programs.
Implementing a structured on-the-job training plan helps you and your organization preserve internal knowledge, increase employee engagement, and retain top talent.
Ready to deploy your on-the-job training strategy? With our employee development software, you can create, implement, and measure your training plan. Book a demo and unleash your training potential today.