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On-the-Job Training Programs

A Smart Approach to On-the-Job Training Programs

When people think of conducting on-the-job training, they tend to think of new employees who have entered a job, have been shown a desk (or other work environment), and will be learning via “trial by fire.” Although this method is sometimes effective, the benefits of on-the-job-training can be amplified with a little more preparation and coaching.

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Training, at its simplest, allows for members of an organization to acquire new skills, review their current skills, or meet some mandatory requirements depending on their industry. On-the-job training can occur at various times during an employee’s career, be it when they begin employment, learn a new skill related to their job, or even possibly after a promotion. Regardless of when on-the-job training occurs, there are several factors to keep in mind while it is going on.

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Before any training can begin, three qualities of the training need to be identified.

1. Task - what the employee will be trained on, such as learning a new computer program.
2. Condition – how the learning will be conducted and in what environment.
3. Standard – what is defined as success in terms of the employee being able to execute what the training was designed to teach.

This task, condition, standard approach is commonly used in the military for everything from combat training to teaching office skills. It ensures that the employee enters training knowing what basic skills they should walk away with. If an employer conducts on-the-job training with an employee but doesn’t point out the desired end result, the training loses effectiveness because the employee won’t be able to focus on the fundamental tasks of what they are learning.

Applicability of Skills

On-the-job training, although usually cost effective, still costs an organization resources either in capital or man power, or both. In order to maximize the resources used, the skills that are learned in the training should be tied directly into the current or future duties of that employee.

From personal experience, I have seen countless times where employees are sent to training to learn systems or skills that they will literally never use in their professional career. Another mistake is to spend money for training on systems or procedures that either have not been put in place yet, or for systems and procedures that are in the process of changing. Employers should consider more carefully if the benefits of the training outweigh the costs.

Subject Matter Experts

Who is the most qualified person to train your employees? The best trainers tend to be those individuals who are currently using the skill set that a potential trainee needs to learn. These highly-skilled employees can not only identify the immediate basic skill set for the training, but can also identify the potential, day-to-day sticking points in using the skill. For example, if an accountant is going to learn a new payroll system, it would be beneficial for this trainee to learn directly from another accountant who currently uses the system. This allows the trainee to see the applicability in a day-to-day setting, and will also allow the trainee to see what peripheral issues may arise from the use of the program.

Training environments usually never account for all variables and are not tailored to specific environments. Linking up a trainee with another employee of the same job description to learn a method or skill is not only cost and time effective, but allows for a stronger day-to-day approach in knowing how to use the newly trained abilities. To multiply the effective of subject matter expert training, it’s always good to place the trainee with several trainers over the duration of the training, to provide for multiple learning aspects. 

Identify Goals & Document

An important part of on-the-job training is identifying goals of the training, and ensuring that this training is documented accordingly. By doing so, you maximize the benefits to on-the-job training. Depending on the training at hand, goals should be divided into subsets of skills and those skills should be trained to the standard of success that is set, hopefully by a subject matter expert.

Training often fails because it either moves at a rate that is not tailored to the trainee (which is usually mitigated in on-the-job training), or because the training fails to go to the depth that is needed to accommodate each individual learning curve. A strong approach to on-the-job training is to provide the trainer and the trainee the same set of training goals and subgoals to be reached during the training of a new skill or system. The benefits of on-the-job training over traditional training is that each sub-goal can be reached on a timeline that can be tailored to ensure success. And as always, any training should be documented and maintained, both for later refresher training, but also for the small chance of limiting legal liability.

On-the-job training is something that employers most likely do on a daily basis, and is an effective way for new or growing employees to learn new skills and position demands in a cost-efficient manner. But even on-the-job training can be maximized if some prior planning is put into it. The simple act of putting a new employee with a veteran employee is not an effective method of learning, but simple considerations such as prior planning and seasoned trainers can develop the most simple training into a cost efficient learning tool that may require less time, and provide a more in-depth learning experience.


Donald Nickels

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