Your business activity is a machine, running on a combination of labor and equipment. Man and machine.
Machinery is serviced regularly: you clean the machines, fix their parts, and ensure that everything is working smoothly and according to expectations. It seems obvious that your labor deserves the same respect.
Training your employees, and training them well, is a crucial part of ensuring the success of your business. The quality of your product or service is only as good as the quality of the people who are creating it.
There are many different ways to train your employees, ranging from simple on the job training (OJT) to more formal classroom style education (conveniently known as off the job training!)
In this article, we will be exploring on the job training; its benefits, drawbacks and how it impacts employee development.
What is on the job training?
On the job training, or OJT, is defined by the US Department of Labor as “a method of teaching employees new skills and knowledge while they are performing their regular job duties”.
In other words, it is learning by doing.
There are many methods of on the job training, but they all share one common goal: to help employees learn the specific skills and knowledge they need to perform their job duties more effectively.
If you’re looking for a method of training that will have a direct and immediate impact on employee productivity, OJT is definitely worth considering.
Different types of on the job training
Let’s take a deeper dive into a few different types of on the job training, and help you figure out which method of training will suit your business and its employees best.
An apprenticeship is a system of training where a new employee works under the supervision of a more experienced worker, in order to learn the ropes and gain the skills needed for the job. The apprentice starts off with basic tasks and gradually progresses to more complex work as they gain confidence.
An advantage of apprenticeships is that they offer a structured way to learn complex skills, and can be customized to the specific needs of your business. They also create a pipeline of talent for your company, as apprentices are more likely to stay with the company once they’ve completed their training.
However, there are some negatives.
Apprenticeships can be costly and time-consuming, as they require the supervision of a more experienced employee. They may also be less flexible than other training methods, as apprenticeships are typically tied to a specific job or tasks and so are unable to take on varied tasks.
Coaching is a form of development in which an individual is given guidance and support by someone who is more experienced in the same field.
As an employee, you can be trained by a coach at work who can and this will generally involve being shown how to do something, and then being given feedback on your performance.
This sort of OJT has the advantage of being able to be tailored specifically to the individual. It also means the coach is not involved in your work life 24/7 — which may be the case in an apprenticeship.
Another benefit it holds over apprenticeships is the coach being available on an ad-hoc basis. This way, the employee learns a greater range of skills rather than being stuck to a certain set of tasks that is often the case during an apprenticeship.
This is where an employee is moved around different departments or positions within a company, in order to give them a better understanding of the business as a whole.
This can be an effective way of training someone, as they will gain first-hand experience of different aspects of the company. However, job rotation can mean that an employee is never in one place long enough to become an expert in that particular area.
It creates lots of employees that are jacks of all trades, but masters of none. This can be a dangerous proposition for your company’s long term future.
Shadowing is when an employee observes another more experienced coworker in order to learn how to perform their job. This can be done informally, by simply asking a colleague to show you how they do something, or more formally through a structured shadowing program.
It offers the added benefit of allowing your employees to get to know each other better and builds morale.
Benefits of OJT training
OJT offers a variety of benefits when compared to alternative methods of training. Here are a few of the key pros:
It can enhance employees skill sets
On the job training can help to enhance an individual’s skill set and this, in turn, can lead to improved employee development. When an employee is able to learn new skills or hone existing ones while working, they are more likely to be able to contribute more effectively to their role within the company.
This can lead to increased job satisfaction and a feeling of accomplishment, both of which can contribute to improved employee development.
It is cost-effective when compared to alternatives
When compared to other training methods, on the job training is often more cost-effective. This is because there is no need to pay for external trainers or expensive courses, which is often the case with off the job training.
It can lead to increased motivation
On the job training can lead to increased motivation for employees as they are able to see the direct relevance of the skills they are learning to their job. This can make training more engaging and enjoyable, which can in turn lead to improved employee development.
It can be used to assess employees
OJT can also be used as a way to assess employees and their suitability for certain roles within the company. By observing employees during training, employers can get a better idea of an individual’s strengths and weaknesses and whether they would be a good fit for a particular position.
Compare this to a regular training course — an employee may be good at sitting a specific exam, but how can you judge their suitability for doing the actual work?
As a result, OJT can save the company time and money in the long-run by ensuring that employees are placed in roles that they are best suited for.
It can help employees be more connected to the company
On the job training can help employees to be more engaged as they feel that they are constantly learning and developing. Since OJT consists of coaches and mentors helping out a worker, it also means the employee develops a closer bond with their colleagues.
This increased engagement and the closer bond can lead to employees feeling like they are truly a part of the company — and therefore they are more likely to stick with the firm. This is particularly important in today’s day and age where hiring is done remotely, and so finding another job is significantly easier than in the past.
Drawbacks to on the job training
Alongside these great advantages, it’s also important to consider the potential downsides.
Expensive: Your existing employees could spend too much time coaching, which takes them away from their official role. This can be very pricey, especially if the coaches are senior employees with high hourly rates.
Can be repetitive and boring: If the training is not well designed, it can be repetitive and boring for both the trainer and the trainee. This can lead to a high attrition rate as employees leave the company in search of more interesting work.
It can potentially be unsafe: If on the job training is not properly planned, it can be unsafe for both employees and equipment. This is because employees may not have the necessary safety training before they start working with dangerous machinery.
What are the alternatives?
Alternatives to on-the-job training can include classroom teaching and eLearning.
Classroom style teaching can be beneficial if the organization has the resources to support it. It can provide a more structured environment where the employee can learn theory and ask questions in real time. The downside is that it can be disruptive to work flow if an employee is pulled out of their normal duties for long periods of time.
eLearning may also be a better option if an organization does not have the resources to support classroom instruction. eLearning can be done at an employee’s convenience and can be less disruptive to work flow.
However, online learning may not be as engaging as classroom instruction and the employee may not have anyone to ask questions in real time.
The bottom line
On the job training can be a great option for some companies and their employees. It gives them the opportunity to build their skill sets in a manner relevant to their jobs, as well as being a potentially cost effective option.
The beauty of OJT is that it also involves senior members of the company, so they can act as coaches and mentors to those on the lowest rung.
Have a browse of the different types of OJT and its benefits to decide if this is the right type of training for your employees. It is important to remember that this may not necessarily be the case — if so, check out the other alternative methods of training which may suit your firm better.
Best of luck!