How On-the-Job Training Brings You Value

Using Managers and Coworkers to Effectively Train Employees on the Job

Training new employee
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What Is Important About On-the-Job Training?

On-the-job training, also known as OJT, is a hands-on method of teaching the skills, knowledge, and competencies needed for employees to perform a specific job within the workplace. Employees learn in an environment where they will need to practice the knowledge and skills obtained during their training.

On-the-job training uses the existing workplace tools, machines, documents, equipment, and knowledge to teach an employee how to effectively do their job. Consequently, no stand-ins exist that will require an employee to make the training transfer to the workplace.

Training takes place within the employee's normal job environment and may occur as he or she performs their actual work. Or it may happen elsewhere within the workplace using dedicated training rooms, workstations, or equipment.

The simple objective of OJT is to use the existing people, environment, tools, and skill training available in the workplace to train employees to do their jobs—on the job.

Who Provides OJT?

A coworker frequently conducts on-the-job training if he or she can competently perform the job being taught. But interpersonal skills, company policies and requirements, leadership training, and more are also topics that human resources staff, managers, or coworkers can teach on the job or in the workplace.

An external provider occasionally performs OJT in the case of specialized equipment or systems. For example, a vendor might train employees in a marketing system that they're adopting as part of their work procedures.

A vendor might also educate the members of an HR team on the capabilities of a human resources information system). The HR team then trains the rest of the employees to use the new system. This approach allows the HR trainers to reinforce their training as the employees apply the skills learned in training as they teach them to other team members.

Another frequent use of a vendor for OJT consists of onsite training for one or more employees, who are then expected to train all of the other employees who perform a similar job. This is a common OJT model in activities that involve Hi-Lo driving, such as operating a forklift; computer software adoption; and the appropriate operation of any new equipment.

While the goal of OJT is often to teach basic workplace skills, it instills aspects of the workplace culture and performance expectations in the new employees as well. OJT is also the approach many organizations use to provide new employee onboarding information.

OJT is provided internally by both managers and experienced coworkers. 

Training Managers to Train

Definite advantages exist for the organization when you have developed the training capabilities of your managers. Teach managers to train, and you will increase the effectiveness of your internal training.

Additionally, training, coaching, and mentoring become an expected and well-utilized aspect of managers' jobs. Employees react favorably when managers provide training too. Not only do employees believe they will have the opportunity to use the training provided by managers, but they react more positively to the expectations of a manager versus those of a trainer.

When managers provide training, they are able to articulate what they believe is important and to reinforce these ideas with employees. Employees are impressed that the training topic is so important that a manager takes the time to do the training.

Positive Example of Effective OJT

At General Motors facilities worldwide, senior-level managers trained every employee in a corporate-wide change in operational and cultural strategy. The fact that senior managers provided the training made a huge impression on the employees attending the classes. They figured that the expenditure of this much time and senior talent on training employees meant that the strategy change was seriously supported.

The senior leader used examples that illuminated both the strategy employed at the time and the expected new direction in a way that an external trainer could never have done. He was also successful at communicating the reasons for the change in a way that promoted excitement and participation.

His knowledge and understanding of company culture allowed him to connect the training to the actual operation that employees lived in every day. This was a powerful reinforcement of the work culture GM wanted to create in its facilities worldwide.

Using managers to train employees is an effective on-the-job training strategy.

Training Employees to Train Coworkers

Your organization will benefit from developing the training capabilities of your employees. Teach your employees to train, and you will raise the quality of your internal training.

Employees are familiar with the workings—both good and bad—of your organization. They are familiar with company goals, company culture or work environment, company strengths, and company weaknesses, and they know the other employees.

This gives employees an advantage over a trainer who has to learn about the company's culture, strengths, and weaknesses, and at the same time, get to know the people.

Examples of Coworker Training

In one medium-sized manufacturing company, the security specialist and the team leader of the safety and environmental committee provide training to all staff in security, emergency evacuation procedures, and safety. They also train new employees during new employee orientation.

In another company, long-term sales representatives train all new sales employees in customer relationship management or CRM computer programs, cold calling and prospecting, and how to take and process orders.

In the same company, a shipping employee trains, tests, and licenses all Hi-Lo drivers. Originally trained by outside firms, internal employees now train other employees. Their safety standards and accident rate have improved as a result, and all drivers are now certified to drive Hi-Los which has expanded their capacity for accomplishing the job in a timely manner.

The Bottom Line

On-the-job training is normally the most effective approach to training employees. Many of these training options emphasize the role of coworkers and managers in training fellow employees.