On-the-job training

On-the-job training, though not universally standard, can enhance productivity and efficiency in certain industries. Moreover, it offers comprehensive benefits for the company, such as lowering training expenses and fostering a workforce that is both more competent and motivated.

This article will cover how to begin on-the-job training for employees and how it can benefit your company and workforce. Once you read this guide, you will understand the advantages of on-the-job training and how to implement it at your workplace successfully.


What is on-the-job training?

On-the-job training (OJT) is a practical approach to acquiring new competencies and skills needed for a job in a real, or close to real, working environment.

It is often used to learn how to use particular tools or equipment in a live-work practice, simulated, or training environment.

Imagine diving right into the actual work environment instead of just watching presentations or filling out worksheets. On-the-job training allows you to learn by doing, right at the workplace, guided by a supervisor, manager, or an experienced colleague.

When you undergo this type of training, you gain firsthand experience with the daily activities and operations you’ll encounter in your new role. You’ll learn about workplace expectations, how to operate essential equipment, and acquire other crucial skills needed to succeed in your job.

The duration of on-the-job training can vary, from just a few days to several weeks or more, depending on the complexity of the tasks. Typically, you might start by shadowing a seasoned employee to see how things are done, gradually moving on to perform these tasks yourself under watchful supervision. This approach not only boosts your confidence but also equips you with practical skills from the get-go.

The importance of on the job training

Everyone learns differently: some visually, some through hands-on experience, and others by reading instructions. Yet, in today’s workforce, on-the-job training holds a unique and critical value.

On-the-job training immerses you in real-world scenarios that closely mirror the daily challenges you’ll face.

You’ll use the same tools and equipment essential for your role, all under the guidance of an experienced trainer.

This approach allows you to learn and practice your job skills in a live setting, integrating learning directly with application.

In contrast, other training methods like online courses or seminars often provide only a theoretical understanding without the opportunity for practical application. On-the-job training gives you the invaluable benefit of actual experience, setting you up for success in your career.

“Experience is the teacher of all things.”
– Julius Caesar

Benefits of on the job training

On-the-job training benefits employees and employers, and this next section will highlight some of the key benefits of on-the-job training.

1. Faster training with real experience

On-the-job training enables you to quickly grasp the essentials of your role and begin performing at a competent level much sooner.

Traditional training methods can be lengthy and sometimes ineffective, with employees often retaining little of what they’re taught. This can lead to mistakes and the need for further training down the line.

In contrast, on-the-job training immerses you directly in your work environment.

You learn exactly what your job requires in real-time, with the opportunity to ask questions and get immediate answers as you shadow experienced colleagues.

This direct learning path not only accelerates your training process but also enhances your retention and understanding of the job.

2. Faster adaptation to a new job

This training method is crucial in sectors with high turnover rates, such as retail, the restaurant industry, customer service, and manufacturing.

On-the-job training accelerates onboarding, enabling new employees to reach an acceptable performance level quickly. It allows newcomers to learn organizational processes more efficiently and adapt faster to their roles.

3. In most cases, it is easy to set up

On-the-job training is among the easiest training programs to set up.

With a pool of knowledgeable existing employees, you have a built-in source of trainers.

There’s no need for complex presentations; simply select a high-performing employee to pass on their knowledge to new staff.

4. Immediate contribution from trainees

Trainees begin with simpler tasks and gradually take on more responsibilities.

For example, they might start by answering phones or guiding customers, which allows them to contribute even during the training phase.

This immediate involvement can help alleviate workflow bottlenecks, especially during busy periods.

5. Retain good employees

Knowing the specifics of their job reduces employees’ stress and confusion, which are often high in new work environments.

By clearly defining roles and responsibilities through on-the-job training, employees feel more confident and less likely to leave.

This clarity helps maintain a stable workforce.

6. Attract the right people

On-the-job training allows companies to find the right people for the job because they show capability during the training process. Also, by offering on-the-job training, companies become more attractive to potential employees.

These prospective employees know their time is well spent, and employers can assess skills during training.

7. Team building

With on-the-job training, new employees meet their new coworkers right away and start becoming part of the team.

This creates familiarity and opens up opportunities for new employees to ask questions, even if their training is complete.

Additionally, trainees become more familiar with various workplace departments and can expand their skill set over time.

8. Elementary knowledge management

When experienced employees train new hires, they pass on essential knowledge that might otherwise be lost when they leave the company.

Many employers refer to this as “knowledge management”. Essentially, by having more experienced employees transfer their job knowledge, you retain those skills and knowledge within the company.

9. Cost-effective

On-the-job training is conducted during regular work hours and often requires less time than traditional training methods, which may involve separate sessions or offsite seminars.

This approach not only saves money on training costs but also allows employees to be productive during their learning, contributing to the company’s output and profitability.

On the job training plan with best practices

These tips and best practices will help you bring on-the-job training into your workplace.

1. Identify potential trainers

Selecting the right trainers is crucial.

Look for employees who not only perform exceptionally but are also capable and knowledgeable.

These individuals should view training as a recognition of their skills and a step towards potential promotion.

Consider third-party trainers if your internal resources are limited or if specialized knowledge is required.

Additional reading: Employee performance management.

2. Structure training process

Begin with a detailed plan that outlines regular tasks and the specific policies and procedures trainees need to know.

Since job requirements vary, tailor each plan to the individual role.

A well-structured program ensures that all necessary skills are covered systematically.

3. Automate the learning process

If possible, provide digital training materials to complement hands-on learning.

This not only saves time but also enhances trainees’ ability to retain information.

Having a go-to resource for refreshing knowledge or practicing skills can also prevent unnecessary disruption of other employees’ work.

If you have access to a Learning Management System (LMS), utilize it to centralize and streamline training materials.

An LMS can cover various aspects of the job and is especially useful for automating the delivery of standardized content. This not only saves trainers time but also enhances trainees’ ability to retain information.

Additionally, trainees can use the LMS to access materials after training to refresh their knowledge or practice skills.

Having a go-to digital resource prevents disruptions to other employees’ tasks and ensures consistent learning experiences across the organization.


4. Allow trainees to practice their skills

Practical application is key.

After learning from their trainer, allow new employees to practice their skills under supervision.

This is a crucial step where trainers can identify any areas needing improvement and provide immediate correction, ensuring trainees are adequately prepared for their roles.

5. Check-in during and after training

Regular assessments throughout the training process help monitor progress and ensure that trainees are on track.

Evaluations should continue even after training concludes to confirm that new employees are capable of performing their jobs independently.

6. Get feedback and improve

After employees complete on-the-job training, get feedback from both trainer and trainee. This provides you several insights into how your on-the-job training program is working.

First, you can see how effective on-the-job training is for your company. Next, you can assess areas that may need improvement or skills that may need more time for training.

You can also get insight into how both the trainer and trainee performed. This allows you to determine whether the trainer is effective, or if another employee is better suited to the task.