On-the-job training provides critical capabilities, but it can be challenging to complete successfully. Success with OJT requires the right combination of support from supervisors, clear training plans, and coaches with the right skills and capabilities. Of those components, coaches are both the most critical and the most challenging to develop.
While almost anyone with experience in the duties and responsibilities in question can provide instruction through job shadowing and other informal training methods, formal training requires more. For this, you will need fully developed coaches, which means several things. One of those is that you will need to complete a skills workshop to help them develop the coaching-specific capabilities necessary. However, coaches must also have a range of soft skills to be effective. This post will explore the key soft skills good coaches need.
The role of a coach is essentially that of a communicator. A skilled coach must communicate a wide range of information to trainees, from the correct way to perform a task to the role of the task in achieving business goals. Good verbal communication skills are important, but nonverbal communication skills are equally vital.
Through body language, voice inflection, eye contact, and other nonverbal methods, coaches communicate many things, including confidence, readiness, the importance of what is being discussed, and much more. As consummate communicators, coaches can deliver their training message in ways that ensure the trainee receives the instruction without any misunderstandings.
Empathy is often misunderstood today. The mistaken notion that people are “empaths” and thereby somehow subject to others’ moods is false. However, empathy is a real skill – it is the ability to put yourself into someone else’s position and see things from their point of view. This is critical for coaches.
A good example of empathy in action here would be the coach putting themselves into the shoes of someone new to the role or position. From that perspective, the coach can begin to determine how best to structure training, what degree of introduction is necessary before moving to more in-depth parts of the process, and more. Without empathy, coaches will be unable to do this and training will suffer as result.
Coaches must be able to accurately measure and manage their own emotions, but they should also have a good gauge of others’ emotions. Emotional intelligence is an important skill for connecting with others and building strong relationships. Such relationships are important not only for the training process but for future interaction between the coach and trainee. Ultimately, this is all about connecting with, influencing, and motivating others, which is precisely what a good coach should be able to do.
Coaches should be proven leaders. That doesn’t mean they need to be in leadership positions in the organization, but they should have the potential to do so. By relying on leaders for OJT coaching, you help ensure a smoother transmission of skills and knowledge to trainees, a better structure for the overall OJT training program, and stronger relationships between the trainer and the trainee.
Time Management Skills
Coaches must do more than just train others – they have their own job-related tasks to handle. It can be a tough balancing act, but good time management skills help ensure that the coach can provide adequate training without their regular responsibilities suffering. As you might imagine, this affects more people than just the coach.
If a coach feels pressed for time, there may be a temptation to cut training short so they can return to their regular responsibilities. That might result in low-quality training, which could, in turn, lead to other negative outcomes depending on the nature of the training. It could lead to reduced efficiency, a longer learning curve, or even safety-related challenges for the trainee.
A coach must do more than just show an employee how to accomplish a task or operate a piece of machinery. They must assess the trainee’s absorption of the information and their readiness for the job. This requires strong observation skills.
Coaches should be able to observe an employee in action and assess their abilities and knowledge. Ideally, the training itself should provide multiple opportunities for this observation to take place, including immediately after the skill/process was demonstrated by the coach and again later (the latter is necessary to measure information retention and job readiness).
The best coaches are also learners. They realize that they do not know everything and, rather than being frustrated when the need for further training materializes, they are excited. This is necessary for a couple of reasons.
First, being a continual learner means that coaches are always open to learning new ways of doing things, including coaching. They are also more likely to retain the information being taught, making them more effective in the long run. Second, continual learners are often able to make others excited about the prospect of learning, which can make OJT less daunting for new trainees and those who might be uncertain about their ability, or those who are unenthused with the need for training in the first place.
The Role of Your LMS
The chances of having multiple people with the existing skillset described above on staff are very slim. Thankfully, soft skills can be developed through training. Your learning management system is the key to this.
With the right LMS, you can track both OJT performance and train the trainer efforts. From a single dashboard, you can check on coach development and then on how well they can guide trainees in preparing for their new role. You can even make it possible to track trainee development and record that information for later use.
What have your own results been like in terms of OJT program success? Which of the soft skills mentioned above did you find most valuable? Were there any other skills you found that were critical for success? Share your story with us in the comments.