The skills gap – no matter what your industry might be, chances are good you’ve heard about the lack of access to qualified, skilled professionals. It’s a very real situation, and it applies across most industries, as well. The good news is that on-the-job training, or OJT if you prefer, can help you close that gap. In this blog post, we will explore the role of OJT in closing the skills gap, as well as other things you should know.

The Role of OJT in Closing the Skills Gap

The Skills Gap: Understanding the Situation

Before diving into how OJT can help close the skills gap, let’s take a quick look at just how pressing that problem is. According to PwC’s 2020 Talent Trends survey,

  • 74% of CEOs are concerned about the availability of key skills.
  • Of those, 32% were “very concerned.”
  • Only 18% of CEOs surveyed said they had made “significant” progress in closing the skills gap in their organization.

The skills gap affects every business across all industries and verticals. Thankfully, there are solutions to help close those gaps. Of course, not all such solutions are viable across all industries. For instance, SMBs may lack the money for significant onboarding activities. On the other hand, they can benefit from on-the-job training programs.

What Is OJT?

On-the-job training is as old as humanity. It has existed in some form since the first person tried to teach another person a skill. It has changed very little down the long centuries, as well – it remains a largely one-on-one process in most cases and generally involves hands-on experience. However, that can be augmented with theoretical learning.

Simply put, on-the-job training is exactly what it sounds like: training provided on the job. It takes many different forms, too. For instance, walking a new hire through their responsibilities and helping them become acquainted with the office layout can be considered OJT. However, it can go much deeper than this. For instance, OJT can be used to help teach employees how to operate machinery, how to complete processes, and much more.

How to Use OJT to Close the Skills Gap

On-the-job training provides a broad range of benefits and capabilities. One of those is the ability to close skills gaps within your existing workforce. Here is a rough outline of how that might work:

Step 1 – Define the Skill Needed/Missing

The first thing you’ll need to do is define what skill is missing. This may be obvious – say you’re missing an employee in a key position within a department. It could also be less obvious. For instance, you continue to miss your target in terms of customer satisfaction but are not entirely sure where things are breaking down.

In both cases, you begin with the end result and work backward to determine what’s going on or what skills you need. With the empty position, the process is simplified; just create a job description for the open position, and then you have your list of skills needed. With the other example, it’s a bit more complicated, but it can still be done. Working backward from the goal of “better customer satisfaction,” you may identify the fact that your customer service team is missing communication skills. From that point, you identify the need for skills development and training.

Step 2 – Determine the Trainer

Once you’ve defined the needed skills, you need to determine who will provide the training. This person must have the skills you seek to instill them in someone else. For instance, the accounting department team leader likely has the missing capabilities, but she is too valuable in her current role to take that position full-time. Having her train a replacement (either an existing employee or a new hire) is the sensible solution.

You can also choose several others for training: managers, other employees, and even outside subject matter experts. Outside SMEs should be used with caution, though. They always lack in-depth knowledge of your business, your customers, and your culture, so while they may be able to provide the training necessary, they may not be able to connect with your learners in a meaningful way.

Step 3 – Determine Other Training Needs

On-the-job training is often practical and hands-on. However, that doesn’t mean that other types of learning aren’t necessary as supports. What other skills might be needed? What additional learning is required? Ideally, you can augment what’s being taught by the trainer through your LMS, helping provide the employee with a robust set of skills. You should also ensure that your LMS is capable of providing that additional training in different formats – video, text, gamified content, and more, to create an engaging experience.

Step 4 – Track Training

With the skills defined, the trainer identified, and additional training mapped out, you’re set to get started. However, it’s important to understand that an organized approach to training management is necessary here. OJT can seem informal, but that appearance should be skin-deep. It’s critical that you track on-the-job training so that you can keep tabs on skills gap closure and employee development. It also helps when trying to build redundancy across teams, as well as in tracking employee career paths. Again, your LMS will be a critical tool (get in touch with us at eLeaP to learn more about our OJT tracking module and how it works).

Conclusion

On-the-job training can be an incredibly beneficial tool for closing the skills gaps affecting your business. However, you must go in with a strategy in place. Know the skills you need, identify the trainers who will lead the initiative, determine what other training needs are present, and then make sure you have a way to track training. With time, strategy, commitment, you can close the skills gaps that threaten your ability to compete, build a stronger team, and create a thriving business.

What have your experiences with OJT been like? Have you seen any successes or experienced major challenges? Share those stories with us in the comments below.