On-the-job training (OJT) plays a central if often understated, role in the success (and failure) of organizations, large and small. Too often, it boils down to an employee taking action, another employee witnessing that action, and a checkmark being added to a box that basically says, “yes, this person understands what they are supposed to be doing.” What your OJT program accomplishes, however, rests entirely on the value you assign to it. Is this some new-age mumbo jumbo, or is this a powerful tool that could yield significant benefits for your organization?
In truth, some situations are that simple. For instance, learning how to operate basic office equipment doesn’t usually involve a great deal of time or effort. However, this is not a stance you can afford to take with most positions and responsibilities within your organization. It takes more knowledge and skills than pressing the start button or checking the paper tray on a copier to accomplish most business-critical goals.
The problem often comes down to not having the right supporting materials to enhance OJT. These elements are critical not just to developing an employee’s knowledge but to tracking training across the organization. Thankfully, a few tips, tricks, and tools can provide the enhancement needed.
Let Them Practice
Before practical tests, theory tests provide learners with a way to master the basics and develop a rudimentary understanding of important processes. This is highlighted in OJT through the process of shadowing – employees observe someone else performing the tasks that they will eventually perform, usually accompanied by verbal instruction as to what is being done, why it is being done, and what happens if it is not done or done improperly.
Theoretical learning can and should be supported by more than job shadowing, though. At best, you should provide new or transitioning employees with the following:
- Written instructions concerning what job duties are expected
- Details about how to perform duties
- Safety information regarding duties
- Supplemental information about why tasks are important and how they tie into business goals
- Safety equipment/gear that should be used during the completion of duties and an understanding of why that gear/equipment is important
- Checklists detailing each step involved in completing a task and what criteria will be used to evaluate performance on that step
Ideally, employees should shadow an employee through job duties to build an overall understanding. Then, that understanding can be broadened with the instructions, details, and checklists discussed above. When the employee has developed a robust understanding of their responsibilities and how they will be evaluated through practicing with these tools, a full evaluation and any required coaching can then take place.
While hardcopy documents can be helpful, understand that digital technology simplifies the process of document creation, sharing, and management. Using your learning management system is an important step toward a more agile organization, better access to training material when the employee is not in the office, and a better ability to track OJT program performance over time. With that being said, make sure your LMS is flexible, cloud-based, and features on-the-job tracking capabilities.
A Full Assessment
Rubber stamping employee performance because they were observed performing a task correctly is the wrong path to take when it comes to on-the-job training. This does nothing to ensure that the employee truly understands what they are doing, why it is important, or what might happen if they make a mistake. It is akin to teaching school children to pass tests rather than to master the information they should be learning.
A key consideration here is providing a performance assessment. Depending on the situation, multiple assessments might be required (an assessment per duty/responsibility, for instance). However, the assessment cannot come before the employee has fully completed training, both in terms of job shadowing and supplemental training.
When it comes time for the assessment, the employee and the trainer must work together. The trainer should have a detailed assessment sheet that includes all the information contained in the supplemental training information, although it can be broken down differently. For instance, rather than being focused on providing the employee with information, the assessment sheet should be aimed at the trainer. It should ensure that the trainer observes exactly the actions necessary, as well as supplemental questions to ask during the assessment to ensure that the employee not only knows what they are supposed to be doing but why they are doing it.
Supplemental Information for Tracking OJT
Tracking OJT is important for compliance but also for measuring and closing skills gaps within your workforce. It can be challenging to track this training without the right information. Using a separate form, or a digital form that integrates with your learning management system, ensure that the following information is recorded:
- Employee name
- Employee ID# or SSN
- Occupational category
- Type of training
- Model number (if applicable)
- Directions for tasks
- Task objective
- Performance on task
- Coaching given (if applicable)
In addition to those metrics, you should record any other information necessary to help you track training. This might include references to industry rules or government regulations, best practices, software versions, and much more.
Rinse and Repeat
OJT is often thought of as something that’s done once and then not repeated. However, that does not lead to task mastery, which is what’s required to drive optimum outcomes for your employees and organization. Be prepared for some employees to require more than one session of your OJT program. Conducting ongoing assessments and providing coaching via one-on-ones and check-ins will help keep leaders and employees on the same page and ensure that everyone is progressing toward becoming their best selves.
On-the-Job Training Success
How do you measure whether OJT efforts have been successful? If your managers/coaches are just ticking boxes, there’s no accountability in your process and no guarantee that employees are truly learning what they need for success. Use the tips, tricks, and tools discussed in this post to ensure that your learners are supported and your managers are doing more than rubber-stamping performance.
Have you experienced problems with rubber stamping your OJT program? How did you get around those issues? Share your experiences with us in the comments below.