On-the-job training, or OJT if you prefer, has been part and parcel of the employment experience for a very long time. In many ways, it’s the original form of training. When the first apprentice signed on, they learned the ropes in a hands-on way.
Today, OJT still plays a critical role in organizations large and small, across virtually all industries. However, that doesn’t mean that it comes naturally or that there are no questions surrounding it. One of the most common questions is who should provide on-the-job training?
For some, the answer seems obvious – your managers. For others, the answer might be completely different, though. It’s not as clear-cut as many people might assume. In this post, we’ll explore the topic in greater depth, illustrate the different people that can provide OJT and the benefits (and drawbacks) of each option.
Other employees are often tasked with showing a new employee “the ropes” or helping them “get their feet wet” within new positions. Employee-led on-the-job training can be highly effective, and it can offer many benefits. However, it may or may not be right for your needs.
In this situation, a new employee will often shadow a more experienced one as they go about their day. Throughout the process, the worker will explain what’s being done, why, and how to do it properly. The new employee will learn through a combination of observation and hands-on experience.
One of the benefits here is that employee-employee training and interaction builds stronger ties within the department, particularly if the employee responsible for providing the training will be a regular part of the new employee’s team. Another benefit is that employee-led OJT can bolster company culture, fostering one where communication, collaboration, and learning are valued. Employee-led OJT can also shorten the time to when a new employee is ready to assume their position.
However, there are some drawbacks here. For instance, any employee providing OJT will be less productive (or not productive at all) with their own responsibilities. Employers will need to make adjustments to scheduling and plan for this to ensure critical workflows are not interrupted. Cross-training employees to handle multiple positions can provide the redundancy necessary to ensure there’s always someone capable of handling a position’s responsibilities while another employee provides training.
Finally, because employees are intimately familiar with the inner workings of the business, they can provide training that speaks directly to the new employee’s experience. An employee understands the expectations of management in ways that outside trainers do not. They also often understand the impact of management decisions and what managers expect in ways that cannot be translated by manager-trainers. Because employees interact with other employees regularly, they can help new hires navigate those waters in addition to learning the ropes in a new position, as well.
Having managers provide OJT is another common practice. In some ways, it may work better than having employees provide training, as it alleviates the need to find someone to cover a trainer-employee’s responsibilities. However, there are both pros and cons to this situation, as we’ll see.
Having a manager deliver training offers some proven benefits. One of those is that it develops stronger employee/manager relationships, which is particularly important in today’s world. Employees are often more open to manager-led training than they are to other formats (particularly to professional trainers, which we’ll cover below). It also allows managers to ensure that not only are the right skills and knowledge instilled in employees but that the right introduction to company culture is provided (which is particularly important for new hires, rather than employees moving from one position to another within the company).
Manager-trainers have a deep understanding of the company’s mission, values, and ethics, and can help instill those in new hires, as well as in employees changing positions within the company. Not only that, but they are often very familiar with the unique challenges teams face and can help teach employees new skills and means of overcoming those hurdles.
Finally, we have professional trainers. These are usually outsourced professionals hired specifically to come in and provide training to teams or departments. Occasionally, they may offer training for smaller groups or even individuals.
While professional trainers often understand the roles for which they are providing training and have mastered very effective information dissemination skills, they may not be the right choice for your on-the-job training needs. Often, outsourced trainers fail to provide an optimum learning experience simply because they are not part of the company and therefore are not steeped in its culture, lack the requisite view of the business’s inner workings, and may not even understand the audience/customer base very well. That can be disastrous in positions like customer service or product design/development, manufacturing, and much more.
Professional trainers also have other downsides. One of those is that employees are less likely to react positively to the training provided and to the trainer’s expectations. Another is the cost involved. Outside trainers almost always cost more than using either employees or managers to train employees, and they often deliver reduced outcomes.
The Training Your Employees Need
As you can see, there are many options when it comes to providing OJT. However, they are not all the same. Training managers or training employees to train others can both be highly beneficial, cost-effective, and successful options. Hiring an outside training provider might seem like a worthwhile option, but it rarely delivers the results expected.
With all that being said, no on-the-job training initiative can be successful without a way to track and measure it. Whether you choose to let managers train employees or you go the employee-employee route, an effective, accurate tracking solution is critical to ensuring success, information dissemination, knowledge/skill retention, and more.
At eLeaP, we understand how critical tracking is to OJT success and we’ve designed a powerful solution to your needs. Contact us today to learn more about our OJT tracking feature and the capabilities it can unlock for your organization.