On-the-job training is crucial for many organizations. It’s perhaps the best way to ensure that employees have the right skills for the job – they learn through shadowing others and through hands-on application of what they have learned. However, it’s important to understand that OJT can be derailed by mistakes, and a surprising number of organizations make errors when it comes to their OJT initiatives.
In this blog post, we will help to identify some of the most common OJT mistakes out there and provide important tips to help you avoid them. When properly designed and implemented (see how eLeaP’s OJT tracking system works), on-the-job training initiatives can deliver vital benefits. Our goal is to help ensure that you’re able to see those advantages.
1. Not Training Your Trainers
Perhaps the single most damaging mistake is failing to train your trainers. OJT can be provided by managers or by other employees. However, never assume that simply because someone has the skills or knowledge necessary for a particular position or task that they are also well-equipped to train others in how to do it. Possessing knowledge is only part of what’s required to share that knowledge with other people.
The good news is that good trainers are built, not born. Yes, some people indeed possess a native talent that makes them good at imparting information to or sharing information with others. However, this is something that anyone can learn over time. So, your first priority should be to identify who will be providing on-the-job training and then make sure that they are trained to train, so to speak.
2. Not Training for More Than Mere Competency
There’s an idea that OJT should be just enough to get an employee up to speed with a process or the responsibilities of a position. That’s natural. After all, the trainer has other responsibilities. In many cases, they have a full-time position that’s being disrupted.
The problem with training for mere competency is that it leaves big gaps, particularly if the employee being trained is new to the organization. Both managers and employee trainers are capable of doing so much more. This is particularly true when it comes to helping introduce new employees to your company’s culture, values, and ethics.
Make sure that any OJT initiatives are based on key company metrics and then build up to competency. OJT actually makes an ideal tool for introducing things like culture and values, because the process allows trainers to help connect the dots between job responsibilities and parts of the company’s culture or specific values and ethics. For instance, a particular step in the production process could be a key to the company’s goal of reducing emissions or power consumption.
3. Not Training for “Why”
A lot of on-the-job training initiatives focus on how to do things. Again, that’s natural and understandable. After all, most training is nothing more than teaching someone how to achieve a specific goal or handle a particular process. The problem occurs when you don’t go farther than that, though.
To develop true mastery and become an integral part of the company, employees must know more than how to do something. They need to know why it is done that way. This provides them with a deeper understanding of the process they’re following, as well as the outcomes you desire, the value of the process to other stakeholders, such as customers, and so much more.
Training in “why” is also important to help ensure that employees fully understand the expectations of other people. For instance, what do other team members expect from the employee? What does the team leader expect? The department manager? Is there a focus on innovation and iteration? Is collaboration high on the list of expectations?
It goes deeper than this, though. When an employee is taught the “why”, they are then able to iterate and begin improving things. It’s about giving employees the tools they need to excel and make improvements where they’re needed.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but we’ll touch on it nonetheless. There’s often a rush to finish when it comes to OJT. Again, that’s natural, because you want to get your trainers back to their regular responsibilities.
However, rushing through the training process rarely leads to optimum outcomes. Also, by trying to cram everything in at once, you make it harder for learners to digest the training, thereby devaluing the process itself. So, what can you do?
Realize that all training is cyclical, including OJT. It involves five steps, repeated one after another – communicate, experience, practice, feedback/adjustments, and expanding skills. The last one bumps your learners back to the first step. Understand that OJT never really ends and build your system so that learners are constantly supported, not rushed, and provided with the opportunity to truly learn, understand, master, and apply the knowledge they need.
5. Not Tracking Progress and Success
The final mistake we’re going to talk about here is not tracking OJT progress and success. Many organizations take a rather lax approach here. The trainer teaches the new employee, observes minimum mastery, and signs off on the training.
That is not the route to go. You must track success at each stage of the process. It’s a collaborative effort, one where there’s a constant give and take between the employee and the trainer. You must know where an employee stands in terms of skills/knowledge development, mastery, and their ability to apply those newfound strengths to their job duties. By tracking information retention and development over time, you also make it possible to continue training employees in the future via customized learning pathways that are highly relevant to them.
Where Do Your OJT Initiatives Stand?
How many of the OJT mistakes talked about above have you seen or experienced? Where do your initiatives stand? Are they rushed to get trainers back to their regular responsibilities? Do you train not just in “how” but “why”? Do you have the tools and capabilities necessary to track OJT over time? Skip the trial and error and build on-the-job training processes that support both employee and organizational success.