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On-the-Job Training

In modern workplaces

The pace of change in organisations is constantly increasing. We all need to be able to adapt, and learn new things quickly from a range of sources. It’s no longer possible to wait to attend formal training courses to learn key skills…indeed, formal courses don’t exist for many of the things that people need to learn to do in modern workplaces.

For some roles (and some processes) however, it is still important that things are done in a set way: For example, if you work in manufacturing, technology or in a ‘process-heavy’ job. In these circumstances, it is often part of the manager’s role to deliver on-the-job training and ensure that:

  • Everyone is doing their job to the best of their ability

  • There is a standard approach to training people in the team

  • Skills and processes are continuously improved

Even in roles that are new and being defined, on-the-job training (or informal learning) is probably the quickest, easiest, cheapest and most reliable way to bring people up to speed with key skills. After all, they job has just been invented, so there is no manual or accredited course!

Benefits of on-the-job training

  1. It's agile - it can happen whenever and wherever it's needed

  2. It's inexpensive - learning occurs in the flow of work, so although an experienced employee may not be quite as productive for a short amount of time, another employee is quickly developing the skills needed to be more productive

  3. It's current/up to date - methods evolve over time. Formal training may only be updated once a year - informal learning always follows the current practice

  4. It's motivating - those receiving the training feel valued and those delivering it are being recognised for their expertise

  5. It encourages innovation - when people collaborate, when they explain what they do and why, when questions are asked, new and improved ways of doing things are likely to be discovered.

Links to the 70:20:10 Principle

The 70:20:10 concept reported by Charles Jennings centres around the idea that the majority (or around 70%) of learning comes through experience, around 20% comes from social learning with colleagues and just 10% through formal learning such as classroom training or online courses. You can read our previous blog about this HERE.

The idea doesn’t suggest that formal or structured training isn’t important. It does suggest though that learning that is:

  • Interpersonal

  • Directly relevant

  • Just-in-time

  • Specific to a particular issue

  • Emotionally engaging

  • Immediately reinforced

  • Driven by the learner

tends to be the learning that sticks in people’s minds and makes a direct difference to the way they do things, and ALL of these factors are present in on-the-job training.

Training on-the-job trainers

There's more to on-the-job training that 'watch and learn'. It's not enough to put new or inexperienced employees with just any more experienced colleague and hope that they will develop all the skills needed and consistently demonstrate good practice. On-the-job trainers need to be trained!

On the job training needs to be planned and structured to ensure that it is effective. Without a plan, employees may receive inconsistent or incomplete training, which can lead to mistakes, accidents, and reduced productivity. Structured training ensures that employees receive the same information and are trained in a consistent manner. This can also make it easier to evaluate the effectiveness of the training.

Effective on the job training requires several skills. Firstly, trainers need to have excellent communication skills, as they will need to explain complex concepts in a clear and concise manner. They also need to be patient and have the ability to provide feedback in a constructive manner. Finally, trainers need to have a deep understanding of the subject matter, as they will be responsible for teaching employees how to perform their job effectively.

Who should deliver on-the-job training?

The responsibility of training people on the job often rests with supervisors or line managers. This is probably a good match in most cases, but sometimes they won't be able to give training the attention it deserves. Alternatively, they may wish to separate developing people from performance management. In which case, training dedicated on the job training specialists is a good idea. It also gives those good employees (who don't want to be managers) a way to be recognised and expand their role. New starters also have 2 people to turn to when they need support, not just one which means they are less likely to make mistakes.

How to deliver on-the-job training

Our bite-size training session covers the key factors and explores a 4-step process for success. But here are some general rules that define good on-the-job training:

  1. Be prepared: Make sure you have everything you need to hand, including time, space and dummy materials/data

  2. Explain the context: Help the learner to understand what they need to do, when and WHY.

  3. Define realistic learning objectives: Break it down and do one thing at a time. Don't expect perfection.

  4. Use a structured approach: A structured approach to training ensures that all employees receive the same information and are trained in a consistent manner. Our Module takes people though a simple 4-step model to use.

  5. Explain and demonstrate: Tell them what you are doing, why and how.

  6. Ask lots of questions: Find out what they already know and build on that. Help them to work out the answers for themselves (which makes it more likely to stick) and check their understanding as you go.

  7. Make it interactive: Interactive training sessions are more engaging and can help employees to better retain information. Gradually increase the amount of input the learner has.

  8. Allow practice with guidance: Be encouraging and begin by talking the learner through every step. Make sure they practice multiple times until you are both happy that they can perform consistently to an acceptable standard.

  9. Provide feedback: Providing feedback is crucial to the success of on the job training. Trainers should provide feedback in a constructive manner, highlighting areas for improvement and providing guidance on how to improve.

  10. Follow up: Following up after training is important to ensure that employees have retained the information and are able to apply it to their job. Trainers should check in with employees periodically to see how they are doing and offer additional support if needed.

Of course, to deliver on the job training effectively, on the job trainers need to be skilled in giving and receiving feedback and have a good foundation in coaching skills too.

Using on-the-job training to develop your workforce doesn't mean responsibility for L&D has been delegated to line managers or experienced employees. It just means that L&D supports a different set of people - those doing the training rather than those doing the learning. And maybe by doing so, we're upskilling, motivating and retaining not just those who are new, but those that would be most difficult to replace.

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