On-The-Job Training: What It Means and Why It’s Useful.

Written by Matt Mundey

21 August 2023


A complete guide to on the job training in the worplace

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On-the-job training is a staple for L&D teams looking to provide better development pathways to their people. We look at what it is and how it works.

Training should form an essential part of any job.

It allows you to upskill your people and make sure they do their job correctly, and safely.

Employees appreciate it because it makes their job easier, but it also shows you’re willing to invest in their development.

Why is that important?

Keep reading to learn:

  • What on the job training is
  • Who can do on the job training
  • The benefits of on-the-job training
  • Types of on-the-job training

Let’s get started.

What is on-the-job training?

On-the-job training, otherwise known as OTJ training, is simply training that is provided in the workplace usually by your manager or colleagues.

On-the-job training can help you gain knowledge, skills and confidence to do your job well, and safely. It’s often done when a new hire starts to help them onboard.

On-the-job training usually consists of shadowing a colleague or manager as they demonstrate processes, and then carrying out the same tasks yourself under supervision.

Who can do on-the-job training?

Realistically, when you start a new job, chances are you will undergo some kind of on-the-job training. It may be that this is just part of your onboarding experience, and you don’t do any further training of this type after that point.

But on-the-job training isn’t always a one-off.

Everyone is eligible for it, but employees might be specially selected, or they might ask for further training.

For example, maybe an employee is struggling to get to grips with a particular process. They might go to their manager to ask for further on-the-job training to make sure they get it right.

What are the benefits of on-the-job training?

Just like other types of training, on-the-job training is extremely useful. Both for the person learning, their colleagues and the business as a whole.

Better trained employees will perform better which means better business results, smoother collaboration, and more job enjoyment.

When you break down what on-the-job training is and who it’s for, there are some clear advantages:

  1. It’s free
  2. It’s accessible
  3. It’s job and person-specific
  4. It’s flexible
  5. It’s social

When you’re comparing types of learning, it’s easy to think on-the-job training is best given the benefits we listed above.

But remember, while it is a great part of any onboarding process, it can only go so far.

In order to further advance knowledge, you might need to consider investing in more advanced training opportunities.

Why you need on-the-job training in your workplace

On-the-job training plays a crucial role in bridging the gap between classroom education and real-world job requirements.

A survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 70% of employers prefer to hire candidates with relevant work experience, which can be gained through on-the-job training (OJT).

This underscores the importance of OJT in not only equipping employees with practical skills but also boosting overall productivity and making individuals more employable in the competitive job market.

On-the-job training (OJT) is essential in the workplace for several reasons:

Acquiring practical skills

OJT provides hands-on experience that cannot be gained through theoretical classroom education. It allows employees to gain practical skills needed to perform their duties effectively.

Understanding company processes

OJT familiarizes employees with the specific processes, procedures, and protocols that are unique to their workplace. This knowledge equips them to work efficiently within the company’s structure.

Learning from experienced professionals

During OJT, employees have the opportunity to learn from experienced professionals who can impart their knowledge, expertise, and best practices. This mentorship is invaluable in developing skills and gaining insight into the industry.

Enhancing job performance

OJT enables employees to apply what they have learned in real work situations. The hands-on experience helps them to develop confidence and competence, leading to improved job performance.

Adapting to company culture

OJT helps employees understand and adapt to the company culture, including its values, expectations, and work environment. This integration boosts productivity and employee satisfaction.

Building teamwork and collaboration

OJT often involves working with colleagues and teams, fostering collaboration and teamwork skills. This promotes effective communication, problem-solving, and the ability to work well with others.

Identifying strengths and weaknesses

Through OJT, employees can assess their strengths and weaknesses in specific job tasks, allowing them to focus on areas where they need improvement. This can lead to personalized professional development plans.

Reducing errors and increasing safety

OJT can significantly contribute to reducing errors and promoting a safe work environment. By learning best practices and safety protocols directly in the workplace, employees can avoid mistakes and potential hazards.

Retaining valuable talent

Offering OJT opportunities demonstrates a commitment to employee growth and development. It can enhance employee loyalty, job satisfaction, and overall retention rates, leading to a more engaged and motivated workforce.

Types of on-the-job training

There are a few different ways you can carry out on-the-job training.

They usually fall under these four main categories:

  • Structured
  • Unstructured
  • Blended
  • Standalone

Let’s break each one down, one by one:

Structured training

Structured training is designed to allow the employee to move through training materials before beginning their role independently.

An example of structured training would be an apprenticeship, or an onboarding checklist.

This could include scheduled chats with team leads an overview of company policies or safety training.

Often, training like compliance falls under structured training as it’s regulated. That means you need to ensure staff are fully compliant in order to remain accredited.

Unstructured training

An unstructured training approach to on-the-job training has much more flow and is probably a little more personalised too.

It could see an employee shadowing a colleague or sitting in calls to pick up what the job entails day-to-day or to pick up language.

These are usually more effective than structured because of the level of personalisation to your own role.

One good way to deliver unstructured training is to engage in mentorships. These open conversations between more established employees and new hires.

Standalone training

Standalone training is pretty much what is says on the tin. Your employee learns through one type of learning medium, usually practical experience.

This can be particularly useful if a job isn’t highly skilled or the person has previous experience.

This type of training should be used just to refresh knowledge or give an overview of a small task or process.

Blended training

Blended training involves practical experience alongside other mediums like eLearning or classroom learning.

An employee could shadow a colleague while also watching internal webinars to develop their learning.

Blended learning is often the default for jobs in manufacturing, engineering, medicine and banking where processes are highly regulated.

Improve your learning experience

When it comes to developing employees, it can be hard to know where to begin.

Think Learning uses Totara as a building block in creating bespoke learning solutions for our customers. We can help you to automate all of those stuffy processes, so you can be left with more time to actually support your people.