When learning on the job, you receive firsthand experience performing tasks related to your role from a coworker or supervisor. Employees in a wide variety of careers and industries receive on-the-job training (OJT), a type of experiential learning often used in jobs that involve hands-on work or the use of specialized equipment, software or machinery. The following guide details the purpose of OJT, the benefits of learning on the job and ways this type of training is structured in various work settings.
What is on-the-job training?
On-the-job training is instruction for employees that takes place at work. OJT typically involves a combination of observing others and hands-on experience completing tasks under the supervision of a training manager, coworker or outsourced professional trainer.
When undergoing OJT, you learn the processes and procedures your employer uses. You may also learn how to operate any equipment, tools or machinery required for your position. Part of OJT may include job shadowing or observing an experienced employee perform certain job tasks.
The purpose of OJT is to prepare you for your position. The instruction and hands-on practice you complete as part of the training can help you develop the skills, competencies and knowledge you need to carry out your role at the company or organization. When OJT is complete, you should be able to perform most or all of the tasks for your position without supervision.
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What is on-the-job training for students?
Students may not have any previous experience in a certain role or industry, so their on-the-job training may be much more extensive. In some cases, students complete OJT during their academic instruction at a technical high school, college or university.
For example, some schools encourage or require students to complete internships in which they receive hands-on experience in their desired career path and earn school credits. Students may also complete extensive on-the-job training in their first job after graduation.
In addition to learning practical procedures and skills for their role, students may also learn general workplace standards in their first position. This includes professional norms like dress code, company hierarchy, productivity expectations, industry jargon and professional relationships with coworkers.
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Types of on-the-job training
Companies can approach OJT in several ways. Some workplaces use a structured approach, while others use an unstructured approach. In some cases, OJT may be the only training method used, while others incorporate a blended learning style for new hires.
Structured vs. unstructured OJT
With a structured OJT program, the employer has a plan for how a new employee progresses through various training steps. This plan often includes a checklist of tasks, details about who will supervise each task and a list of the desired goals of the training. Some on-the-job training programs also include a designated training supervisor or a contract the employee must sign to fulfill their training.
Although structured on-the-job training programs take more time and effort to set up, they are usually more effective at ensuring that you are properly prepared for your new role. There is also more accountability on behalf of both you and your trainers with a structured OJT plan.
Unstructured OJT typically involves shadowing an experienced employee on the job for days or weeks. You might observe a single employee or several different coworkers to learn the skills you need for the job.
The unstructured OJT method may be sufficient for jobs that do not require many complex tasks or specialized skills. It does not require time for planning, and you can easily customize the training based on your new role and your existing skills and knowledge.
Standalone OJT vs. blended learning
In some workplaces, OJT through job shadowing and hands-on practice may be sufficient preparation for the role. Companies often use the standalone approach for roles that are not particularly complicated or if you already have experience in your position.
Blended learning training combines OJT with other forms of instruction. For example, a new employee might spend part of their training period shadowing and getting hands-on experience in the workplace. They might spend the other part of their training period going over written materials, watching videos, attending an industry training event or participating in classroom instruction or online courses.
By combining different training methods, blended learning can be very effective for jobs that involve complicated tasks or specialized skills. It is also helpful for companies that have very specific procedures and processes that employees must know.
Benefits of on-the-job training
Effective OJT can provide comprehensive job preparation to new employees, allowing them to succeed in their role and maintain a productive workplace. Employees benefit from additional skills and knowledge as well as motivation to do well. Companies then benefit from having engaged employees that are invested in achieving goals.
OJT benefits for employees
Here are some of the most compelling benefits for OJT employees:
Companies can offer compensation for your time and work as you acquire the necessary skills for your new position.
Many new employees often find worksite training to be more engaging, which can increase their interest in learning. As a new employee in OJT, you may also become invested in your new role as you develop new skills that challenge you.
Employees are also more likely to retain the information they learn while in a hands-on setting. OJT can contribute to improved job performance and satisfaction since engaged training can make you more likely to feel confident and competent at work.
This type of training will put you in close contact with your peers and supervisors right from the start. You will get to know your coworkers and get a better sense of the work culture by working directly with the team.
OJT benefits for employers
Here are some of the most compelling OJT benefits for employers:
OJT speeds up the learning process and reduces the likelihood of need correction once you’re finished with your training. Instead of having employees make assumptions about general practices and procedures in the industry, you can communicate exact standards quickly.
Rather than attending expensive conferences or training sessions, employees can learn on the job from coworkers and supervisors. Teaching also sharpens current employees’ skills and turns their daily tasks into an opportunity to prepare new hires to contribute in the workplace.
Reduced employee turnover
Training on the job can help employees feel more confident in their skills. When employees feel competent in the workplace, companies are less likely to experience turnover due to someone quitting or not meeting performance expectations.
On-the-job training examples
Various industries employ OJT to prepare new employees for their specific roles and working conditions. Here are a few examples of careers that typically use OJT:
- Go on service calls with other technicians.
- Practice operating tools and equipment commonly used on the job.
- Observe how technicians interact with customers and explain service options.
- Review safety standards and protocols.
- Learn about HVAC equipment components and energy-efficiency upgrades.
- Practice using warehouse machinery, such as pallet jacks and scissor lifts.
- Learn the organizational system used in the warehouse.
- Observe the correct way to sort and place materials on racks.
- Help prepare parcels for shipment.
- Review inventory management procedures and safety protocols.
- Read sample scripts for making collection calls in a professional manner.
- Observe how coworkers handle customer service issues.
- Learn how to operate computer programs used to review and update customer details.
- Practice processing customer payments under the supervision of a manager.
- Study filing systems and procedures for mailing correspondence to customers.
On-the-job training tips
Keep the following tips in mind to get the most out of your on-the-job training:
- Take notes. Keep a notebook or laptop with you during your training so you can write down important details. Your notes will be a useful reference when you start working independently.
- Ask questions. Request clarification on any element of your job training that is unclear. It may help to write down questions as you think of them, so you can get answers at the end of a training session.
- Study on your own. Take time outside of work to learn more about your job tasks. For example, you can research tips for writing office memos or watch an online demo for a new type of software you will be using.
On-the-job training can help advance your career and make you a more skilled employee. Search for jobs with paid OJT to get a great start on your next career.