On-the-job training (OJT) is a type of skill development where an worker learns how to do the work through hands-on experience. This is in contrast to skill formation that is purely cognitive or perceptual. OJT generally gives the trainee the opportunity to work in the same place and with the same equipment that will be used regularly which can make it an efficient approach to learning new things. It can also be a useful tool to helping unemployed people develop new job skills. Poor OJT, however, can result in the trainee developing poor work habits.
Unstructured and Structured Training
Training an employee on the job can be one of the most effective teaching methods because it gives the worker practical experience with the tools and equipment he or she will be working with each day. As such, on-the-job training is one of the most common types of training used in the workplace, especially for vocational jobs, such as those in manufacturing. Often, this type of training is unstructured: the new employee is assigned to an experienced worker or supervisor, who demonstrates how the job is done. The trainee may shadow the other worker or workers for several shifts, while learning the steps that make up the job and how to use all of the required equipment. Training is usually conducted one-on-one, and the new worker generally has the opportunity to perform the different parts of the job with direct supervision.
Structured on-the-job training requires more organization, and often involves the creation of a lesson plan and set objectives, a clear estimation of how long the training should take, and a method of measuring how effective the training is. This type of program tends to be more uniform, with all employees who do a specific job being taught the same things in the same ways. It also requires that the coaches be chosen carefully and trained to work with new employees who have different levels of skill and knowledge.
Both types of training are used for a range of jobs, from manufacturing, to retail sales, to office work. Many times, companies start with unstructured training methods and adapt them as needed. Most training experts recommend structured plans, however, because they make it much more likely that trainees are taught all aspects of the job in a clear and unbiased way. Structured training is also designed to measure how effective the training is so that it can be changed if required.
On-the-job training is often cost-effective for a business because no outside teachers or programs are needed, and the training is typically conducted as part of the actual work shifts. There is no need for the new worker to travel for the training, which could require paying for transportation. No extra equipment is needed either, as the new worker learns by using the tools that he or she will be using for the job.
By training in the workplace, a new employee also has the chance to get to know the people and the environment earlier. He or she often gets a chance to interact closely with new co-workers and get practical advice about doing the job. Many times, the person who will be doing the training and evaluation is the new worker's supervisor or manager, so this also establishes job expectations from the very beginning. The feedback during on-the-job training is also immediate, so the new employee may experience faster growth in the job than he would in other types of training situations.
One major drawback of OJT is that it can be time consuming; at least one experienced employee, coach, or supervisor has to take time out of his or her regular job to conduct the training. This can be challenging, especially if there are work deadlines that must be met on top of the person's training duties. In addition, structured training requires additional time for both planning and evaluation.
It can also be difficult to find the right person to conduct on-the-job training. The person doing the training must have the knowledge and skills with the same equipment the learner will be using, or he or she may not be able to teach effectively. If the trainer is too experienced, however, he or she may forget to explain important steps or use technical words that the trainee doesn't understand. Care must also be given not to pass on sloppy work habits or unintentionally teach irrelevant or inefficient work methods to the new worker.
Cross-Training On the Job
An employee may also receive OJT in various departments in order to learn about different jobs within one company and how each department's responsibilities are related. This type of learning is sometimes referred to as cross-training, interdepartmental training, or job rotation. Cross-training on the job can help an employee become more valuable to his company as he learns new skills and gains a better understanding of what different people in the business do. It can also help the employee to better understand how his job affects the work of people around him and how each department works in its own way toward the company's common goals.
Job Training for the Unemployed
On-the-job training can also be used to teach people with limited job skills new trades or to provide work experience for those who don't have it. In the US, for example, some government programs pay some or all of an inexperienced worker's salary for several months in exchange for a business training the employee and giving him or her the chance to gain experience in the job. While some critics argue that businesses are essentially getting work provided at little or no cost and there's no guarantee that the trainee will be hired, others say that it provides experience to the worker, who can use it to help get another job.