June 26, 2018

6 Mistakes You’re Making with Employee On-the-job Training

Written by
Nikos Andriotis
Tags: HR

According to U.S author and attorney, Ralph Nader, “your best teacher is your last mistake.” But in business mistakes can be costly, and actually, we’d all prefer to avoid them. This is especially true when it comes to on-the-job training.

On-the-job training, or OJT, is training that takes place while an employee is engaged in their job tasks. One of the obvious benefits of on-the-job training is that it’s directly relevant to an employee’s actual work. It’s also one of the most cost-effective forms of training.

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This is because employees don’t need time away from work to learn new skills, and the business can focus training on the areas that directly impact their bottom line.

The question is, how do you ensure that you get all of these benefits without making some common mistakes?

Avoiding six common mistakes of on-the-job training programs

Given the importance of on-the-job training, it’s best not to waste time or money on strategies that don’t pay off. These six mistakes are easy to make (it’s not just you!), but they’re just as easy to avoid.

1. Not training facilitators

It’s easy to assume that people with lots of experience and knowledge in a topic will also be good at teaching that topic. But really, teaching is a skill of its own, and it needs to be learned, practiced, and nurtured. Even senior managers who‘ve been working on the job and in the organization for years might not know how to support and teach employees in training.

Providing basic “teach-the-teacher” training should be part of your on-the-job training plan. This training helps facilitators become more empathetic by allowing them to experience what the learning process would be like for employees. Through this empathy, facilitators have a better understanding of how to motivate unengaged employees and identify training gaps.

2. Overlooking the value of coaching and mentorships

Don’t overlook how important it is to get senior team members involved and invested in on-the-job training. Many think of on-the-job training plans as focusing on opportunities to practice the skills required for the job. Yes, that’s important, but it’s only one side of the coin.

The other side is structured coaching and mentoring that focuses on employees’ needs, goals, and ambitions, and how they align with the business’ requirements. Without this kind of mentorship, employees can struggle to stay motivated, and might even feel that training holds no personal value for them in the long-term.

3. Forgetting to tie training to advancement opportunities

It’s also wise to consider how ongoing on-the-job training affects succession in the organization and be ready to talk candidly about it to employees.

On-the-job training is especially useful when experienced employees need to learn new skills to improve their performance in their current role or become candidates for more senior positions. Yet, the connection between achievements during training and improved job performance after training isn’t always clear.

Motivate employees in training by explaining how on-the-job training programs can benefit their career advancement. It’s usually best to speak to employees individually about the specific opportunities that could lie ahead of them if they succeed in their training.

4. Putting an “I” in team

Problem-solving as a group builds camaraderie, encourages creative thinking, and gives employees the opportunity to appreciate the strengths of their colleagues as well as learn from each other. And yet, training often becomes overly focused on the individual instead of leveraging the power of teamwork.

The good news is you can easily incorporate teamwork into an on-the-job training plan. For example, you can include some role-play exercises or provide scenarios and case studies and ask employees to collaborate.

5. Underutilizing social learning

Estimates show that up to 20% of our learning happens socially. Yet businesses often see social learning as a “nice to have” and don’t fully embrace its potential. Employees can actually learn so much from each other through informal social interactions like workplace book clubs, watercooler chats, and team lunches.

One of the significant benefits of social learning is that it can re-engage employees who have lost interest in on-the-job training. The added stimulation and fun of a social setting also gives newer employees a sense of belonging in the workplace community.

6. Failing to leverage technology

It’s 2018, and the world is filled with accessible tools and technologies for training. In fact, many would argue that the worst on-the-job training mistake is being blind to the advantages of training technology.

On-the-job training programs stand to benefit significantly from technologies that enable more flexible learning. Employees don’t always need to break their workflow to improve their skills and knowledge.

For example, online training sessions, recorded webinars, video resources, infographics and bite-sized chunks of learning materials can make training engaging and convenient. Learning Management Systems (LMS) that support all of these content and delivery formats make training more enjoyable for both facilitators and employees.

Best practices for flawless on-the-job training

Learning from your mistakes is great, but avoiding those mistakes altogether is that much better. Make sure you don’t underestimate the impact of factors such as mentorship, technology, social learning and facilitator training, and your on-the-job training program is bound to satisfy both your training ROI and your employees.

Nikos Andriotis has two decades of professional experience in education, IT, and eLearning. He holds a degree in Informatics and his writing has been featured in dozens of tech industry publications. Currently, he shares tips and insights about online training and other business-related topics for TalentLMS.