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What Is On-the-Job Training (OJT)?

A plumber providing his apprentice with on-the-job training.
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  • Originally Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Revised By: Patti Kate
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  • Last Modified Date: 09 April 2014
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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.

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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.

Advantages

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.

Disadvantages

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.

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Discuss this Article

anon944599
Post 21

Are you guaranteed to get a job after you complete your on the job training?

anon302208
Post 20

I'm being job trained and I know a large percentage of the job already and I'm in an extremely large area with many floors and about 600 people.

However, I do make mistakes and it's about week six for me working in the mail room as a temp in Australia, where there are only two people. I find it really frustrating and say "God help me get through another day". I just can't run off and leave my job due to other commitments, so I'm stuck here for a while anyway, but not forever.

I'm sick of my working partner (the one who has trained me) and we have had arguments twice already. Once I made him aware of certain things he had said that I found rude and offensive. A second time we had it out was because he told me send this parcel up to FID, which I believed was a person's name in the section, where I would have asked someone where they sat. However, because we have a lot of mail I forgot to take it with me.

Later, I found out FID wasn't a person's name -- it was "Front Info Desk". Thus, my trainer asked me why didn't I ask hims, that's what he's here for! I replied because I believed it was a person's name and would have asked staff where they sat and didn't realize anything otherwise. Then my trainer said they would have laughed at you and repeated himself a few times and said to me "Why didn't you ask me? Stop making excuses" and so I repeated my answer. Every time he repeated himself. When I said, "I believed FID was a person's name and didn't need to ask you," or "What's so wrong with asking where a person sits to deliver a parcel or if they laugh at my error?"

This is were I realised he wasn't understanding what I was saying to him and I said "Okay! That's it! Let's stop this and finish this. No more! So I should have asked you where it went, But I didn't!" I'm almost calling it quits and making a second complaint about him to my recruiter.

anon291175
Post 19

I'm starting a job at a hotel as a front desk agent. After a week, they want to give me a shift alone. I've only answered the phone a few times, and checked in people a few times. There are reports that have to be done every day and, if you work at night, an audit to close the day out. I need this job, but am freaked that I won't be able to do it.

Oh, yeah, they don't have any security so if a drunk is running around naked, you throw them out. If someone fires off a gun, you call the police. The training booklet says training should be three weeks. I can't quit, and can't complain. How do I handle this?

ceilingcat
Post 17

@indemnifyme - You bring up a good point. I think the best way to train someone for a new job is to do a combination of formal and free on the job training. I think at most jobs, you don't just arrive after formal training knowing exactly what you're supposed to do.

Yes, you could probably figure it out after bumbling around for awhile, but I think it's better to get some additional training.

indemnifyme
Post 16

@KaBoom - I'm generally a fan of on the job training, but not when you're being trained by someone who doesn't know what they're doing and doesn't want to be training you.

At my last job at an insurance office, I had a month of formal training. Then, when I got to the office, my employer just threw me into working and assumed I knew everything I needed to know.

That couldn't have been farther from the truth! The formal training definitely didn't prepare me for working in the actual office. There was a lot of stuff I didn't know how to do, and it was completely awful.

KaBoom
Post 15

I was a waitress in high school, and I received on the job training from people with no knowledge in on the job training techniques! The training basically consisted of watching a video, then tagging along with another server while she took care of her tables.

After I had worked there for awhile, I trained a few people. But really, no one liked doing it. The restaurant didn't pay us any more to train someone, and it could be awkward depending on the personality of the trainee. Also, sometimes it affected your tips if the trainee messed up at the table.

matthewc23
Post 14

@Emilski - I completely agree. I own my own business and usually have six or seven people working for me, and I usually have turnover of about one person per year, so training people quickly is very important. Fortunately, I have a couple people working for me that have been around for a while, and are very good at training others, so I feel comfortable giving them some of the training responsibilities.

That being said, I have put together a very structured training outline that everyone has to follow. We work in construction, so safety is a number 1 concern. If the rules aren't followed exactly, there could be problems.

The article mentioned it, but making sure people are trained perfectly at the beginning is also important. As you get more experienced, you can start to find quicker ways to do things (safely, of course).

Emilski
Post 13

@bagley79 - I know what you mean about there sometimes not being enough supervision. When I was in high school and into college, I worked at a fast food restaurant where most of the training would be considered on the job. In a situation like that, a lot of the managers and other employees have limited experience in what most people would call real management. They haven't had formal courses or degrees in management, in other words.

Along with that, I believe some people are natural leaders and trainers and some aren't. The type of people you have in charge of training new employees can make a world of difference. The people that trained me would probably not fall into the natural leader category. Fortunately, as I moved up in the ranks, I became the person training others.

It is a much different experience than you might expect, and you really have to make sure you are organized, or you won't end up with the results you want.

kentuckycat
Post 12

@jcraig - I don't know if it is fair to say that only less skilled positions receive on the job training. Police officers typically receive a great deal of training before they are set out on their own. Obviously, they get training during their degree process, but I would be willing to say it is impossible for them to function without doing ride-alongs at the beginning of their tenure.

I think that for young people or just anyone interested in a job, getting an internship is a great opportunity for on-the-job training that will prepare you for future work in that industry. In many cases, the internship will also get your foot in the door for a more permanent position. At the very least, you can put it on your application, and other companies will know that they will have to devote fewer resources toward getting you up to speed.

jcraig
Post 11

@anon41153 - Like the article mentions, the main purpose is just as a way to train employees that involves hands-on experience rather than reading training manuals and watching videos. At least in my experience, almost every company incorporates some type of on the job training program. No matter how much training someone has, they have to get accustomed to how an individual company functions.

I would say that, in general, OTJ training is more common in less skilled positions where someone can quickly pick up on what is being done and there is no immediate risk associated with them failing. For example, you probably wouldn't want to take someone who had just been hired as a lifeguard and let them "practice" on the job. They need to make sure they are fully trained before they are actually performing the job. A secretary, on the other hand, could be told to type up a document and be guided along as to formatting, etc.

honeybees
Post 10

When my son began work with a company selling life insurance, he did not receive paid on the job training.

This was tough because he had been without work for awhile, and then had to wait several more weeks until he was qualified to sell the insurance.

He was paid straight commission and there was no salary paid while he was in training. Even though he knew this when he accepted the position, it was hard to make it financially.

He had to wait until he passed the test before he could begin selling insurance. Of course, he received training while he was studying, but none of it was paid.

John57
Post 9

One of the best jobs I ever had started out as a part-time temporary position. I worked in the investments department of a major bank, and eventually became a full time licensed broker.

Most of the training I received was on the job. The experience I gained was very valuable and I was able to receive the training I needed to pass the required exams in order to receive my license.

When I took this job, I had no idea this is the route I would end up taking. Although there was no formalized or structured training for this position, it is something I picked up along the way as I was doing the work assigned to me.

There are some positions where on the job training can be picked up as you go about your day to day activities. There are other positions where you really need more hands-on training in order to be able to correctly do the job.

LisaLou
Post 8

@bagley79 - I agree with you about the structure of the on the job training. I also think this organization has to come from both sides.

For example, I have trained many new employees in their job. While this is an important part of my job, I then have a difficult time getting my regular duties done.

If there is an organized, scheduled plan for both the person giving the training and the person receiving the training, this is usually the most beneficial.

No matter how much time is allowed for this, I still have to put in extra hours when I am training a new employee on the job.

In the long run, I have to keep reminding myself that on the job training benefits the company and the new employee.

bagley79
Post 7

I have had many jobs where I received on the job training. I think the on the job training programs that are most successful are those where the training is structured and organized.

Some of my on the job training has been very informal, and I had very little instruction. This is a very frustrating way to learn a new job.

You may learn things a little quicker because you have no other choice, but you are also apt to make many more mistakes and errors along the way.

Even though I am not afraid to ask questions when I don't know something, I also don't want to feel like that is all I am doing all day long.

anon150440
Post 5

can you suggest a good training design for two-year vocational courses. thanks.

anon71009
Post 4

@anon41153 - A new employee needs to learn how to do his job.

@anon28840 - There is no formal process. The trainer gives a little bit of jobs that the employee would be doing once he becomes a official employee.

anon41153
Post 3

what is the purpose of on the job training?

anon36893
Post 2

what are the legal guidelines of on the job training?

anon28840
Post 1

How is on the job training done and what are its effects?

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