Improving On-The-Job Training with LMS and e-Learning Tools
By Mary Polley-Berte, Director of Customer Support and Training at SyberWorks, Inc.
On-the-job training (OJT) is common in both large and small organizations. It is usually done informally, with an experienced colleague or mentor overseeing or teaching the trainee. It may take place in a classroom, on the plant floor, or in any other place where work is being performed.
OJT is usually quite cost-effective, because it focuses on the tasks at hand, and requires no equipment beyond what the company already provides. It's also much less disruptive than other forms of training, because employees aren't removed from their duties, but are instead trained for their work while doing it.
The actual training is usually done by a manager or supervisor who is coaching employees while they work. Supervisor feedback tends to be immediate, and trainees often improve their job performance quickly. Employees also feel more confident about their job performance when they are being coached by supervisors, and on-the-job training is a good way for new employees to build relationships with their comrades.
Problems to Avoid
There are, however, potential issues with on-the-job training. Supervisors and experienced employees may not have the needed skills for training other employees. Often, supervisors or managers were promoted because they were good at performing or managing their own work, but this doesn't guarantee that they also possess the skills or ability to coach new employees. Not everyone is a born teacher.
Time also can be a huge issue! Supervisors and mentors may not have the time to spare to help new employees. And since on-the-job training usually follows no formal procedure or specified content (other than the task at hand), supervisors and mentors will need still more time, to pass on the extra knowledge, skills, and business context that employees will need to solve future job problems and respond to business changes. So upper management must give employees who are doing this training the time they need.
During on-the-job training, trainees also need time to practice the skills they must learn. In turn, supervisors and trainers must prepare adequate drill materials for trainees, and provide feedback early and often in the drilling process, to prevent trainees from acquiring unwanted job behaviors. So again, upper management must make sure that everyone gets the time they need.
An often-overlooked issue that can plague on-the-job training is company lingo. Trainees must receive a clear, consistent understanding of the concepts and terms used in their organizations. And even when an employee says they understand a word or concept, they may not. They will often say they understand to avoid looking incompetent. So supervisors and mentors must keep this in mind, and constantly repeat and reinforce the terms and concepts that new employees must learn.
And on top of all the above, supervisors and mentors are only human. They can easily pass on their own counter-productive habits to other employees…and must work hard to avoid doing so.
OJT Development Techniques
Usually, OJT employs one or more of the following four techniques:
- Coaching-This one-on-one interaction is usually done by a supervisor or someone outside the company, and is often prescriptive and corrective in nature. It helps the trainee understand their strengths, weakness, and areas of improvement, and tends to be applied for a fixed amount of time until the employee is deemed proficient.
- Mentoring-This too is an ongoing one-on-one technique that's usually done by a more experienced company executive or supervisor. The mentor works with the trainee to find their strengths, weaknesses, and areas of improvement. The mentor provides feedback and guidance, and points out areas that may have been overlooked.
- Job Rotation-This approach allows trainees to practice and become proficient in various aspects of the work at hand, or different roles within the company. It helps employees because they are exposed to different work areas and learn about various company functions. (It's also a great opportunity for employees to try out different functions, to see what they like or don't.) The company also benefits, because job rotation diversifies worker skill sets in critical areas, and helps the company respond to unforeseen events like vacations, flu epidemics, and catastrophes. Job rotation also fosters organization-wide goal- and objective-sharing, because employees better understand each other's job responsibilities.
- Job Instruction Techniques-There are many great online resources to help you plan, prepare, and implement on-the-job training. But most models ask trainers to plan, present, trial, and follow up. The plan consists of a written breakdown of the work and of your training objectives. In the trial stage, the plan is presented to the trainee(s), who are asked to try it out…with regular follow up during the process. There are variants to this method and it can be either streamlined or made more complex, depending upon the business case and the tasks to be learned.
How Can LMS and e-Learning Tools Help?
Learning Management Systems (LMSs) and e-Learning authoring tools can help with all parts of on-the-job training. Depending on your organization's needs, you can use an LMS to track and manage one or more parts of the OJT process, including:
- Registering trainees
- Scheduling training
- Storing and delivering reference materials (such as company procedures, concepts, and terms)
- Delivering regular practice drills
- Testing and evaluating job competencies being learned
- Collecting and storing training results
- Delivering and collecting follow-up employee surveys
- And, more.!
About the Author:
Mary Polley-Berte is Director of Customer Support & Training at SyberWorks, Inc., in Waltham, Massachusetts. Mary is a graduate of Boston University and resides with her family in New Hampshire.
SyberWorks, Inc. is a leader in providing Learning Management Systems and custom e-Learning Solutions for Fortune 1000 corporations, higher education, and other organizations. Located in Waltham, Massachusetts, the company serves the multi-billion-dollar e-Learning market. Since 1995, SyberWorks has developed and delivered unique and economical solutions for creating, managing, measuring, and improving e-Learning programs at companies and organizations in the United States, Canada, Europe, and other countries.