What Is On-the-Job Training?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 16 January 2023

Published 26 May 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Sometimes even the most experienced and knowledgeable employees require some training to join a company. Learning on the job allows you to receive firsthand knowledge and experience performing tasks related to your job.

Employees in many industries and careers receive on-the-job training, specialised training in how to use equipment and hands-on training in the workplace. In this article, we will explain what on-the-job training means, what its purpose is and what its benefits are.

What is on-the-job training?

It's easy to confuse on-the-job training, often abbreviated as OJT, and learning through trial and error. Learning by trial and error is a concept in which someone learns from their mistakes. For example, you may try to approach a situation related to your job, but you are unsuccessful. You then try modifying your approach until you succeed.

On-the-job training, however, is a specific type of training that is prescribed and delivered in the workplace. It may combine performing various aspects of the job with the support of educational materials, observing others, or getting hands-on experience under the watchful eye of a co-worker, supervisor or outsourced trainer.

When you undertake OJT, you will learn your employer's working processes. You may also learn how to operate the company's tools, equipment or machinery. OJT may also require that you observe a more experienced colleague performing certain tasks first.

OJT is designed to prepare you for your job. The instructions and training you receive during this time will help you to learn the skills required to perform your tasks efficiently. Once you've finished your training, you should have the knowledge and skills that you need to perform most of the tasks required for your job, and without supervision.

The most effective on-the-job training is:

  • Targeted to your particular job

  • Helpful to you

  • Full of pertinent information

  • Timely

  • Relevant

Does on-the-job training help students?

If you're a student and have recently found a job and lack any previous experience, your employer may provide extensive on-the-job training to help you learn the ropes. Sometimes students may complete on-the-job training during their academic courses at high school or university.

Besides learning hands-on procedures and skills for their field of study, students may also learn about how their chosen industry's workplace functions. General workplace professional norms include, but are not limited to, company hierarchy, dress code, industry jargon, productivity expectations and professional relationships with colleagues.

What are the types of on-the-job training?

Organisations approach on-the-job training in different ways. Some companies take the structured approach, some prefer an unstructured method and other workplaces use blended learning.

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What is the difference between structured and unstructured on-the-job training?

Structured on-the-job training allows the employer to plan for how an employee will advance through every training step. Their plan may include a checklist of tasks, a list of the desired training goals and details about who is appointed to oversee the activity and every job.

Some OJT programs also provide for a designated training manager or a contract employee who fulfils their training. Structured on-the-job training typically takes a lot of time and effort to start, but they are usually more effective at making sure that you're prepared for your new position. A structured OJT also allows you and your trainers to have a sense of accountability.

On the other hand, an unstructured OJT involves shadowing an experienced colleague for a few days or even weeks. Your employer may ask you to observe how a single employee or many different colleagues learn their job position skills.

An unstructured OJT plan is usually enough for jobs that don't require employees to have specialised skills or perform complex tasks. The best thing about this type of OJT method is that it doesn't need one to spend hours planning. It is easily customizable based on your set of existing knowledge and skills.

What are the differences between blended learning and standalone OJTs?

As mentioned above, unstructured OJTs through job shadowing may be enough preparation for a role. Organisations use the standalone method for positions that aren't complicated, or if the employee has experience in their field.

Blended learning combines on-the-job training with other types of instruction. For instance, an employee might spend some time in the training period learning from another colleague and getting hands-on experience in the company.

They may spend some more time going over written materials, attending an industry training event, watching relevant videos and participating in online courses. Combining standalone OJT and blended learning can be very effective for jobs that require complex tasks or other specialised skills.

Is on-the-job training beneficial?

On-the-job training provides many more benefits than hiring guest speakers, paying for conferences or buying paper manuals that won't be read. Well-thought-out OJT can give employees comprehensive job preparation allowing them to succeed in their jobs and support a productive workplace.

Employees gain additional expertise, knowledge and motivation to excel at their job. In turn, companies benefit from having motivated individuals who are invested in reaching and achieving company goals.

Benefits for employees

Below are some compelling benefits for employees

1. Compensation for training

If your employer decides that you will need to take OJT, they'll also have to pay you for your time while you acquire the necessary skills for your job.

2. Skill development

Many new employees usually find workplace training to be informative and engaging. This increases their interest in learning and acquiring new skills. As a new employee in OJT, you may also find you become more invested in your job as you learn new skills and feel challenged to achieve more.

3. Improved retention of information3

Employees also have a high chance of retaining information when they learn in a hands-on setting. OJT can enhance job performance since employers are engaged during training and can make you more likely to feel motivated to increase your understanding and competence at work.

4. Team atmosphere

OJT training will move you closer to your peers and supervisors from the beginning. Via OJT training, you'll get to know your colleagues better and get a sense of the work environment by working directly with your team.

Benefits for employers

Here is how OJT benefits employers:

1. Speeds up the learning process

OJT quickens the learning process and reduces your employees' chances of correction since they're done with the training. Instead of employees making assumptions about the industry's general procedures and practices, you can provide them with the exact techniques quickly and effectively.

2. Cost-effective

OJT reduces money that would have been used to pay for expensive conferences and to hire guest speakers. Employees get to learn from experienced colleagues and supervisors. In the process, the current employees get to sharpen their skills and turn their daily tasks into an opportunity to prepare new hires to increase workplace efficiency.

3. Reduced employee turnover

On-the-job training helps employees feel more motivated and encouraged, hence more confident in their skills and experience. When employees feel confident in their skills and the workplace, companies have a reduced likelihood of experiencing turnover because of someone quitting or not being up to par with the company's expectations.

Training tips

To get the most out of your OJT, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Take notes: Always keep a notebook and pen with you during your training to write down any important dates. Your notes will provide you with a good point of reference when you start the job later.

  • Ask questions: If the trainer was unclear on any section of the training, you should ask them to clarify. Ask for clarification on any element that may seem puzzling to you. You can also write the questions down as you think of them and approach the trainer at the end of the session.

  • Go through your notes on your own time: At the end of the day, go through your notes. Take some time when you're not at work and learn more about what the job requires. You can research tips and tricks to write effective office memos. Alternatively, you can watch a how-to video on how to use a new type of software in your workplace.

Advantages of OJT

On-the-job training has various advantages, including:

1. Easily applicable

Employees don't have to go through hundreds of pages of dusty old manuals to get how the job works. OJT focuses on the employees' needs and allows them to access information easily online.

2. It just makes sense

On-the-job training cuts the costs of in-person training and travel. Unlike employee training, which takes time, money, and effort, a clearly defined and well-planned OJT creates a shortcut to ensuring that employees get the most experience and skill while saving money.

3. Flexibility

Employees will probably not consume all types of information at the same time and in the same format. Making available the different learning tools can help you in the best sense for the employer and employees.

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