Building An Effective On-The-Job Training Program
On-the-job-training (OJT) refers to the practice of providing regular training and mentorship to employees to enable them to go beyond their current capabilities and play a fundamental role in achieving company goals. It is essential for employers to assure that their employees receive beneficial trainings several times in a year (preferably once or twice in a quarter) where they are provided with innovative tools and skills to use for their benefit and for that of the company.
Despite the obvious importance of on-the-job-training, it has been reported that nearly 62% of employees feel that the training they receive is non-relevant to their job and does not increase their skill-set. On the other hand, there are 26% of employees who state that they never received OJT from their companies. The statistics are alarming considering the fact that the modern world demands diverse skills and knowledge. The lack of training has resulted in disappointed and demotivated employees who do not have the right tools to do their job well. On the other hand, an ineffective training is even more of a folly as not only is it a waste of valuable time and resource but also indicates an unclear direction of the company and its irresponsible attitude towards employee nurture and development.
So how can companies ensure that they build an effective OJT that will not only enhance their employees’ skill set but can also improve company processes and objectives? If you are looking to create an OJT program, here is a basic guide to follow.
Conduct a Needs Analysis Before Launching a Program
The biggest mistake companies make is to provide training blindly just for the heck of it. Sometimes it’s done to simply show adherence to training policies and other times it’s done to show off to competitors and clients. All of these are the wrong motives to start a training program. To have an effective OJT, you need to first identify the needs of a program which can be summarized by pondering over the following questions:
- What training program should be provided?
- Who is the target audience?
- Why do they need it (Or do they really need it?)
- How can it help the company achieve its objectives?
- Does it relate to any core company objectives?
- Who should provide the training?
- What is the timeline and cost to providing training?
- What is the eventual outcome expected of the training?
Note that these are questions the management needs to ponder over. Employees too have the right to ask for training programs that meet their needs, and as a company, you can only get to know what they want when you actually carry out a survey or a needs analysis process. Create a form and provide employees with multiple training options to choose from; ask questions about their jobs and the skills they feel they need to master. You might also want to split the attendees according to their department or according to their need. So for example, if you want to give a training on effective communication, you may want to carry it out according to the requirements of the design department or the development department. Moreover, the people in these departments may have different thought processes, and effective communication may mean something different for them as compared to those in the design department. Therefore, unless you know what employees want and need, your training agenda will be incomplete and ineffective.
Create a Training Plan
As with other corporate tasks, training also requires a strong planned strategy that takes into its umbrella various factors such as time constraints, availability of resources, types of training materials needed, number of employees, cost of time and resources invested and other factors. You may think that this amount of planning is only appropriate for large companies. However, it is even more necessary for small companies or startups to have planned training sessions. It is also beneficial to provide employees with an outline or a rough draft of what the training session will be about so that they may come prepared and may be able to ask you questions. While creating the plan, you may also come to understand how far the training may go and perhaps you could break them into different sessions held at different times during the quarter. Without a proper plan in hand, you may either end up giving too much information or too little information; both of which is a recipe for a training disaster.
Understand the Process of Adult Learning
When you create a training program, you need to understand the adult learning process that greatly differs from regular learning styles. Adults at a job come with years of experience, with designations and with attitudes that require a different teaching methodology. You can’t expect them to acquire information the same way a young teenager would; therefore, your training has to be very specific and informative to staff members. They need to be able to resolve a problem or manage a process after receiving that training, and so you should have more focus on practical aspects as compared to teaching theory. Use case-studies or information relevant to the company to impart knowledge and to connect your training session to company objectives. Remember, employees don’t want to take a ‘How to Use Google Office Suite’ training just because everyone is doing it. They want to take the training to know if they can now move beyond the regular problems of file management and perhaps take the help of a cloud service. It is suggested that you use the SMART model (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) to create objectives for training sessions.
Provide Effective Training Material
Merely giving a lecture using a PowerPoint presentation is not an effective method of instilling knowledge. You need to design course training materials and give employees handouts that can be effective in helping them store information for later use. A creatively designed check-list, a set of flash-cards, an interactive user-flow demo; anything that gives hands-on experience and engages the employees in the training rather than having them yawn and fall off their chair. Motivational posters, quotes, facts, and stats for employees to pin on their cubicle boards is also a great way to make your training interesting and attractive. You can go a step further and enhance their experience as well as their memory by giving them assessments to solve or a problem to debug. Better yet, hold a small incentivized competition at the end of the session to get them to use their newfound skills.
Create a Follow-up Plan Proceeding with Additional Trainings
The primary objective of a training session is to ensure that your employees use the skills they have learned to do their job better. This means that you will need to carry out regular follow-ups to make sure that their skills have not rusted and that they are able to apply those learnings in their current job requirements smoothly. However, this shouldn’t be a matter of micro-management. Instead, it should be a phase where you are the one providing regular support to your employees. It could be in the form of sharing new information or updates, or it could be in the form of mentorship at the working desi; either way, you need to be accountable for the results of the training. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you did your part with a one-day session and now it is up to the employees to make sense out of it. Wherever possible, bring in your expertise, get updates from employees, pose challenges that can make use of the newly learnt skill/technology and appreciate their effective use of them.
Last but not the least, your overall attitude, your body language, and your understanding of the employees’ problems as well as expectations have an impact on the overall training. People can leave your training feeling motivated to go beyond their current limitations and capacities, or they may end up feeling even more defeated and demotivated. Knowing the nature of your employees, their age group, their various skills and capacities can all ensure that the training contributes to their learning in their respective fields. It is also prudent to note that training sessions you give will also have an impact on your career as a whole because if people feel they have learnt nothing from you, there is no way they are going to consider you as an important voice in the solving of a problem. They may even retaliate against your suggestions and a toxic atmosphere can be created all because you created an ineffective training module for a crowd with potential.