Why is on-the-job training (S-OJT) valuable? It allows us to easily track learning outcomes and determine the effect of learning on workplace performance. To illustrate this point, here are two common situations based on long-held observations that eventually involve training. For many supervisors, it’s frustrating when employees ask them the same questions repeatedly, even after receiving training on the information. Similarly, it’s difficult when supervisors must intervene to head off an employee’s inappropriate behavior. Safety or quality outcomes are often at stake in these situations, so supervisors typically try to respond as best they can, despite their frustrations.
Indeed, these situations indicate that traditional or unstructured on-the-job training (OJT)—when employees are simply told to do something and then are assumed to absorb and apply it—doesn’t always work. In practice, employees haven’t really learned much of anything, and the outcomes are seldom satisfactory, leading to unpredictable and unreliable results. This is why many employees often seek clarification on some aspect of their work or potentially make critical errors. Traditional OJT remains in use simply because many organizations perceive the costs to be relatively low and have limited information about alternatives.
Structured on-the-job training (S-OJT), however, increases the perceived quality of employee questions and adherence to quality practices, as well as reduces rework costs among other important outcomes. There is an extensive database of project experience and published research to back up these points.
Still, managers and L&D professionals alike rightfully ask questions about the financial impacts of using S-OJT in their settings. After all, S-OJT requires a sizeable investment, including the cost to prepare training guides and the time required to deliver the training by experienced employees. But there are tangible, results-based benefits in return.
We can track the impacts of S-OJT programs with an understanding of the supporting principles and basic arithmetic. Helpful resources abound to guide first-timers. Unlike classroom or online programs, S-OJT focuses on learning the tasks that employees are expected to perform on the job, which makes calculating costs more direct. And S-OJT is the only training approach that closely connects training outcomes and work expectations.
We usually track the financial impacts of S-OJT retrospectively. That is, we calculate after the training program and assess the results. However, an alternate approach is to forecast before a program is implemented. This method has the advantage of establishing expectations and commitment among stakeholders at the outset about the benefits they can expect. Then we can confirm those expectations as part of the evaluation.
Many L&D practitioners find it challenging to track the impacts of any training program, regardless of the approach used. Yet this is an important way we can partner with management and address problems of value. After all, we can agree on the importance of improving workplace performance through our respective professional contributions.
To learn more, join me and co-presenter Paul Smith for the session: Tracking the Impacts of Structured On-the-Job Training (SOJT) at the ATD 2023 International Conference & EXPO May 21–24 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California.