Almost every workplace does some form of on-the-job training (OJT). In many cases, especially at companies in manufacturing or industrial industries, a good deal of that OJT training occurs when an inexperienced worker follows a more experienced worker around on the job. This is often called “shadowing” or “following.”
The results from OJT training involving shadowing can be mixed at best. In some cases, job knowledge is transferred effectively, and the less-experienced worker ends up being able to perform all of the necessary job tasks. In other cases, though, things don’t go so well, and workers are left without the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to succeed at their jobs.
Obviously, companies can’t afford to have OJT programs that don’t effectively train their employees. Plus, it puts the employee being trained in an unnecessarily difficult spot. But what can be done?
Below are some tips to get your OJT programs headed in the right direction. They’re not the full story, but they’ll get you moving forward and making progress.
Create an OJT Team
Create an OJT team that includes the trainee, the mentor (also known as the trainer or coach), and a supervisor. The supervisor pairs the trainee and mentor, helps to prepare the training materials and training plan, and supports the trainee and mentor during the training.
Make Sure the Mentor Understands How to Train Effectively
Don’t just tell an average worker to train someone without helping that person know what will make her or him an effective trainer. Being an effective trainer includes things like understanding adult learning principles, knowing how people learn, being excited about the chance to act as a mentor, and having a series of characteristics common to good mentors. The OJT mentor doesn’t have to be a full-fledged training professional or instructional designer, but it will definitely help if the mentor has a working understanding of the basic concepts involved in training.
Make Sure the Mentor KNOWS the Trainee
The mentor should get to know the trainee well. This will let the mentor tailor the training to best fit the trainee’s individual training needs and work and life circumstances.
Define the Objectives of the Training
Don’t starting training someone without having a well-defined purpose in mind first. Instead, come up with a short list of the primary objectives of the training. These objectives should be a list of things the trained worker should be able to do when the training is complete. For example, when training a person to be a machine operator, one objective might be to have him or her run a machine for an eight-hour shift while producing a certain number of products.
Read more about learning objectives, and even download our free guide.
Break the Objectives down into Smaller Tasks
Once you’ve identified the objectives, break those down into smaller tasks the trainee will have to perform to satisfy the objective. For example, if an objective is to run a machine for an eight-hour shift, you can break that down into tasks like “Start the machine,” “Thread materials into the machine,” and so on.
Read more about performing a task analysis.
Identify the Performance Gap (also called the Skill Gap)
Once you’ve identified all the tasks the trainee has to perform to satisfy the objectives, find the tasks he or she can perform right now. The difference between the tasks the trainee can do now and the tasks the trainee has to do is known as the performance gap. This performance gap is what you’ll have to provide training for.
Read more about identifying and closing skill gaps.
Create a Training Plan and Have all Parties Discuss Then Sign It
Once you’ve identified the trainee’s performance gap, create a training outline with training activities that will help the trainee close that gap. Then have the trainee, the mentor, and the supervisor sit down to discuss the plan. Make sure everyone is aware of what the responsibilities and expectations are, and then have everyone sign the training plan as a sign of a joint commitment and common understanding.
Create Appropriate Job Aids, Training Outlines, Visual Aids, and Hands-On Props
Good training won’t just pop out of the mentor’s brain on command. It will pay to prepare some materials in advance.
Read more about creating job aids.
Get a Plan for Assessing (Evaluating) Trainee Performance
You can’t just train someone and assume they “get it.” Instead, it’s important to evaluate the trainee’s performance to ensure he or she can perform all the tasks that make up the performance gap. Have a plan in mind for evaluating the trainee’s abilities (for a handy tool on using a mobile tablet for evaluating trainee task performance in the field, see the Convergence Mobile tablet).
Read more about testing and evaluation.
Conclusion: Better OJT
Following the tips listed above will do quite a bit to get your OJT program moving in the right direction. What tips do you have to share? The comments section awaits!
Also, don’t forget to download our free guide to effective manufacturing training–you’re only a few clicks away.
Manufacturing Training from Scratch: A Guide
Create a more effective manufacturing training program by following these best practices with our free step-by-step guide.