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Tips for Structured On Job Training (OJT)
Note: All Group 1 Tips (1-11) also apply to Structured OJT.
Click Tip (below) to review entire tip.
Tip 31: Consider using structured OJT as the keystone of
any job-task-training program.
While certainly not a universal cure-all, one of the most cost-effective ways to provide job-task training for new employees is through structured on-job-training (structured OJT).
For many industrial jobs, a well designed, implemented, and maintained structured OJT program is the most efficient and effective way to train new employees. Examples are jobs where employees perform repeatable tasks and include the jobs of manufacturing and packaging operators, food handlers, and many, many others.
As defined in this web site, and simply stated, structured OJT is on-job-training where an "already experienced and successful employee" uses a company-standardized-checklist of tasks and performance criteria to train and certify new employees. Be aware that in this web site, the term "certification" refers to an in-house, company certification, and not an industry wide certification.
The usual alternative to structured OJT is sometimes referred to as "Follow-Joe Training." In essence, "Follow-Joe Training" consists of a new employee simply being told to "Follow Joe and learn to do what he does." The next employee may be assigned to Joe, or maybe Sam, Susie, or who knows. Without structure, there is zero assurance that training will be consistent, effective, efficient, or even adequate.
With structured OJT, on the other hand, any experienced employee given minimal "trainer training" can train new employees. In a well-implemented and monitored structured OJT program, all new employees receive consistent, effective, and efficient training regardless of the trainer assigned to them.
A well thought out and developed plan, poorly executed, is practically worthless! This is especially true with training programs. You will probably find that your plans associated with implementation and maintenance will dictate how you handle some of the details in the design of the training material itself.
After the trainee and trainer guides, along with the signoff sheet have been developed, the next step is to implement the program and actually use it to certify new employees.
In well-implemented programs, several areas must be addressed. Each organization must decide how they will handle the individual areas. While the tips that follow may not be complete, they represent some of the major items that must be addressed. Organizations implementing a structured OJT program must decide other areas that must be addressed and prioritize the resulting list.
The decision must be made at some point (the earlier in the design phase, the better) about whether the people who train new employees at their work station should be production workers who normally do or have done that job, or people assigned to the training function. This is not an easy decision. There are pros and cons for either decision.
On one side, people formally trained and educated for the roll of trainer usually do a better that average in communicating. In addition, many production workers simply don't want to be bothered with having to train new folks. Production management is often unwilling or reluctant to authorize any loss of the skilled worker's productivity to train a new-hire. Don't let anybody kid anybody. There will be a loss of efficiency for production workers during the time they are training a new-hire. Face it, and deal with it; don't try to sell structured OJT as a painless cure-all. In many cases, production workers are faced with the reality that there are no particular rewards, only grief, for training someone else. (In all too many cases, having training responsibilities in addition to normal production responsibilities is more of a punishment than anything else. This is an extremely bad situation, and certainly does not have to be true. Most companies who use expert workers as trainers in a successful structured OJT program provide extra compensation or rewards for training responsibilities.)
So far I've painted the case for structured OJT trainers to be members of a training department. Well, that's not a complete rose-bed either. In many jobs, the only way to stay proficient and keep up with changes is to perform that job every day. And besides, the skills required to teach some to do something in a job-setting on a one-on-one basis does not call for normally accepted instructor-like skills. This clearly tips the scales toward having expert production workers conduct structured OJT.
I recommend that structured OJT be conducted by expert production workers who are adequately prepared to do so.
To keep things simple, trainer and trainee guides should be, for the most part, identical. They should both list all of the tasks addressed by the structured OJT program. Each "task" should normally include the following four items:
For further explanation of each of these four terms, see the tip in Group 1, General Tips that addresses task analysis.
Repeat these four items for each job-task addressed by the training program and include them in both the trainer and trainee guides. Providing this information to trainees helps them set performance goals, early on, and continually answers for them the question, "What do you expect of me?"
An additional item I recommend including for each task in the trainer guide is a statement, or paragraph, listing areas to cover, or stress, when teaching the task. This is also a good place for any other task-related suggestions you might want to add. Corresponding items can also be placed in the trainee's guide to help them concentrate on the same salient points as the trainer.
Note: When using the Task Analysis Toolkit, production of Trainer and Trainee Guides is a one-click operation after Task Analysis information has been entered.
Don't underestimate how long it will take to do this, it takes longer than you might think.
As part of a structured OJT program, someone must design and develop the Task sign-off record. The task sign-off record provides a place for the trainer to date and sign-off each task when the trainee is observed performing the task, without assistance, while meeting all of the performance standards listed for the task. Task sign-off records may be integrated in either the trainee or trainer guide, or they may be on a separate sheet that simply lists the task statements and refers to the expanded task list in the trainer and trainee guides. Another option is to make each task, including its sign-off, a separate document.
Companies may also elect to have a second person evaluate trainees before sign-off is complete. Or, perhaps the procedure might include an additional review by management. Another option is to have sign-off records designed such that a separate sign-off record is used each time a trainee goes for "evaluation." Unsuccessful attempts will result in a recorded "failure" with the reason, or reasons, for failure listed by the evaluator. The exact design of the sign-off records as well as the nature of the sign-off process itself should be given extremely careful consideration to eliminate exposures to favoritism, discrimination, unfair treatment, or false claims there of.
The evaluation process, as well as the entire training process, must be a manageable situation for the company, and that's one of the places where the difficulty comes into play. Deciding exactly who is going to sign the signoff sheets should be an extremely well researched and discussed decision. Should it be one person for each task? Two for each task? Should management sign off each task?
Every one of these possibilities could be the right choice for the right company. Here are a couple of things to consider when making these decisions:
The more the trainee is "tested," the more cumbersome the entire training process becomes. If left unchecked, skilled production workers, along with first line supervision, can spend all their time evaluating new employees and production can plummet.
On the other hand, without "checks on the checker" a business is inviting eventual erosion of training quality. As one crusty, executive-level manager who I knew once said, "People do what you inspect, not what you expect!" That may be an overly cynical way to feel, but the older I get, the more I feel that way myself. You do what you think is best.
Note: When using the Task Analysis Toolkit, sign-off sheet(s) is/are automatically included with trainee Guides.
People must be selected and adequately trained to perform the role of trainer. This means that tasks associated with the role of trainer, along with standards of performance for that role, must also be identified and documented. There are several companies offering training for non-trainers on how to train other people.
Assuming you go outside your organization for help in training your trainers to train, they will probably be given some sort of completion certificate and maybe even a certification. However, that certification, although applying to the program they attended, may not address all of the things your company expects of its trainers. Consider establishing your own in-house, trainer certification program.
How to do this for the first wave of trainers will present some interesting situations that must be wrestled with and solved before trainer selection. Will Trainers certify each other? Will management do this? Regardless of who does it, I recommend that someone evaluate the job-task performance of prospective trainers and use the same criteria for certifying them that will eventually be used to certify new employees. Trainers should have a completed sign-off record in their training files before they ever attempt to train and certify others.
Tip 39: Consider assigning three areas of responsibility
to structured OJT trainers.
This issue must be addressed, head-on, by management, and resolved.
Arguably, trainers and the design of the training program itself are the first and second most important aspects of any structured OJT program. When workers assigned the role of trainer do not diligently fulfill that roll, the training program falls apart at the seams. There are many reasons that any worker, even one assigned "trainer" duties, might not perform as expected and desired. Among these reasons are:
There are many misconceptions concerning Structured OJT, among them is that it is something for nothing. Before you embark on Structured OJT, I recommend reading an article by Dr. Charles Levine titled Unraveling 5 Myths about OJT. (The title is a link, click on it. Just don't forget to come back!) With respect to Dr. Levine's article, I would suggest the following steps.
Step 1. Link to the article
Step 2. Print the article
Step 3. Read the article
Step 4. Believe the article
Step 5. If you are unsuccessful in Step 4, repeat Steps 3 and 4 until you are successful.
Step 6. Share the article with all management associated with the proposed Structured OJT program.
After reading Dr. Lavine's article, read all of the Tips in Groups 1 and 4 on this web site. Then proceed to read the following description of the primary steps in creating Structured OJT.
The primary steps in developing Structured OJT are:
1. Determine the tasks associated with the job that are being addressed by Structured OJT.
In its simplest form, this means copying the tasks from the human resource document that defines the job in question. In many (perhaps most) organizations, job descriptions in human resource documentation does not define jobs to the task level. And in other cases, where they do, the task information may or may not be accurate. The tasks defined for Structured OJT must be complete and accurate.
In its more complex form, determining the tasks associated with a job demands a task analysis. For each task you must identify:
Note 1: In many cases, documentation to support tasks already exists. However, during the task analysis process we recommend verifying the accuracy of any and all task related documentation.
Note 2: Of all of the technical steps associated with developing a Structured OJT program, the accuracy and completeness of the task analysis is the most important single item. If the task analysis is weak, the effectiveness and efficiency of the entire program will suffer. If you're new to task analysis and don't have a plan on how to do this, take a close look at the course I've written on using a nominal group to do a task analysis. The course addresses how to work with a group of two to five subject matter experts (SMEs) to do a complete task analysis in a conference or meeting room setting. It also has a lesson on how to do a task analysis when you access to only one SME and limited physical facilities.
There is a lot of information gathered when doing a task analysis and decisions need to be made based on the content of that information. Also a lot of that information is used when creating the trainee and trainer manuals needed for a successful Structured OJT program. I've created a companion product called the Task Analysis Toolkit. It is a data base oriented product where you can enter the information gleaned during the task analysis and then use that information to create initial trainer and trainee guides along with all sorts of other neat documents.
You can learn more about the course and about the Task Analysis Toolkit on the Products/Services page on this site.
2. Decide which tasks if any, will require training other than Structured OJT. For the most part this would be tasks that require skills and or knowledge as a prerequisite to learning to perform the task itself. Pre-requisite knowledge, or cognitive oriented, training, normally done in a classroom environment, should be separated from Structured OJT and a course or courses developed accordingly.
3. Create Trainer and Trainee Guides. Both guides should be, for the most part, identical except that the trainee guide may have a check off list that includes a list of all tasks to be mastered and a place for trainer or management sign off when mastery has been demonstrated. If you are using the Task Analysis Toolkit, producing trainer and trainee guides in rich text format are one of the options after the task analysis data has been entered. After these documents have been produced, you can modify them at will using MS Word for Windows.
There are probably as many formats of trainer and trainee guides as there are companies who produce and use such documents. Following is a list of items that we feel should be in both guides.
With respect to technical content, both documents should be the same. If it's worth sharing with the trainer, it's worth passing along to the trainee. The only exception to this is the possibility of incorporating a check off sheet(s) in the trainee guide so that each task can be signed off either by the trainer or by management.
The company procedures that describe how the structured OJT program is administered along with the overall descriptions of the trainer and trainee responsibilities should be included in the manual, probably best at the beginning.
From that point on the bulk of the guide consists of the Duties and Tasks which comprise the job and the training program. For each task, there should be:
The Trainee Guide may also include task check off sheets with a place for each task to be signed off and dated when training for that task can be considered complete.
4. Select and prepare On Job Trainers for the job of working with trainees. The credibility of a training program (and OJT programs in particular) depends on the quality of the trainers. OJT trainers must be qualified to deliver on-the-job training and/or conduct performance tests.
Several factors should be considered when selecting OJT trainers. OJT trainers must be technically competent. They must also have the skills necessary to train and evaluate assigned trainees. Additional factors to be considered when selecting OJT trainers include recognition of responsibilities, professionalism, maturity, judgment, integrity, safety awareness, communication skills, personal standards of performance, and a commitment to quality.
It is usually better to train the supervisor or senior incumbent to be an effective instructor than to train the instructor to be a job expert. The instructor must be qualified to perform the task.
When possible, OJT trainers should receive instruction and develop competency prior to working with trainees.
All OJT trainers should be given the opportunity to enhance their technical competency and
The six step training for each task documented in the topic which follows pretty well spells out what the trainer must do. At the very least, trainers should meet with their immediate manager so that both have clear expectations of what the trainer will be held accountable for with regard to Structured OJT.
Structured OJT Implementation - Where the rubber meets the road!
So, assuming you have the trainer and trainer guides and are ready to actually train a new hire or transferred employee. Following is a suggested sequence of events:
1. Conduct an on-site, plant tour type of introduction to the subject matter job. Normally a tour like this should take less than an hour. We recommend that the tour be conducted by the new employee's supervisor.
The following Objectives will certainly not fit all situations. Modify these objectives as necessary. Just keep the tour itself to an hour or less. If you find you have too many objectives to fit within an hour, it is probably an indication that a more formal orientation is necessary.
Objectives of the tour: By the end of the tour, the trainee should:
2. Trainer should meet with trainee and give trainee a copy of trainee guide and all material that the trainee will use throughout the training event. During this meeting, the trainer should review the entire training process, including task signoff, so the trainee will know what to expect throughout the process.
3. Begin the actual training process: This first stage is an orientation stage. In this stage, the trainee is, for the most part, an observer. Have the trainee observe, from alongside, the trainer as the trainer actually performs the job. Depending upon the nature of the job, this may take from an hour or so to one or more days. During this time, the trainer is explaining what he or she is doing and relates the various activities to the task write-ups in the training guides and/or other documentation.
During this phase of the training, it is important that the trainee be able to relate he or she sees being done and the task write-ups in the training material. Important! Don't get too heavily involved in the details of any task during this phase. The objective is to give the trainee an up close and personal overview of the elements of the job, not to overwhelm the trainee with details on the first day. Trainees should be encouraged to ask questions during this phase.
4. Begin six-step, task training for each task. The six steps are:
Note: When using the methods in this document as the training strategy in
conjunction with the Task Analysis Toolkit, the following statements will
apply to all tasks:
In structured OJT courses, where these strategies are the same for all tasks, it is not necessary to enter anything for strategies in any task.
Questions? Email me.
Need Help? Email me and let's discuss how I might help.
End of Structured OJT Tips.
Summary of Tips for Structured OJT