Have you ever heard the phrase, "Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach a person to fish and you feed them for a lifetime"? I’m sure you have, as this super overused proverb is very true in all aspects of life, especially when you’re talking L&D. Not sure where On the Job Trainings (OJTs) fit in with it? Trust me – I’m getting there! OJTs are a powerful training type that has your learners fishing with their own hands – or whatever your industry is.
What are OJTs again?
First off, in case you're not familiar with OJTs, Training Industry provides a pretty general definition for you: "On-the-Job Training (OJT) is training that is delivered while an individual is performing tasks or processes related to their particular occupation. The employee typically performs tasks that are essential to their job function with the supervision of a manager, coach or mentor."
Basically, it’s like getting a personalized training experience in a hands-on way, with the added support of a helpful mentor to guide you and answer your questions.
Practice Makes Perfect…Rehearsal, that is!
In his book Brain Rules , John Medina talks all about the "rules" he's learned about the human brain and just how people learn. Essentially, you must repeat to remember and remember to repeat in order for information to really stick. In order to help learners really encode the information so that it can be retained and recalled when needed, it's important for learners to practice and rehearse what they are being taught so it can eventually be stored in long-term memory.
For example, let’s say you have ‘Jane’ here who was just hired to work in your grocery store’s Bakery department, and one of her main job functions is to bake fresh bread every morning. She has taken the training on baking bread and has the step-by-step job aid to guide her, she’s practiced a few times on her own, and now she has an OJT assigned to demonstrate the process to her mentor. It’s time to rehearse! Her mentor can observe and provide her with feedback through the OJT process, so she’ll have the knowledge and confidence to do this again her next shift, and the shift after that, and…you get the picture. She is working the skill of baking bread into her long-term memory through practice, and she was guided by the OJT to continue rehearsing the process. That’s why OJTs are one of the best ways to practice a skill that promotes rehearsal and encoding of information!
OJTs Help Guide You Through, with a Little Help From Your Mentor
OJTs provide the space for learners to actively engage with the content by doing, which is critical to encoding information so that it can be quickly recalled when needed! Just how do OJTs accomplish this? Through mentor-guided hands-on experience using different activities and question types to interact with their environment.
Going back to our grocery store example, we now have ‘Jack’ who was just promoted to Manager in Training (go Jack!). One of his responsibilities is submitting expense reports once a week to his Director for review. His store has a great training on how to properly complete an expense report, so he took the eLearning and then went into the OJT portion of his training. The OJT asked him critical knowledge questions about the expense report and why it’s so important to fill it out accurately. He wrote his answers along with his initial experiences and observations into the OJT, and then submitted it to his assigned mentor. The mentor then reviewed his answers, noted any discrepancies, and provided guided feedback that Jack can use when he fills out the expense report next week! Jack incorporated “learning by doing,” and when he practiced and rehearsed with his mentor as a guide, he is now one step closer to being an expense report PRO.
So, the next time you're developing your next learning experience masterpiece, think to yourself, "Do my learners need to be given this fish, or would they benefit more from actually fishing?" Bonus points if you are actually training people to fish. Either way, if you determine your learners would benefit from getting hands-on experience for the content, that means it's OJT time! In what ways are you currently using OJTs?
Stay tuned for the next part in our OJT series, we'll be talking all about how to set up OJTs with Instructional Design Theories in mind!