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Structured OJT: Don’t Just Go & Sit by Fred—Part 2

This is Part 2 of a two-part post on Structured OJT

Having new employees watch or work with an experienced person to learn their new job is a common approach. However, many are much better at doing a job than at showing someone else how to do it. Without the right planning, expectation-setting, and support, those asked to coach new employees may neglect them for fear that their own work will suffer. Because of this, new employees may not get what they need.

07-16 Bridge Girders

A Structured Approach

Work with the new employees’ managers to establish a structured on-the-job training program. To significantly cut the time to productivity, reduce errors, and increase quality, your program must have a sound structure and the managers’ support.

  1. Coaches. Determine who will do the coaching: experienced employees, leads, supervisors, or trainers. Coaches must be able to demonstrate and explain the work.
    1. Obtain buy-in from the coaches’ managers, especially for their time.
    2. Ensure that managers will provide recognition to coaches and adjust their metrics for success to include coaching new people.
    3. Enlist the coaches’ participation and buy-in early. Ask them to be subject-matter experts as you develop the program.
  2. List the critical tasks and outputs of the job.
  3. Write easy-to-understand learning objectives based on those tasks & outputs.
  4. Develop checklists that new employees and coaches can use to confirm that the new employee can accomplish the required skills.
  5. Create a coaching schedule: a flexible, annotated schedule of what to teach and what the new employee should practice over what period of time.
    1. Agenda. Provide timing guidelines. Include the objectives. What are the learning and experience expectations for the first morning, first afternoon, the first week?
    2. Activities. Include time for new employees to interact with coaches, complete self-study modules, practice, and check new skills. Add any other programs the new employee should attend, for example, New Employee Orientation. Arrange for practicing the new skills in the regular job environment as soon as this becomes safe and practical. Hugely important: new employees must practice, practice, practice (and receive feedback to ensure that it’s good practice). 
    3. Logistics. Include notes on required equipment, software, log-ins, etc., that must be ready for the new employees when they start the program.
  6. Find, adapt, and/or write supporting documentation for new employees, as needed.
    1. For changing content, provide quick handouts and checklists or other job aids.
    2. If you have time, make self-study modules for any topics where the content is stable.
    3. Add teaching and timing notes to the supporting documentation for a coaches’ guide.
  7. Train the coaches.
    1. Coaching Basics. How to explain, demonstrate, coach, and give feedback. The importance of practice. How to use a performance checklist.
    2. Coaching This Specific Program. The objectives, the agenda. Their responsibilities. Content, supporting documentation, and how to administer those checklists.

Not a lot of time right now? Need the program right away? Focus on getting the objectives and checklists right, and on training the coaches. Gradually add more supporting documentation and/or self-study modules, as you can.

It takes some doing to put a program like this in place, not the least of which is convincing managers to do it. But let’s review the benefits of creating a well-planned and executed program:

  • New employees make progress faster and feel more confident.
  • Coaches develop new skills in working with others.
  • Managers manage turnover more easily (and with more capable and confident employees, there may be less turnover).
  • Organizations’ new employees contribute more competently in less time than before.

Many thousands of hours (and billions of dollars) are spent today in inefficient “go sit by Fred” on-the-job training. With the addition of structure, you can cut the time and cost for your organization by half or more—and have better-prepared employees in far less time.


Post: Structured OJT: Don’t Just Go & Sit by Fred—Part 1

Book: Structured On-the-Job Training: Unleashing Employee Expertise into the Workplace, by Ronald L. Jacobs

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