OJT Doesn’t Mean Omit the Job Training

Chapter 4  Pg’s 91-94 Lead With Love By: Gerry Czarnecki

You report to your new job and find out your training will be right at the job site, not in a classroom. You are excited about learning the new job, especially when you are told that your trainer, Sally, is the most qualified processor in the division. You will be trained by the best. Sally, it turns out, is the woman in the corner with all of those stacks of files on her desk. You go over to introduce yourself and find out Sally is very busy and will get to you just as soon as she finishes her critical processing. After what seems like a very long time, you begin to realize everything on Sally’s desk is critical processing and you are going to be on your own for a while.

 So goes the experience of most people promised OJT. They start a new job with the promise of full training only to find out they are going to receive on-the-job training. Six weeks later, they find out that in their organization, OJT means omit job training. What a tragedy! Not only have the expectations of a new employee most of the tasks required on his own. Picking up a little information here and a little there, the new associate spends a great deal of time trying to sort out what is correct and what is just confusion on somebody’s part. This clearly wastes a great deal of the new associate’s time, but worse still, the rest of the staff is distracted with a barrage of questions—more wasted time. Further, the department probably has huge amounts of rework, correcting the mistakes the new associate made. If the new associate is unlucky enough, the boss will come around and conclude that this new player is a slow learner or a low potential associate.

 Does your organization’s training mandate include an on-the-job component? Are you responsible for accomplishing that OJT program? Has everybody in your unit received the required training? If OJT is not a required part of the organization, when was the last time you trained a new associate on the job? Did you make a plan and stick to it? Was it effective? Did the program actually help that associate grow into the job? All of these questions are critical because they focus on your responsibility as a developer. You cannot ignore the critical role you play in the development of your associates, and OJT is the key in many organizations to the successful development of its associates.

 Of course, OJT can be a very effective process for training a new person. With strong planning and disciplined follow-up, the process probably is more meaningful for the new associate and more cost-effective for the organization. OJT is a great way to learn. When an organization makes a true mentor out of an outstanding performer and encourages a real-time commitment, training a new associate will support a quality experience that can provide new employees with a great start. Mentors need to be enthusiastic about the mentoring, and they must also fully understand the organization’s policies, practices, and procedures, as well as the specific job responsibilities. Further, mentoring requires patience and, yes, love to be effective. Mentors must truly want to help the person learn and be willing to share knowledge. Not all experts are so inclined, but if a mentor is sincere, then the process will work,and work very well.

 Problems arise when mentors lack any of these characteristics, and unfortunately, failure is more the rule than the exception. Leaders must be committed to the concept of training. However, the need to get the work out often drives them to neglect effective training. The end result usually is the work gets out today, the crisis continues tomorrow, and the training never happens. Hence, the crisis goes on indefinitely.

 There is never any easy or convenient time for training and development, yet it is a must if you are to be an effective leader. Dr. Thomas Gordon says:

 Leaders do a lot of teaching—giving instructions, explaining new policies or procedures, doing on the- job training. Yet very few leaders have received special training to carry out this important function. They don’t appreciate how difficult it is to teach people effectively—it is more complex than most people think. In the first place, it is not  commonly understood how much people resist being placed in the position

of having to learn something new. It’s hard work because it requires giving up accustomed ways of doing things and familiar ways of thinking about things. Learning requires change, and change can be disturbing—even threatening at times. Besides, the role of “a learner” in relation to “a teacher” is often felt as demeaning, no doubt because all of us remember being put down, punished, and patronized in school by our teachers. This means that when leaders teach, they must avoid using teaching methods that will make their subordinates feel they’re being treated like children.

 How you structure the training is critical. The training must be focused on what it takes to be successful. Each training experience must be tailored to the current level of competence of the individual being trained. As difficult as it may be, you must learn what the new associate really knows. Once you have a good sense of the associate’s level of knowledge and skill, then you can address the second area of focus. Do you have a list of all the required knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will make each person a fully capable performer? If not, make a list and take the time to check with your  associates to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

 Only now are you ready to design an effective OJT experience. Without those first two steps we discussed, you will lose the advantage of individually tailored OJT. At this point, preparing a training plan for each person who is not fully skilled will be easy and effective. Make certain it is structured along the needs and skills defined. Also make certain you are able to validate the learning. This usually means you are continuously testing the knowledge the individual is absorbing. You can use formal tests or ask informal questions during the training. The bottom line is you must know if the associate is learning.

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