On-the-Job Training

Fairly frequently, I hear someone bring up the assertion that we only learn 10% of our job skills through formal training–the so-called 70-20-10 rule. While it appears the actual 70-20-10 percentages are made up, I think they are probably directionally correct.

Yet, I feel like I know much less about on-the-job training than I should. I’m confident I could draft a reasonable model for how it should go based on what I understand about how people learn, but I have no idea what models are already out there.

Today, I took a very cursory first look. Most books on the subject seem focused on Structured On-the-Job Training.

I get the appeal, but my initial reservations center on whether giving OJT a formal structure gives it a weight that feels forced or onerous. Would we be better off teaching a more flexible set of principles? Maybe not–maybe structure makes it easier for a novice to handle.

What OJT models have you seen?

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2 thoughts on “On-the-Job Training

  1. Ellen

    This is not a model, though it might be part of one. Many years ago I worked for a while in a biochemistry lab, unlikely as that may seem. One task I needed to learn was to use a pipet to place measured fluids a and b into each of a series of flasks…in sequence, with precise timing, while they moved back and forth in an agitating water bath. My boss, Dr. Sam, had me start by sharing the task: he did one flask, I did the next, and so on. So I only had to perform at half speed, as it were, and he was there to take my turn if I fumbled. In this way, he gradually increased the complexity for me, while standing by as back up while I needed him.
    A second example I can think of is learning to use Excel for project budgets. Instead of having me learn from a book, Frank started by providing me with a working budget (with a back-up, I forget just how that worked). Bit by bit he had me update the existing budget, learning a feature at a time. I don’t think I was a particularly fast study; I seem to recall having to go back each month to ask “Where do I put these figures? And how do I check them?” But he was patient and I got it eventually. Now I have no more project budgets, thank goodness, but I have my personal budget in a set of Excel spreadsheets, and I’m able to do all sorts of things with it, all built on that foundation at work.

    Reply
  2. Ellen

    Anyway, my takeaway for OJT is to hand off tasks only as fast as the trainee can handle them; break complex tasks down so they don’t have to be learned in one go, tailor the pace to the trainee, and be patient!

    Reply

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