The Art of On-the-Job Training

Title image - The Art of On The Job Training

The Art of On-the-Job Training

Matt Archer

November 11, 2021

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One Size Doesn’t Fit All

On-The-Job Training is happening constantly across a myriad of businesses with different needs, clients, products, and services. However, not all on-the-job training is created equal. Many workers are undertrained or forced into position they don’t feel ready for in a move some people call being “thrown into the deep end.”

This is partially caused by lack of time to properly train workers, especially in high turnover jobs, but it can also stem from lack of understanding trainees’ unique needs. If these needs are considered when training them, it can greatly improve the training and provide a happier, more qualified worker as a result.

On-The-Job Training can be Flexible

While it’s not realistic to tailor every training around each individual being trained, there are ways to provide training that can be adapted to the needs of the individual while still meeting the goals of the business. This is what we call the art of on-the-job training, because it is as much of an art as it is a science.

One of these ways is called The Four Step Method, which we’ll use as our example. There are other methods out there to train that are adaptable and successful, but the four-step method is also simple and relatively easy to implement.

The Four Step Method

The four-step method is an option that provides structure while also allowing flexibility to change based on the needs of your trainees. As you might expect, there are four primary steps to this method, which cover the four main phases of on-the-job training: Preparation, Demonstration, Trying Out, and Following Up. Each of these 4 steps can adapted to fit the needs of trainees, which we’ll describe below.


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Prepare yourself – Take time to gather your thoughts and go over your plans for the session. This is a pivotal time before the training starts where you can consider the needs of the trainee and create pivot points that you can shift to depending on how the training goes. For example, if your trainee already has experience with similar jobs, you could leverage that during the training to find common points between their old and new jobs, to help them feel more comfortable.

Prepare the space – Gather any materials and props you may need as well as set up the training/work space. If you know something about your trainee that you can use to help you better set up the space, such as procuring their favorite beverage to make them feel more comfortable, now is the time to do that.

Prepare your trainee(s) – Once your trainee has arrived at the space, welcome them and review how the training will play out. Ask if they have any questions before you begin. We also recommend allowing them to ask questions during the training, and providing enough time for them to write down answers, so they can feel comfortable with the material being taught.



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Present the material – As you go through the training, explain the steps for the tasks that the trainee will need to know how to do. You can change the speed and depth of the training based on how much the trainee already knows, as long as you aren’t skipping required material.

Demonstrate the task(s) – Now it’s time to demonstrate how to do the tasks you just explained. Go through as quickly or slowly as needed and repeat if necessary so that the trainee has a firm grasp of the fundamentals before continuing.

Verify trainee understanding – Work with the trainee to understand whether they grasp the material well enough to move to the next step where they’ll have a chance to try out what they’ve learned. Take time to understand their concerns before moving forward.


Try Out

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Provide time and space for trainees to practice – Allow the trainee to practice the tasks and don’t immediately step in if they make a mistake. Give them a chance to learn before immediately correcting.

Observe and provide feedback - Allow the trainee to process through things and ask you questions if needed. This helps them develop confidence in being able to figure things out but have a reference in case they aren’t sure.

Help trainees develop speed and accuracy – As the trainee starts to better understand how to perform the tasks, work with them to become faster and more accurate at those tasks. Try to provide examples that are relatable to the trainee, such as using a sports analogy for a trainee that likes sports.


Follow Up

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Have trainees work at the task alone – Once the trainee has a solid grasp of the material provide time for them to work on it without your supervision so they can continue to build confidence while developing their skills.

Provide “buddy” for trainees to help them – If needed, providing a peer for your trainee to works with and ask questions of can help them fit into the workplace culture and ask questions they may not feel comfortable asking their trainer. Try to assign a buddy that you feel would mesh well with the trainee, if possible.

Reconfirm trainee understanding how to perform the tasks – After the trainee has had time to work at the tasks without your supervision, meet with them again to verify they have a solid understanding of the material and feel confident to begin work at the position being trained on. Depending on the type of job being trained for (such as working in hazardous situations), you may need to go back to an earlier stage of training in order to make sure the trainee is ready to work in a live environment.

Evaluate the training procedure – After the training is done, review how it went. You can get feedback from your trainee, as well as their buddy, and your own internal review, to determine how well it went. This helps you understand how successful the training was for the trainee and is also a great time to get feedback on how well you were able to adjust the training to meet the trainee’s needs. Consider providing a survey to the trainee that asks some questions related to your responsiveness and adaptivity to their needs. This may not be relevant in some cases, but for some workers, adjusting the training to help them can make all the difference, and can help make you a better trainer.


Final Thoughts

Positive Results™ is a training development and cloud solutions company that works with businesses to identify gaps in their business process, then deploy training and tools to solve for those gaps.

We find that while On-the-Job Training can vary greatly between types of businesses, the job being trained on, and the experience level of the trainers, it also varies based on the needs of the trainees themselves. There are many opportunities during the training process for trainers to make subtle adjustments to the training to help trainees with unique needs and backgrounds, which can have a big impact on the training outcome compared to sticking exactly to script.

While it’s not always realistic to overly tailor On-The-Job Training to each individual trainee, being flexible with the training to help meet trainee needs can go a long way to both improving the training itself, and the trainee’s comprehension and proficiency at their new job.


If you have additional questions or need support, contact us at:


Positive Results™ Custom Business Solutions




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