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On-The-Job Training: Definition, Advantages & Importance

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Shauna Kelley

On-the-job training describes the process of teaching an employee to complete the key activities needed for their job after they are hired. Read about this practice, learn to recognize what it looks like, and take a quiz to test what you've learned.

We also recommend watching Methods for Training Employees: Mentoring, On-The-Job & Job Rotation and What is Communication? - Definition & Importance

Definition

Have you ever worked for a business that implemented a new computer system? Changed the procedure for doing something? Added a new task to your job? If you answered 'yes' to any of these questions, it is likely that you have received on-the-job training.

On-the-job training simply means training an employee to complete a task or function when they are already hired and working.

What Does On-The-Job Training Look Like?

Let's return to one of our questions above. Imagine the company you work for implemented a new computer system. Even if you had been working there for years, you now need knowledge in operating this new system. If the company has someone come in to teach you how to use this new system, you received on-the-job training.

This type of training can be formal or informal. Sometimes, on-the-job training is simply a more experienced employee sitting with a less experienced employee to teach them how to do something. Other times, there are more prescriptive training programs that all employees at a company go through.

What On-The-Job Training Looks Like

Think back to a recent advertisement for an open job you have seen. Chances are, somewhere within the ad, the company described the kinds of skills and experience they are seeking in an employee, such as 'must be proficient in Microsoft Office' or 'three years of experience in a retail setting required.' This is the way a company sets the basic skills someone will need in order to be hired for a position. Setting these skill levels help the company to limit, but usually does not replace, on-the-job training.

Let's consider what on-the-job training might look like in practice, using Kelly as an example. Kelly responds to an advertisement seeking a scheduler for a busy medical office. The advertisement says she needs three years of experience as a scheduler, which she has. After Kelly is hired, she learns that her new office uses System B to schedule patients, while Kelly's old office used System A. Thus, during her first week of work, the office manager spends several days teaching Kelly how to use System B. This is on-the-job training. Because System B is similar to System A, and Kelly understands how medical offices work, there is much less on-the-job training needed here than would be if Kelly had never worked in a medical office before.

The Benefits of On-The-Job Training

Since it takes time to train a new employee and time costs a company money, why would companies then not just attempt to hire people who had the skills and experience necessary so it wouldn't need to train them? There are a few reasons for this.

Even if all companies use the same system to perform the same functions, there might still be subtle differences in the way things are done. Imagine two restaurants use the same system for ordering supplies. One restaurant always orders beverages first, and the other restaurant always orders them last. This means that an employee moving from one of these restaurants to the other might already know the system but would not know the proper way to order. Thus, on-the-job training is essential to get employees to understand how to perform their job correctly.

In addition, hiring takes time, and sometimes having an open position can be a major difficulty for a company. Thus, a company wants the biggest pool of applicants possible to select from for a quick hiring process. The more specific the experience requirements for a position, the smaller the pool of applicants. Consider how many more people are proficient in Microsoft Excel as opposed to the number of people who know how to run detailed statistical analysis. Asking for the first skill in a job description and then training a new hire on running the appropriate analysis will likely be a much more expedient process.

Summary

Training takes many forms, and is an on-going process throughout an employee's tenure at a company. On-the-job training is one type of training that typically provides employees with specific technical skills needed to complete their work on a day-to-day basis. This training is usually provided in the workplace after an employee is hired.

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