How to Provide Robust On-the-Job Training

How to Provide Robust On-the-Job Training
Jillian Bateman — March 26, 2019

Being a training/learning nerd, I like to ask my friends and ESA members how they conduct training at their companies. The answers are consistent – “supervisor or co-workers train others.”

That’s to be expected, and to be honest, that is the method that my place of work uses to onboard a new hire, or train someone who has taken on new responsibilities. We team them up with a coworker to learn various components of the job, or the supervisor spends a lot of one-on-one time with them to get them familiar with the areas they will be responsible for. Sometimes this process works just fine, but other times it doesn’t go so well. I am pretty sure this is common too – the inconsistency in training program success. Why don’t we build something that has more predictable results?

Those highly skilled, fast-learning folks are gems, but many people taking on a new job or a new responsibility need more.

First, let’s discuss why there are inconsistent training results for employees when they are trained by a co-worker or supervisor. Here is a stat I recently learned from Mark Murphy, author of Hiring for Attitude: 46% of new hires fail in the first 18 months – and by fail he means they were fired or quit.

Woah right!? Mark thinks a large contributing factor is because the wrong person with the wrong attitude was hired for the job. I absolutely agree. But another factor, in my opinion, is the training the person receives.

Chances are the training provided by the co-worker and/or supervisor was not well organized or structured. There was no timeline established, there was no follow up done to confirm learning, they may have passed on bad habits or behaviors, or they may have been a horrible communicator and therefore a terrible trainer. Do these sound familiar? Some employees, who are highly adaptable, can get up to speed with any form of training. They may be so highly skilled that they could start performing quickly without much training needed, or they can train themselves without much input needed from others. Those folks are gems, but many people taking on a new job or a new responsibility need more.

How do we give them more if your company is like mine: we are small and don’t have the resources to develop a highly-structured training program and all personnel are swamped in their own duties that they lack the time to dedicate to training someone?


Here are some options that will provide a more robust on-the-job training experience for your employees:


Don’t saddle one person to do all the training. Allow the employee to spend time with a variety of co-workers that have some nuggets of information to share. For example, if you hire a new installation technician, allow them to spend a few days with your lead installer, a few days with a service technician, and a few days with the sales folks. These rotations will allow them to learn different perspectives of the job and learn more about the company.

Video Documentation

Get your staff to start video documenting processes. We all have phones that can record things, so each week require your employees to record one thing they did really well. These can easily be stored on a shared service (YouTube, Vimeo, Google drive, Microsoft SharePoint) and organized into how to videos. If the process involves software or an app, there are tools that will record your movements on the screen and save them as video files. I use free software by Techsmith called Jing that will record my screen and audio for up to 5 minutes. Camtasia, a paid software, will allow longer recording and editing features.

Lunch and Learns

To keep employees up to speed with new processes, technologies, or information start conducting “lunch and learns.” Have an employee volunteer to teach a cool technique for 30 minutes and invite other staff to attend and bring their lunch. Not only will this have benefits for the folks in attendance, it also allows the ‘trainer’ to be recognized for the area they excel at.


Building quick checklists are faster than writing out detailed documentation – even though I am a HUGE advocate of documentation! Checklists can be created and used to teach employees what needs to be done and in what order. Employees can then fill in the gaps by writing out their own details to complete the tasks.


This doesn’t need to be a well-oiled, complex machine. Mentoring can be as easy as pairing the new hire with a high performer. Encourage them to go for lunch, grab coffee, or meet monthly. The casual conversations they have can create a positive influence on the new hire and ensure that they are gaining a perspective that empowers them to be their best.

Formalized Training

There are many formal options available to get your employees trained – of course, ESA’s National Training School is the perfect answer for your technicians. There are countless others as well that can provide more skill-based training, such as – LinkedIn,, udemy. com, YouTube, etc. One suggestion is to be sure you touch base before and after the training to make sure they gained something valuable from the course. If it was very rewarding, have the employee do a lunch and learn on the top 3 things they learned.

My advice is to use a variety of these methods to train your team. With each person having individual learning styles, it’s important not to over utilize one method over another. I also suggest asking them how best they learn. That will give you powerful insight into what training method is going to be most effective and efficient.