On-the-Job Training Guide | Benefits, Examples, and More

On-the-Job Training Guide | Benefits, Examples, and More

On-the-job training is an effective way to upskill workers. Learn everything you need to know about upskilling employees at work in this comprehensive guide. Discover research-based best practices and learn how to increase the productivity, efficiency, and job satisfaction of your workforce.

What is On-the-Job Training?

On-the-Job Training (OJT) is a form of training that occurs while the trainee is performing their work duties. OJT aims to enhance the trainee’s performance in their specific job or role in a practical environment. It emphasises the real-world application of skills within the actual work environment. Trainees learn by doing the actual tasks related to their job or by learning from a senior with more experience.

What is the Difference Between On-the-Job Training and Off-the-Job Training?

The difference between on-the-job training and off-the-job training is that OJT usually takes place during work hours while off-the-job training occurs outside of work hours. On-the-job training is integrated into the trainee’s work performance. Off-the-job training, while often related to the trainee’s job, is separate from their work performance.

What is the Difference Between On-the-job Training and Classroom Training

The difference between on-the-job training and classroom training lies primarily in the setting and approach to learning. On-the-job training is a hands-on method where employees learn by doing, typically at their place of work. Classroom training is often considered a form of off-the-job training. Classroom training occurs in a more traditional, educational setting, away from the direct pressures and context of the work environment.

Classroom training often involves a more theoretical or structured approach, where employees learn from instructors or facilitators through lectures, discussions, and interactive activities. This type of training is beneficial for comprehensive understanding of concepts, principles, and broader skill development that may not be specific to immediate job tasks but are essential for professional growth and development.

Why is On-the-Job Training Important?

On-the-job training is important for industries because it creates a workforce that is better equipped to do their jobs. Without proficient workers, industries are susceptible to declining into stagnation or mediocrity. Aside from being crucial to an industry’s continued growth, OJT is also significant to two key industry stakeholders (the business and employees) for the following reasons:

Importance of OJT for the Business

On-the-job training is important for the business for the following reasons:

  1. OJT enhances the work performance of the employee, intern, or apprentice.
  2. OJT helps strengthen the potential for innovation and creativity since it exposes trainees to the practical implications of their jobs.
  3. OJT improves employee retention because it increases job satisfaction and shows the business prioritisation of employee development.

Importance of OJT for Employees

On-the-job training is important for both current and potential employees (such as interns and apprentices) because:

  1. OJT makes employees more confident in their ability to do their work.
  2. OJT ensures that current employees receive instruction that is highly relevant to their actual job.
  3. OJT prepares employees for their future roles in the workforce.
  4. OJT is also essential for workers to obtain the practical skills sought after in their industry.

Structured vs Unstructured OJT

Structured On-the-Job Training (S-OJT) is proactively implemented by employers, such as through designating a mentor, coach, or trainer for the trainee and assigning trainees specific tasks to improve their performance. On the other hand, unstructured OJT typically occurs spontaneously or as a consequence of other work activities.

Structured OJT often comes with a training plan that outlines a step-by-step process for the trainee’s skill development and knowledge acquisition. Furthermore, there are specific training outcomes that S-OJT aims to achieve through adherence to the plan. In contrast, unstructured OJT does not follow a training plan nor usually have defined training outcomes.

On-the-Job Training Examples

The types of on-the-job training are also known as on-the-job training methods, techniques, and strategies. Each of these examples is important to consider and learn more about in order to successfully upskill your workforce. For a more comprehensive look at the examples of on-the-job training, read our detailed guide.

1. Internship

An internship is a type of structured on-the-job training that students or newly-graduated professionals take to gain real-world experience. Internships are usually short-term, lasting a couple of months at most. The goal of an internship is not necessarily to prepare the trainee for employment in that specific workplace or industry. Instead, its primary goal is to expose the trainee to the world of work.

2. Apprenticeship

An apprenticeship is a type of structured on-the-job training that is generally more formal than an internship. Students, newly-graduated professionals, and even those with years of working experience can be in apprenticeships. Unlike an internship, an apprenticeship focuses on a specific profession or discipline. Its goal is to prepare the trainee to work in that profession or become skilled in that particular discipline.

3. Coaching

Coaching is a type of structured on-the-job training that employees receive to increase their competency in a task or aspect of their role. Coaches and coachees typically have a strictly professional relationship that prioritises the achievement of training outcomes. Coaching also involves close supervision of trainee progress. Coaches can thus provide timely and detailed interventions to help coachees reach their goals.

4. Mentoring

While it can be structured, mentoring usually veers towards unstructured on-the-job training. Unlike coaching, the goal of mentoring is to improve the trainee’s performance of their role as a whole (instead of a particular aspect or task). Furthermore, mentees have a closer relationship with their mentors and may seek their advice on matters outside of work. Mentors thus play a greater role in the overall development of the trainee.

5. Job Rotation

Job rotation is a type of structured on-the-job training that allows employees to experience multiple roles within an organisation. Job rotations are often applied to the entire workforce and involve regularly moving employees to different roles. The key element of job rotation OJT is change, whether to another position, team, department, or location. Job rotations require rigorous planning and extensive coordination on the part of the organisation.

6. Induction On-the-Job Training

Induction on-the-job training is part of the wider onboarding process. While onboarding or induction training in general focuses on welcoming newly-hired employees to the organisation, the goal of induction OJT is to train newly-hired employees to do their job. For example, organisational policies on employee conduct might be discussed in induction training but not in induction on-the-job training unless the policy or conduct is specific to the employee’s job.

7. Job Instruction Training

Job Instruction Training (JIT) is a type of formal on-the-job training that was conceptualised by Channing Rice Dooley for Training Within Industry (TWI), a service provided to manufacturers of war materials during World War II. In JIT, the trainer demonstrates the task to the trainee and then asks the trainee to perform the task. After this initial session, the trainer also conducts follow-up checks to ensure that the trainee continues to perform the task correctly and safely.

8. Task Delegation

Task delegation is a type of unstructured on-the-job training that occurs when managers assign higher-level tasks to their junior co-workers. Typically, these tasks were supposed to be performed by the managers themselves but were instead delegated for any number of reasons. The reason could be to reduce the manager’s workload or to simply give the employee more responsibility and hands-on experience.

9. Committee Assignment

Committee assignment is a type of unstructured on-the-job training that occurs when employees form a committee to accomplish a specific objective. Unlike task delegation, the focus is on the employee’s role within the committee and their corresponding assignment. It can be described as the professional equivalent of group projects but with greater clarity in the division of tasks.

10. Vestibule Training

Vestibule training is a type of structured on-the-job training. It is slightly peculiar in that it’s not conducted in the actual physical space of work, but in a simulated work environment. Vestibule training provides a controlled environment for trainees to practise various tasks and procedures such as safety protocols. It requires real-time supervision of trainee performance so that corrections can be made on the spot.

11. Self-Instructional Training

Self-instructional training is a type of structured on-the-job training. While the other OJT types are led by the trainers, self-instructional OJT is mainly led by the trainees themselves. Though they may use external instructional sources such as self-paced courses, trainees are responsible for the direction of their training. They may even choose not to use any external instructional source. For example, trainees might reflect on their own performance to figure out the correct way to perform a task and then train themselves to perform the task in that manner.

12. Peer-to-Peer Training

Peer-to-peer training is a type of unstructured on-the-job training that starts with the designation of a peer instructor. Like coaching and mentoring, it’s mostly based on the expertise of people within the organisation. However, coaches and mentors may have higher positions or work in different departments than their trainees. With peer-to-peer training, trainers and trainees must be co-workers of the same level or work in similar roles.

13. Job Shadowing

Job shadowing is a type of structured on-the-job training. Similar to coaching, mentoring, and peer-to-peer training, job shadowing primarily relies on internal trainers. But while the others require active interactions between trainers and trainees, job shadowing can be passive because trainees need only to observe their trainers. An important characteristic of job shadowing is learning by exposure rather than by doing.

14. Understudying

Understudying is a type of structured on-the-job training that focuses on preparing trainees for their future roles in the organisation. If done successfully, understudying ensures that trainees will be able to handle their new responsibilities once they assume their intended roles. Though the trainer-trainee relationship of understudying and mentoring are alike, the former has a very specific objective while the goals of the latter are typically more holistic.

15. Refresher On-the-Job Training

Refresher on-the-job training is commonly used to supplement or reinforce another type of OJT. The structure and content of refresher OJT is thus dependent on what trainers decide to be the best way to strengthen the knowledge and skills gained by trainees in the initial OJT. That being said, refresher on-the-job training is usually conducted to ensure that trainees remember the lessons of previous safety training sessions as safety requires ongoing awareness of risks.

How to Create an On-the-Job Training Program

You can create an on-the-job training program by following these steps:

  1. Outline your desired training outcome or goal: Be specific. Who has to be trained? What do they need to be trained on? What do you want to happen or what changes do you want to see in your trainees after the completion of the training program?
  2. Decide which type/s of on-the-job training to use: You need to list the pros and cons of several types with your team and gain input from management on which type/s they prefer. Some types may be deemed unfeasible, inapplicable, or too costly to implement.
  3. Develop the training curriculum: Ensure that you do this with your chosen OJT type/s in mind. Constantly check if what’s being included in the curriculum is relevant to your ultimate training outcome. Be aware of what trainees already know regarding topics.
  4. Have management approve the training curriculum: This is a crucial step as it prevents you from planning around a curriculum that management may reject later on.
  5. Plan the logistics of the program: How your organisation can implement each type may lead to unique logistical challenges as both the limitations of the type and of your organisation can come into play. You will also need to account for the schedules of trainers and trainees as well as how long the program can be implemented.
  6. Have management approve your logistics plan: Ensure that they have a correct understanding of the resources you need to carry out the program. Confirm the budget and the provision of other resources. If they haven’t set a deadline for the end of the program, propose one yourself and have them approve it.

On-the-Job Training Best Practices

These on-the-job training best practices are backed by research:

Maintain organisational support

Published in Human Resource Development Review (HRDR), a 2017 article referenced earlier research by Sisson (2001) and Black et al. (1996). In describing their results, the article noted that:

  • According to Sisson, support from the management level is one of the core characteristics which must be effective for successful S-OJT implementation.
  • According to Black et al., management support is important to the success of a S-OJT program.

Published in Human Resource Development International, a study (Choi et al., 2015) confirmed that training support has a significant positive effect on S-OJT activities and further recommended that:

“Executive managers should provide not only physical support but also a climate to support the training and psychological support, such as a planned period of time for training, to their employees.”

Published in Performance Improvement Quarterly (PIQ), a study (Jacobs and Hruby-Moore, 1998) concluded that S-OJT programs will likely fail from a financial perspective if they are viewed as lower priority than other on-going organisational issues during implementation. Therefore, the study recommends that organisational issues are addressed before program implementation and a greater measure of management commitment is gained up-front.

All of the above research highlights that support from management and the entire organisation is crucial for structured on-the-job training to be successful.

Monitor training practices

The 2017 article also referenced an earlier study (Zolingen et al., 2000) and noted that:

According to the study, the performance of trainers has a high impact on the effectiveness of Structured OJT programs. Trainers need to evaluate trainee progress, provide feedback to trainees, and motivate trainees for self-study.

A more recent study (Choi et al., 2015) also confirmed that:

  • Trainer commitment has a significant positive effect on Structured OJT activities.
  • Trainer professionalism has a positive effect on trainee learning achievement.

The two studies show that the actions and attitudes of trainers are critical to the success of structured on-the-job training. Therefore, these actions and attitudes (i.e., training practices) should be monitored or regularly checked to ensure the success of structured on-the-job training programs. The specific training practices (which trainers need to follow and which you need to enforce) are discussed in more detail below.

Published in the International Journal of Training and Development, a study (Matsuo, 2014) revealed that excellent OJT trainers perform the following training practices:

  1. Track trainee progress.
  2. Provide positive and informative feedback.
  3. Correct errors by encouraging trainees to reflect on their results.
  4. Challenge trainees by setting higher learning goals.

However, the study also suggested that such trainers adapt the use of these training practices to the trainee’s level of experience. Promoting reflection of results (3) and stretching trainee objectives (4) should be minimised when the trainee has less than a year of experience. In turn, those two practices should be maximised when the trainee has a lot of experience.

Follow-up on the training program

According to this study (Jacobs and Hruby-Moore, 1998), another reason for the failure of S-OJT programs is a lack of follow-up.

The supervisors in the study had agreed to conduct S-OJT and even received their own training on how to be a trainer. The researchers of the study did not anticipate that these supervisors would mostly end up not conducting S-OJT as planned. While this situation was also caused by low organisational support for S-OJT, it might have been prevented by checking on the progress of the program even after initial implementation.

A study (Jain, 1999) on OJT needs also confirms this. The study stated that:

  • Participants usually indicated in their response that there is a lack of follow-up after training, which hinders the effectiveness of available training.
  • One of these participants asserted that productivity could be improved through OJT if there was a proper implementation plan.
  • It is important to follow-up on the training plan in order to see the positive impact of a training program.

Challenges & Solutions for OJT

On-the-job training has the following challenges and solutions:

1. Challenge: Lack of employee motivation for on-the-job training

Solution: Promote career development as one of the benefits of participating in on-the-job training. Highlight the skills and experience that on-the-job training will provide to employees.

2. Challenge: Lack of employee engagement with on-the-job training

Solution: Conduct a survey to obtain the training preferences of employees. Ensure that the design of the on-the-job training program accommodates those preferences.

3. Challenge: Low or inconsistent quality of on-the-job training

Solution: Prepare trainers for on-the-job training and monitor trainer performance. Establish and enforce on-the-job training standards for your organisation. Allow trainees to provide feedback on the quality of on-the-job training.

4. Challenge: Lack of management approval for on-the-job training

Solution: Develop methods to seamlessly integrate on-the-job training into daily work life and Key Performance Indicator (KPI) fulfilment. Minimise friction between on-the-job training needs and the day-to-day needs of the job.

Advantages & Disadvantages of On-the-Job Training

There are many advantages and disadvantages of on-the-job training. Below is a summary of the most important OJT advantages and disadvantages:


On-the-job training has two main advantages:

  1. It helps trainees perform their jobs. Aside from training on specific job tasks, OJT also takes place within the context of the work environment. While some OJT may be in a simulated work environment or delivered remotely, the training is still connected to the actual work.
  2. It generally costs less than off-the-job training. One of the reasons for this is that most OJT leverages internal expertise, removing the need to hire external trainers.


There are two main disadvantages of OJT:

  1. Lack of theory. Due to the practical nature of on-the-job training, trainees learn how to perform a task but do not always know why the task should be performed that way.
  2. Passing down of bad practices. Though good on-the-job training can generate a cycle of good practices, bad on-the-job training can do the opposite.

On-the-Job Training Evaluation

On-the-job training evaluation can take place on three levels:

1. Session level – evaluation of a particular on-the-job training session

This involves post-training session feedback gathering through surveys and questionnaires. You can obtain feedback from the trainees regarding the on-the-job training session and also from their supervisors regarding the immediate and noticeable effects of the OJT session on trainees. Additionally, you can gain insight from the trainer on how they think the OJT session went.

2. Individual level – evaluation of on-the-job training received by an individual

To measure the impact of OJT as a whole on an individual trainee, conduct a competency assessment after the trainee completes all OJT sessions. You can also measure performance metrics such as the quality of their work and the number of errors.

3. Program level – evaluation of on-the-job training received by the entire group

Conduct a Return On Investment (ROI) analysis or cost-benefit analysis of the on-the-job training program. Gather feedback from anyone affected by the OJT program, including the co-workers of trainees. You can also get average grades of the group’s competency assessments and performance metrics.

Impact of Technology on OJT

The most prominent effect of technology on OJT is the ability to deliver on-the-job training remotely. Through the use of web conferencing tools and other digital platforms, trainees can receive training that is highly relevant to their jobs from the comfort of their own home. However, not all types of on-the-job training can be remote. Apprenticeships, job rotations, vestibule training, and job shadowing are unlikely to be completely remote.

Aside from on-the-job training implementation, technology also has an impact on OJT design. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning can generate customised training programs while Virtual Reality (VR) can contribute to the development of innovative training experiences. Other positive effects of technology on OJT include access to data-driven insights and the ability to easily update on-the-job training content.

On the other hand, technology can also have negative effects on OJT. The improper use or over-reliance on technology can lead to needlessly complicated and inefficient on-the-job training. Furthermore, remote OJT can be interrupted by technical issues and downtime. Another important concern is that not all trainees are comfortable with using technology and this may hinder their learning rather than promote it.

On-the-Job Training Roles

On-the-job training roles change based on the specific OJT type and whether it’s internal or external. While on-the-job training usually just has internal trainers, some may use external trainers or professionals outside of the organisation.

Internal trainers can also be the trainees’ direct supervisors, senior co-workers, peers, or even belong to different departments. There may be additional internal personnel dedicated to ensuring the quality of OJT. The roles in external on-the-job training can be varied as well, depending on whether it’s handled by a professional who belongs to the same industry as the trainee or a general training provider.

On-the-Job Training Regulations

Regulations affect the design and implementation of some on-the-job training programs, especially those that are more formal. Regulations can have guidelines on who can be a trainer or trainee, which organisations can facilitate OJT, and whether or not professions require OJT. OJT quality standards and the agencies responsible for enforcing them might also be included in such regulations.

Examples of these regulations in the UK include The Apprenticeships (Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2017 and Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009. In Australia, examples of these regulations include National Code of Good Practice for Australian Apprenticeships and The Australian Apprenticeship Support Network (AASN) Code of Conduct.

How Long Does On-the-Job Training Last?

On-the-job training usually lasts between less than a month to several months. However, on-the-job training can be as short as a few days to as long as a couple of years. Internships typically last a month or so while apprenticeships take at least a year. Job rotations can last up to 2 years and mentorship OJT can take 6 months at minimum. In general, more complex jobs require longer on-the-job training.

What Jobs Provide On-the-Job Training?

Deskless jobs are more likely to provide on-the-job training than desk-based jobs. Healthcare assistants, electricians, machine operators, and police officers are jobs likely to provide on-the-job training. But this doesn’t mean that all desk-based jobs don’t provide on-the-job training. Bank tellers, software developers, and teaching assistants are jobs likely to provide on-the-job training as well.

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