On-the-job training (OJT) is an effective way for employees, especially in technical roles, to gain hands-on experience and quickly acquire the skills needed to excel in their jobs. However, traditional OJT programs can be disjointed and inconsistent, with no unified structure or metrics.
Despite these inherent challenges, both OJT and paper-based Performance Support processes were rated highly effective in the Brandon Hall Group™ 2023 Learning Benchmarking Study. Both modalities also show significant planned growth by participating companies.
As effective as both OJT and Performance Support efforts are, the question becomes, how do we make them even better — driving consistency, adoption and efficiency? Implementation of an LMS (learning management system) can empower and enable OJT by systematizing the training process, allowing transparency into employee progress and ensuring training quality across shifts.
Some of the key benefits of using an LMS for OJT include:
Standardization of Training Content and Delivery
With an LMS, training content can be centralized instead of relying on tribal knowledge. Subject matter experts can create training modules covering key skills and tasks required for each role. These modules ensure standardized training delivery across multiple shifts and trainers. Checklists within the LMS provide clarity on required competencies.
Tracking Learner Progress
A major advantage of an LMS is the ability to track learner progress in real-time. Managers can monitor employee training completion rates and identify knowledge gaps. Employees can also view their own progress and access refresher materials as needed. With multi-shift teams, it’s particularly valuable to have transparency into training status across all employees.
Capturing Tribal Knowledge
Experienced employees often possess valuable tribal knowledge that is at risk of being lost if not formally captured. Subject matter experts can use the LMS to codify their knowledge into training modules, profiles and resources. This empowers consistency and prevents dependence on any single employee.
Reinforcement of Training
An LMS allows training to be reinforced through multiple mediums over time, improving retention. Short modules can provide focused overviews before hands-on practice. Quizzes confirm comprehension. Videos can demonstrate tasks step by step. Checklists act as easy refreshers. Repeated exposure to concepts across modalities enhances learning.
Collaboration Across Shifts
With multi-shift teams, effective collaboration can be challenging. An LMS provides a centralized platform for employees across shifts to share knowledge. Subject matter experts can communicate best practices through training modules. Discussion forums allow peer-to-peer Q&A. Document sharing reinforces training with standard operating procedures accessible to all shifts.
For regulated industries, an LMS can track employee compliance training and completion of critical certifications. Automated notifications can inform managers and learners of upcoming expirations. Required training can be incorporated into onboarding checklists. Compliance reports provide auditable records. Many LMS solutions can also be a good place to host standard operating procedures (SOPs) so that everyone has access.
To maximize the impact of an LMS-enabled OJT program, the following strategies should be considered:
- Conduct a training needs analysis for each role to develop standardized learning paths and objectives. Align training to business goals and performance metrics.
- Structure OJT into distinct phases: orientation, hands-on instruction, skill application, evaluation and refresher training. Develop observation checklists for tracking competencies. An online observation checklist that lives in an LMS and is linked to ongoing performance management is a powerful tool for ensuring competency and progress to goals. Simplifying access for managers and other evaluators and keeping everything connected inside the technology reduces the risk of error or non-compliance.
- Recruit skilled subject matter experts across shifts to codify tribal knowledge into training content. Compensate them appropriately for their SME contributions.
- Encourage social learning through forums and messaging. Enable networking and knowledge sharing across shifts.
- Gamify learning with points, badges and leaderboards to motivate participation. Recognize top performers.
- Measure training quality through surveys and performance data. Gather learner feedback to continuously improve content.
- Provide access to training across devices like desktops, mobile, tablets and TV screens. Enable seamless learning across environments. Easily accommodate deskless workers.
- Integrate the LMS with HR systems and equipment diagnostics for a holistic view of employee skills and performance.
Manual, paper-based OJT programming is heavily dependent on Learning and Operational team involvement. This exacerbates common challenges as highlighted in the Brandon Hall Group™ 2023 Learning Benchmarking Study, including the ability to measure learning effectiveness, upskilling employees at the speed of the business, budget and staff limitations, and many others.
Brandon Hall Group™ Preferred Provider® Totara Learning has helped many organizations overcome these challenges and drive success in their OJT programs. Totara advocates for and is particularly skilled in helping organizations achieve complex skill development by linking learning to performance management in OJT environments. Totara also helps customers increase compliance, safety and realize significant cost savings. Learn more at LMS for Manufacturing: Skill Development and Safety with Totara.
If you’ve not considered moving your OJT program into an LMS before, Brandon Hall Group™ recommends you keep the following in mind when evaluating potential solutions:
- Be clear about what you need the system to do.
- For any technology provider to be a good partner for you, you must first be clear on what you need their technology to do for you, how you need to use it and how it fits into your overall business plan. Applying some simple Design Thinking processes before you start meeting with potential providers can save you money and heartache in the long haul.
- Have a clearly defined use case for your OJT program that links to practical and actual business needs. Start with your existing practices and then look for ways to fill any obvious gaps. Consider all possible jobs that could benefit from a streamlined OJT approach. Many deskless jobs don’t necessarily follow a traditional learning path. These roles can be ideal candidates for an LMS-enabled journey.
- Understand what kind of data you need. And be clear about what may be missing from your current tool (if you have one) and what capability you need the LMS to have. Proper preparation for this kind of selection can take several weeks, but it is time well spent as it makes evaluating potential solutions and moving to decision-making much faster. If you don’t invest the time upfront, you will spend it in the decision-making process and likely delay any purchase and implementation planning.
- Involve IT and HR to make sure all possible integration needs and data requirements are captured before implementation.
- One surefire way to understand your data requirements and integration needs is to involve key business partners from IT and HR as soon as you begin thinking about needing to select a new LMS. In most large organizations IT sometimes drives the selection process for new vendors anyway. IT support will help map data output requirements for any larger Business Intelligence work, key system integrations that will need to be in place and any security requirements specific to your company’s environment. HR partners will ensure that employee data needs are met and any special considerations for larger employee-impacting work are factored in. Involve them from the beginning; they can help shape your use case definitions and include them on any decision-making team as active participants. This will make the implementation and longer-term adoption of the new system much quicker.
- If you aren’t sure, ask the question. Always.
- You are the buyer. It is critical that you understand what you are buying. The size of the investment your organization will be making is not easily undone if a problem arises after implementation. It is easy to make assumptions that issues or concerns can be “worked out” later. That is a serious miscalculation. You must make sure that you are calling out and asking any and every question anyone on the team may have as you go through the process. Create mechanisms to ensure question feedback is captured and encouraged, and set an early ground rule that anyone who is unclear about anything, curious about any aspect or not satisfied with any answer, must speak up.
Successfully implementing an LMS can elevate OJT programs by systematizing training, enabling transparency into progress, capturing tribal knowledge and driving collaboration across multi-shift teams. The outcome is a highly skilled, compliant workforce equipped with the latest knowledge to excel at technical roles — regardless of shift. The LMS empowers employee development while providing managers with insights needed to support growth. By taking this optimized approach to OJT, technical teams can reach new heights.