Make on-the-job training work

ON-THE-GROUND TRAINING: Madam Nasirah Ismail carrying out a check for mosquitoes. Madam Nasirah, who quit her job as a cashier to become an environmental health officer with the National Environment Agency, learnt on the job. Three months into the job, she has learnt to conduct ground checks and house-to-house inspections.


    Nov 19, 2013

    Make on-the-job training work

    WE NOW know that lectures from the rostrum of a classroom are among the least efficient ways of learning. In an age when speed is important, how can we train more efficiently?

    A colleague of mine wanted his granddaughter to learn to drive a car. So he took his granddaughter to an empty carpark early on Sunday, gave her the keys to his oldest car and let her get on with it.

    Within two hours, she was driving. This raised her interest in being a good driver, so she read up on the rules of the road and, when tested, passed at the first try.

    The sequence of events for this young lady was Try it - Enjoy it - Practise it - Embrace it. That is how we learn best. The initial challenge for most of us is a physical one. The intellectual challenge comes afterwards.

    There are five rules in introducing a learner to On-the-Job (OTJ) training.

    1. Explore how determined the learner is to master the skill.

    As with all development, knowing your starting point is important. The simple process we follow is Interest - Encouragement - Enthusiasm - Determination.

    The frame of mind of the learner at the outset tells you where along this spectrum you must start.

    If your pupil is not interested in learning, you will have a job on your hands - but not an impossible one. The learning-shy often fear failure. Once that is overcome, they usually develop an interest.

    How do you interest someone who basically doesn't like the subject? Find what their interests are and make a creative link between them and what you want them to learn.

    2. Good role-play before starting sets the scene.

    People love acting even if they don't want to go on the stage to do it. A role play of the whole process right down to end user will tickle the inquisitiveness of the learner better than any theoretical learning.

    Role plays are the dynamos of teaching. Start with a good role play, then transfer the interest you have generated to the job. If you make a smooth transfer, you have succeeded.

    3. Make sure the person training your pupils is keen to help them and cares about the work they are doing.

    A good mentor for someone learning OTJ will encourage, and leave plenty of time for, questions. These must not be formal "ask or shut up" sessions. Chat about the job, about how the learner is progressing, about the hang-ups and worries, about the achievements and successes.

    4. Question, question, question.

    Every time your pupil asks a question he or she is learning, so make sure their OTJ mentor is savvy with the queries. Get your pupil used to taking risks, making mistakes and understanding that getting it wrong is called learning, not failure.

    Early on in OTJ training, get the pupil to train the teacher. It's a simple trick but one we use far too little.

    5. Where relevant, include how to handle Skype for distance learning.

    Skype is still experimental for many people. A few simple rules make it effective. Be sure you can see the upper half of the person on the other end, not just their face.

    People tend to be too close-up for you to see their body language. Teach yourself and the person you are speaking to that when they look at the screen they are not looking at you.

    To have real contact, they must look into the camera lens as though they are looking into your eyes. This transforms Skype's effectiveness.

    The writer is the executive chairman and founder mentor of Terrific Mentors International (