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Improving on the job training may be the fastest way to increase performance, productivity, and profitability.

7 Steps You Can Implement Now

to build an effective job skills learning system By Shaun Browne - Principal - Digital Mentor Group Inc.

Production people. The factory folks. These are the ones who are integral to how companies make money. Without them, no production would get done. No parts would be made. No products shipped. How are production workers trained in your organization? How do you help production staff build the skills, knowledge, and experience they need to add the most value they can? How do you get new employees up to speed as quickly as possible? How do you ensure that seasoned employees are working the way they’re supposed to?


How do you reinforce safety in the workplace? How do you help your supervisors look good at the daily production meeting? How do you do all that with limited resources? At Digital Mentor Group, we’ve been thinking creatively about those questions for a long time. We have some solutions. Solutions that are inexpensive, easy to implement, and get people doing their jobs safely and effectively.

Six solutions, actually. Six things you can put in place now that will increase performance, productivity, and profitability. We call it STARRS: 1. Standards 2. Training 3. Application 4. Review 5. Revise 6. Suppor 7. Business Benefits This e-book will explore these six steps in greater detail. For more information: Check out our website. Read our blog. Attend one of our webinars. Give us a call.



Standards Define “A Good Job”

All of them, actually, in their own way.

One of the biggest drawbacks to building a high performance culture in any organization is getting everyone to agree on a definition of good performance. That’s because everyone has their own definition of what they want.

The first step to building excellent training is to make sure that the processes in your operation are the best they can be. They are best practices. They are better, faster, cheaper, easier, smarter, and safer. If they are not, you have an opportunity to build new ones.

Supervisors Ask them how they would define ‘a good job’ and many would say ‘fast’. They might also say ‘get me through the shift.' They could add ‘and no downtime or rework.' That’s what they might say.

Make it a project. Run a kaizen. Re-engineer the jobs. Develop new processes.

Health and Safety Ask them how they would define ‘a good job’ and many would say ‘safe’ They might also say ‘ in compliance with legislation’. Or they could say ‘so there are no incidents and no investigations’.

Environment Ask them and they would define 'a good job’ as ‘no spills or contaminations’, ‘no issues with government departments’, or ‘no fines’.

Quality Ask them how they would define ‘a good job’ and many would say ‘no rejects’. They might add ‘no recalls or test failures’. Or they could say ‘we meet the customers’ standards and expectations’.

Implement lean. Conduct a six sigma. Make sure that the processes you have are the safest, most efficient, highest quality they can be. Build multipurpose work instructions that document procedures accurately, act as leader guides for on the job training, and can be used to evaluate learner performance during and after training.


Make sure your work instructions are accessible. They should be written in language everyone can understand. Make sure they are available. They should be on the production floor, not in the Superintendent’s office. Make sure they are updatable. Set a review schedule that works for you and stick to it.

Maintenance Ask them and they would define ‘a good job’ and many would say ‘no breakdowns or emergency repairs’.

Management Ask them and they would define ‘a good job’ as ‘one that makes money’, ‘satisfies customers’, or ‘adds to shareholder value’. Everyone has an opinion. Who’s right?





Training Comprehensive. Consistent. Evaluated. Flexible. Inexpensive.


Effective on the job training needs to be well-designed, consistently delivered, and, most of all, increase the skills, knowledge, and experience of the learner. Much of what is offered up as onthe-job training is job shadowing or shift shadowing. A new employee is paired up with someone who is ‘voluntold’ to show the new employee ‘the ropes’. Job or shift shadowing training is rarely well designed, often inconsistently delivered, and usually leaves out important information about the job. This kind of on the job training has always been the fallback approach. It’s what’s been done when there was no better way. There’s a better way. Digital Mentor Group has developed a seven-step approach to delivering highly effective on the job training. We call it One Way... Right Way™. One right way to train the job. One right way to do the job.

One Way... Right Way™ on the job training is a template. All training is delivered using the same process, every time. The content changes but the approach remains fixed. Fixed delivery. Variable content. One Way... Right Way™ is based on how the human brain actually learns. It’s not fancy. It’s straightforward. Logical. To the point.

Evaluated Good on the job training transfers responsibility for performance from the trainer to the learner. That’ where the responsibility belongs. One Way... Right Way™ is designed to transfer skills, knowledge, and experience from the trainer to the learner. The learner has to practice until he or she can perform the task to standard. The learner also has to demonstrate his or her skills, knowledge, and experience back to the trainer - proof not only that the job is understood, but that performance can be evaluated against the standards set in the work instructions.



One Way... Right Way™ is comprehensive because training programs will include all the information a learner needs to do the job to standard It’s comprehensive - because it’s based directly on your work instructions. One Way... Right Way™ provides training on skills and knowledge and builds experience within the training program.

A modern production environment is an ever-changing place. An on the job training program might be required at any time. If you have a group of occasional trainers available, a few minutes notice may be all they need to jump from a production role to a training role. Because One Way... Right Way™ is a fixed delivery, variable content method of training, all the trainer needs to do is brush-up on the content. No need to design a training program, it’s already done. Fixed delivery. Review the work instructions and the trainer is ready to deliver high impact, high value training at a moment’s notice. One Way... Right Way™ saves time.



Many companies compensate their on the job trainers for the time they are actually training. When they are not training, trainers go back to their regular rate. Training departments can focus on strategic training, soft skills training, leadership workshops. On the job trainers can concentrate on what they do best. Bringing experience and expertise they already have to on the job training One Way... Right Way™ saves money.



During this phase, the trainer observes the learner infrequently and provides coaching when necessary.

Application Apply Skills Use Knowledge Build Experience

Use Knowledge

Good training means applying what’s learned back on the job. Using the skills, knowledge, and experience learned in the training program to perform tasks to the standards established in the work instructions. It doesn’t always happen that way. In a typical job or shift shadowing training situation, the standards of excellence expected may not be reached when the learner returns to work. Learners may know what they have to do, but be unsure as to how the task is to be performed. Learners may not know why it’s important to do the job a certain way. The trainer may miss important information.

Apply Skills The STARRS application phase is where the real learning takes place. It’s here, after the trainer has completed the One Way... Right Way™ training program, when the learner takes on full responsibility for performance of the task. He or she is on their own. By repeating the task, the learner further enhances those connections that were made in the brain during the training program. Repeating the task moves the learner from that awkward phase to one that is more automatic. What was once uncomfortable becomes comfortable. What was once unfamiliar becomes familiar. The more the learner practices in the real world environment of the job, the more familiar they become with the process. The more familiar they are, the easier it is to fine tune the steps in the task. Application after training is essential to build the competencies the employee needs to meet the standards and expectations of the job.


Not only are skills important. Knowledge is essential to ensure a full understanding of the job. By its nature, training is an artificial experience. No matter how close you can duplicate the real environment of the job, transferring to the ‘real world’ will mean translating experience from the unreality of the training program to the reality of the workplace. Even if training takes place on the job. The on the job training program may have contained a great deal of information on the subtleties of the task. The learner’s brain has to process that information. Make sense of it. Understand how it really works. The Application phase is where the informal learning process begins. The formal part of the training program may be over, but the brain keeps on processing the knowledge until it is fully understood. It’s here, during the informal application phase, where the brain begins to develop the pathways necessary to anchor the process. It’s in the application phase where the learner goes from good to great.


Build Experience

Jobs are not rote, to be performed mindlessly. Learners are not robots, to be programmed. Learners need to build experience so they can handle the variations that come along. The special situations that happen infrequently. Those ‘once in a blue moon’ events that require experience to handle. Those slight changes to the process that require minor adjustments to procedures but don’t require full training events. As the learner practices in the real world environment of the production location, he or she applies skills, uses knowledge, and builds experience. The learner builds competence and confidence. He or she build personal, individual capability. The company builds capacity. Capacity to adapt. Capacity to change. Capacity to ‘roll with the punches’ that come with a dynamic work environment.



Review Monitor Performance Review Capabilities Evaluate Fairly

Evaluate Fairly

Job performance should be monitored and evaluated on a regular basis. It’s important for learner performance to be monitored and evaluated that follows a schedule to determine how well performance is being maintained.

Monitor Performance

Evaluation Should Reflect Educational Capabilities

Just like a pilot, who is reevaluated in a simulator every six months, or a bus driver who goes on a check ride once a year, employees should have their performance monitored by a trainer or supervisor on a regular basis. Training doesn’t last forever. Skills slip. Knowledge declines. Experience fades. Sometimes it’s so subtle. Unnoticeable.

Review Capabilities Some employees have to perform tasks infrequently. It may be weeks or months since they last performed the task. Shift changes, schedules, job rotations, all contribute to infrequent task performance. Employees who face these challenges should review the work instructions just before they perform the task. This review will remind them of the skills required to perform the task, rebuild the knowledge necessary to maintain standards, and provide opportunity to revive experience. In situations where employees are returning to a previous role or work unit after an absence, reviewing the work instructions and performing the task under observation may be all that is necessary. In cases where the employee does not meet the standards during the task observation, the trainer can offer an on the job training program that trains only those things where the learner is not performing to standard.


Competency measurement must be a fair, accurate, and repeatable assessment of an employee’s skills, knowledge, and experience. Fair competency measurement must evaluate each learner in the same manner, in a manner that reflects the reality of the workplace. For many organizations, measuring employee competence may not be fair, accurate, or repeatable.

Some organizations rely on pen and paper tests. Some conduct verbal question and answer sessions. A few use competency demonstrations. Often, employee performance can be Pen and paper tests work well where knowledge is being tested and where employees have a good command of language and are academically oriented. This is an academic solution for employees who are don’t have well developed language skills, or who had largely negative academic experiences, testing could generate performance anxiety or fears of failure and penalty. Verbal questions and answers can elicit the same reactions as more formal pen and paper quizzes. OJT Evaluation Should be Informal

Competency demonstrations are fairer, accurate, repeatable and more accurately reflect the reality of the workplace. First of all, competency demonstrations should be based on the work instructions used to train the employee in the first place. Since the work instructions accurately reflect the task, using them as an evaluation tool is fair and repeatable. The employee’s skill, knowledge, and experience is being measured using exactly the same criteria used to demonstrate, explain, practice, and evaluate him or her originally. The employee’s performance should be observed and evaluated in the production environment. The employee performs and explains a given task, to demonstrate and job knowledge.


Fair evaluation doesn’t create the kind of performance anxiety or fears that more formal evaluations might. Fair evaluation doesn’t test the employee on content he or she wasn’t trained on. In the case where an employee does not meet the performance requirements, the competency demonstration highlights steps that will need to return to mastery. Training in these situations can focus only on the steps that need improvement and avoid insulting the employee by training him or her on tasks where competence has already been demonstrated.



Revise Accessible Accurate Documentation Documentation Useful Documentation Accessible can mean several things. Accessible Documentation should be Documentation available to the employee in the Good documentation should accurately reflect the processes, equipment, and quality standards that production employees are responsible for. No matter what your organization calls them; Standard Operating Procedures, Standard Work Instructions, Job Guides, these important documents contain the collected skills, knowledge, and experience of your organization. What may be missing are the little tricks of the trade or alternate procedures that some or all of your employees may be using to get the job done.

Accurate Documentation Any difference between what the documents state as standards and what employees actually do can create a number of challenges for your organization. The gap between what a company says it does and what it actually does can raise questions for those involved in due diligence defense or investigations.

production area. Documentation should be readable - it should use language that people can understand without having to look for a dictionary. Documentation should include pictures and diagrams that so clearly show the process, words should not be necessary. Comprehensive documentation is the repository of your organization’s collected skills, knowledge, and experience. This documentation defines what makes your organization and its products and services unique. This documentation records how your organization makes money.


Useful Documentation Work instructions or operating procedures need to be useful. Most of these documents are good at recording what employees are supposed to do when they perform a task. Unfortunately what often happens is that work instructions stop at what has to be done. For an employee to fully understand the task, there is much more information required. Work instructions should contain specific information on what, how, and why the task should be performed. Information on safety, equipment operation, environmental protection, and maintaining quality provide reasons why the task should be performed to the standards in the work instructions.




Support Has Many Forms Impacts Performance Support is, in many respects, the most important component of the Job Skills Learning System. Without the support of the organization’s leadership groups, the likelihood of employees continuing to meet stated standards is uncertain.

Support Has Many Forms

Human Resources

The Supervisor

It’s been said that the employee’s supervisor has more impact on the success of a training program than any other person. Supervisors can destroy the positive effects of a training initiative in the first few seconds after an employee returns from training. Ignoring the employee, telling them to get back to work, or telling them to go back to doing their job the old way, will provide little incentive for the employee to put new skills, knowledge, and experience into action. Any positive affect coming from the program will dissipate very quickly as the employee returns to old habits or old methods. Supervisors can support training by: • Taking the training themselves • Becoming involved in evaluation • Promoting use of new methods • Rewarding use of new skills • Providing recognition • Supporting job skills trainers Senior Management

Senior management also have considerable impact on the success of training. The measurements that are important to senior management, production output, quality, financial results, position in the market, or some other evaluation drive the organization. What gets measured gets done. If throughput is considered important, throughput is what employees will focus on. Speeding up processes, pushing equipment, taking personal risks, or shortcuts, all could become the


unwritten standard work instructions that employees follow. Senior management can support training by: • Taking the training themselves • Providing time for training • Budgeting resources for training • Recognizing learner achievements • Communicating results that have been impacted by training • Making training a strategic role in productivity and performance improvement

Human Resources can and should be a strategic partner, enabling the organization to reach the standards for performance that have been set for it. HR can support training by: • Establishing measurements and benchmarks that support the organizations strategic imperatives. • Designing technical training curricula that builds skills, knowledge, and experience • Keeping current on legislative and regulatory changes and designing training or information events to inform employees of changes to work • Determining or advising on levels of training required, based on degree of change being experienced


Supervisors, senior management, human resources and production employees are a team, each with their own roles, each with their own responsibilities. If everyone plays their part, the benefits will accrue to everyone

Production Employees

Employees are the ones who are most directly affected by training. They are the ones who attend job skills training and are involved in implementing the changes that training brings. Employees are responsible for using new skills, knowledge, and experience. They must take the learning provided and put it into practice on the job. The transfer of learning can’t be done by the trainer. Transfer must be done by the learner. They have to accept the new, changed, or unfamiliar procedures. Learners also must unlearn old procedures as they adopt new ones. Supervisors, senior management, and human resources need to understand the challenges that employees experience as they go through change,



Business Benefits Increased Competence Reduced Human Errors Increased Quality Increased Productivity Increased Profit Increased Pride

Increased Productivity

A Job Skills Learning System can transform your organization. It can change the way everyone looks at the strategic role that skills training can play in building individual and organizational competence. Creating a Job Skills Learning System is not a walk in the park. It takes time, effort, and resources to accomplish. The effort will be well worth the results. The work will be worth the celebration.

Increased Profit

Skilled employees who know what they need to do, and why it’s important to do so, will be more productive. Organizations that meet the demanding expectations of senior management, and the quality expectations of customers will thrive.

Increased Competence Competent employees are essential to any successful organization. Competent production employees performing their tasks to standard are the foundation of a successful organization. Individual and group competence leads to improved performance,

Reduced Human Errors Properly designed training takes into account the root causes of performance failures. Effective job skills training provides comprehensive instructions on approved procedures. Good work instructions include risk assessments that clearly define points of potential injury and provide procedures and methods to reduce or eliminate risk in the workplace. By using that information, employees can work more safely and avoid creating incidents caused by human error.

Organizations that implement job skills training can realize reduced equipment issues, environmental incidents, quality concerns, and improved employee safety. With less rework and fewer recalls, lower returns and more satisfied customers, the organization may be able to put more money in the bank or in the hands of shareholders.

Increased Pride A safe, secure, and positive workplace is one where everyone benefits. A competent team, that has the skills, knowledge, and experience to meet and exceed customer expectations, is confident in its abilities. Competent employees working in a positive work environment is a place to be proud of.


That is worth celebrating.

Increased Quality If production employees are performing work to standards, and those standards are designed to create a quality product or service, then customers will receive the benefit. The organization will become the supplier of choice for customers.



7 Steps to Improve OJT  

7 Steps to improve your organization's on-the-job training and improve your productivity and sustainability.

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