On-the-job training isn't new, but it might be just what your employees (and culture) need

July 20, 2021 - 15 min read


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What do we mean by on the job training?

The importance of OJT for onboarding new employees

5 types of on the job training

How to create an OJT training program

Examples of jobs with on the job training

Grow your company with on the job training

Also known as OJT, on-the-job training is pretty much exactly what it sounds like — learning how to do the job (or do the job better) while on the job.

Through hands-on teaching and coaching, employees learn the practical skills and knowledge they need to perform their job. The training program takes place in a normal work environment rather than outside the workplace in a classroom or virtual setting.

Hiring the right, qualified, person for a job is just the beginning of setting them up for success at work. They’re going to have to learn hands-on the ins and outs of your company and its unique practices and processes. 

And jobs today rarely stay the same. There's learning what you need to know when you start the job, and there's learning all the ways other people have figured out to do the job better. The tools or systems you use often change, and you have to learn how to do the job in a new way.

For employees and employers, on-the-job training is one of the best ways to deliver this type of specific and continuous learning. 

Here’s how to develop a successful on-the-job training program to onboard new employees and the importance of OJT for your business.

What do we mean by on-the-job training?

Both off the job training and on the job training help employees develop certain skills they need for their job. But OJT focuses on integrating new employees into their everyday work environment.

Rather than hiring a person from outside the organization, OJT is typically a type of internal training. It might be set up as a program, with defined expectations and a set beginning and end, but often it is far less formal. Experienced colleagues, managers, and members of HR take responsibility for helping the individual develop professional skills and capabilities. They tend to focus on "how work gets done here."

A peer or manager might give a mini-lecture or demonstration of how to do something or the steps of a process. Much of OJT comes through side-by-side mentoring, modeling, and coaching where an employee passes their skills and knowledge on to a new or less-skilled employee.

This type of participatory training has several benefits for an organization and its employees. It is an especially useful form of training when onboarding new employees.

Here’s a quick breakdown of on-the-job training versus off-the-job training.

The importance of OJT for onboarding new employees

On the job training can have many benefits for new employees and your organization as a whole:

Improved productivity and work motivation

Have you ever had that feeling that you don’t really know what you’re doing at your job? That you don’t even know how you got the job in the first place? 

Even if you’ve never experienced imposter syndrome, you can imagine how intimidating and distressing it can be.

On-the-job training prevents new employees from feeling lost and out of their depth. By providing training opportunities that are packed with useful information, you're setting them up for success.

They’ll learn the ins and outs of the business, making them more productive employees who are motivated to take their careers to the next level.

Increased job satisfaction

How can you do a good job if you don’t know what it is you’re supposed to be doing?

Explicitly showing employees exactly what is expected of them allows them to fulfill their roles at work better.

They naturally feel more equipped to excel in the workplace when given the skills and knowledge needed to complete their job. They also foster new-hire socialization.

By creating a culture of shared learning, both new and experienced employees feel a sense of belonging. This, in turn, lends itself to increased job satisfaction.

Higher employee retention

Brandon Hall Group did some research into the value of proper onboarding training. They found that organizations with a strong onboarding process improve new-hire retention by 82%. It also increases productivity by 70%.

Companies with weak onboarding programs lose the confidence of their candidates. Because of this, they're more likely to lose these employees in the first year.

By using on the job training as part of your onboarding program, you can prevent a high employee turnover.


Cost-effective form of training

From a financial point of view, the importance of on-the-job training is clear.

Off-the-job training means paying for things like a training facility and educational materials and hiring a presenter.

With on-the-job training, these costs aren’t usually relevant. Peer training in the workplace means spending less on those expensive onboarding programs. Higher employee retention from OJT also makes this form of training a sound financial investment.

Tailored to the business and new employee

OJT is generally just more effective for improving someone's ability to do their actual job in a specific work environment.

Two different organizations may have the exact same role title, but when it comes down to the details, they’ll be quite different. They have different expectations, different tools, different constraints, and different working conditions. Different customers. 

On-the-job training supports your business’s specific needs at a moment in time. It meets the employee's need to learn how to do something right when they encounter it, so it is relevant, and they are motivated to learn it. Contrast that with waiting months for a class to be scheduled (or maybe even developed) and getting approval to take it. Training new recruits on the job can help you get business needs met more quickly.

It’s also tailored to the new hire as an individual. OJT allows mentors or peers to personalize their training based on the needs of a new employee.

Faster learning

As humans, we learn better by doing. Training new employees on the job helps them learn the necessary skills faster in a way that is more relevant to them.

The experiential nature of OJT creates an opportunity for valuable and memorable personal learning.

5 types of on the job training

Let’s take a look at five types of more formal OJT that you could use at your workplace:


1. Orientation

Workplace orientation provides new employees with basic information about their new roles. Most companies have some form of orientation in place, even if they don’t consider it on-the-job training.

Through this popular type of OJT, a supervisor helps a recruit become familiar with the organization. They share information like workplace culture, benefits, and the company mission.

2. Internship

Whether paid or unpaid, an internship is a temporary position. They’re mostly sought out by students and graduates.

Rather than focusing on employment, the position focuses on career growth. The period of work experience gives exposure to the real-world working environment.

3. Apprenticeship

An apprenticeship is typically for adult learners to earn money while they learn in a real job. While an internship focuses on experience, apprenticeships focus on training.

An apprentice should already know they want to work in that particular field. This type of on the job training is often used for highly skilled jobs that require a lot of practical training.

4. Job rotation

This technique involves moving employees between their assigned roles. It promotes experience and variety by switching a new employee around a range of positions.

This is a great way to give employees an overview of the entire process. It also gives team members a better sense of what their colleagues do for the organization.

5. Mentoring programs

Assigning a mentor to a new employee has many benefits, including learning on the job. The new hire gains practical advice, encouragement, and support.

This method of training also teaches the current experienced employee how to be a teacher.

How to create an OJT training program

The first step to creating an on the job training program is deciding on who’s doing the training. It should be someone who’s already part of the organization.

Most often, it’s a colleague or peer who can confidently perform the job being taught. But a people manager or member of HR can also be involved in getting a new employee properly up to speed.

Here are a few tips for employers on how to efficiently set up an OJT program:

  • Determine requirements. What does the new employee need to learn? Make a note of everything you think they need to know in order to competently perform their job. Prioritize it so it isn't too overwhelming. As they go through their training period, share the list with them and refer to the list of requirements to check their readiness.
  • Make the program employee-specific. Everyone has different learning styles. In order for the OJT program to be a success, ensure that the training is flexible to take people's differences into consideration. The training should also take into account what the new employee already knows and what they don’t need training on.
  • Identify trainers and set expectations. Because OJT is internal, existing employees (team members and supervisors) will be doing the training, coaching, and mentoring. Consider giving new employees a buddy or OJT "point person" who they can turn to with questions and who keeps track of whether any important training is falling through the cracks.

    Select the right people within your organization to shape your new employees. Remember, they will have a huge influence on what the new employee understands about the work but also about the culture and work environment. Teaching managers and supervisors to act in a coaching mode will increase the effectiveness of this type of internal development.
  • Regularly evaluate the program. Here’s a scary statistic: only about one in 10 employees think their employer does a great job of onboarding new employees. To prevent this, get regular feedback from your employees through surveys or discussion groups. If the program isn’t working, identify what needs to change.
  • Create a safe environment. Employees must feel comfortable speaking up when unsure of what they are being taught. Create a workplace atmosphere that encourages new employees to ask questions.


Examples of jobs with on the job training

Here are a few examples of industries and companies that use OJT to train new employees:


Seagen offers a one-year post-doctoral fellowship with hands-on experience. These oncology specific fellowships are designed to help prepare professionals for a career within the oncology biopharmaceutical industry.

Each fellow is treated as a valued member of their department. The program is designed for PharmDs wanting to learn and contribute to a fast-paced biotech environment. They can tailor the experience towards their individual interests.


The nature of flying an airplane means pilots need plenty of on the job training. You can’t simply take a written exam and become a pilot. Skyworld Aviation in Manila, Philippines, offers a professional Cadet Pilot Program to develop aviation skills.

The 55-week program is for people with little or no flying experience. Training includes 160 hours of flying in a variety of light aircraft and 40 hours in simulators.

Business Analyst

Goldman Sachs’ New Analyst Program is open to final-year undergraduate and graduate-level students from any field of study.

Participants develop their career-enhancing skills during this full-time OJT program. New analysts learn about the firm and how Goldman Sachs does business. They have unlimited access to training and gain the skills and knowledge necessary to support the company.

Grow your company with on the job training

As Aristotle said, “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”

On-the-job training is the perfect example of this.

Training on the job is a cost-effective form of onboarding that encourages employee confidence. By helping new employees adapt faster to their job, you’re developing their skills and encouraging career progression.

You’re also contributing to a more effective, productive, and satisfied workforce.

Keen to get started?

Get in touch with BetterUp to learn more about how an OJT program can improve performance, culture, and employee workplace satisfaction.

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Published July 20, 2021

Shonna Waters, PhD

Vice President of Alliance Solutions

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