Learning on the job: Types of training, benefits and challenges

Learning on the job: Types of training, benefits and challenges
SEEK content teamupdated on 27 November, 2023

Perhaps you’ve started a new job and you’re doing some on the job training to get you up to speed. Or maybe you’ve found that your role has changed and you need on the job training to fill in your knowledge gaps. Whether you’re learning a trade or you’ve got an office job, being open to learning at work is a great way to further your career. 

The meaning of OJT – on the job training – entails learning and gaining new skills while performing your regular work duties. In this article, we cover different on the job training definitions, explain how OJT benefits both employers and employees, and how you can maximise these opportunities. 

The benefits of on the job learning for employees

There are many advantages of on the job training, both for you and the company you work for. Let’s take a look at some of the key benefits of learning on the job. 

Increases job satisfaction

You might find that you’re happier at work when you feel supported, valued and good at what you do. On the job training achieves all this, while strengthening your connections in the workplace. By taking on personalised training, it’s likely you’ll feel more appreciated, engaged and committed.

Helps employees acquire new skills

The main reason companies provide on the job training is to teach their employees new skills so they can do their jobs more effectively. As an employee, you benefit from getting more skills, while your employer benefits from having a team member who can contribute more. By investing in their people, companies can become more efficient and provide better products and services, which makes them more competitive in their industry. 

Leads to career advancement opportunities 

One of the top reasons people leave their jobs is lack of career advancement opportunities. On the job training not only provides new and important skills, it gives employees more career opportunities in their current workplace. 

What is on the job training? The different types to consider

On the job training means learning new skills while you’re at work. Often this is ‘learn as you go’ – picking up the skills you need to do your job while you’re working. Other times, it’s taking a course during work hours, while still taking care of your usual responsibilities. Here are some different types of on the job training:

  • Coaching and mentoring: provides employees with specific feedback and advice from someone in a more senior role. Coaching is typically short term, while mentoring is an ongoing, informal relationship.
  • Job shadowing: employees follow or watch one of their more experienced teammates to gain insight and knowledge.
  • Cross-training: employees train across multiple job roles or tasks within an organisation, often training each other.
  • Apprenticeships: entry-level roles that allow people with no to minimal skills to gain qualification through learning on the job.
  • Simulations and role-playing: employees act out scenarios under the guidance of a trainer.

Each method of training has its own pros and cons, with best results when multiple methods are used together. For example, an apprentice who can practise new skills via role playing and seek advice from a mentor will feel more confident than someone who is learning only through job shadowing. 

The onboarding process

Onboarding is the induction process of bringing a new employee ‘on board’ at a company. Effective onboarding helps employees transition smoothly into their new role, giving them the information they need to feel at home in their new organisation. 

What to expect during onboarding

Employee onboarding should be a welcoming experience that helps you feel excited for your new job. At a large company, you might receive introductory information from all departments. If you’re joining a small business, your onboarding may be more informal and unstructured. An onboarding process may include:

  • Orientation: sessions or information packs that provide insight into the company, its values, policies and people. There may be a physical orientation tour, where you are shown around your new workplace.
  • Document collection: you will need to provide tax information, banking details, ID and proof of residence in order for your employer to pay you.
  • On the job training: this could relate to new software or the specific tasks and processes of your job.
  • Introductions to your team and key stakeholders of the business.
  • Getting equipment: your employer may provide you with tools, IT equipment, uniforms or other items necessary for you to do your job.
  • Questions and feedback: your HR contact may send you a post-onboarding survey.
  • New joiners event: in some workplaces, there might be a welcome event for newcomers to meet each other.
  • Welcome pack: larger companies might give you a work-related gift to help you settle in.

After onboarding, you should feel confident and enthusiastic about your role and the organisation. The specific process will vary depending on the job you’re doing and if you’ll be working onsite, in the field or remotely. 

Common mistakes for employees to avoid during onboarding

The onboarding process is vital in letting you know what is expected of you and helping you find your place in the organisation. To make the most of it, there are some common mistakes you should avoid. Some of these are:

  • Waiting for instructions rather than being proactive
  • Not asking for help when you need it
  • Ignoring requested tasks and instead working on what you think should be done
  • Failing to communicate concerns, questions or suggestions
  • Being resistant to change or new information
  • Acting overconfident or underconfident

By being open-minded, practising active listening and asking questions, you’ll get the most from onboarding processes.

Characteristics of effective training on the job

No matter where you work or what you do, learning on the job should have tangible benefits for you and your employer. But how do you know if your OJT training will be effective? Here are some characteristics of good on the job training:

  • You receive clear learning objectives
  • You are encouraged to participate and give feedback
  • You’re given different methods of training to suit your learning style
  • There are opportunities to cross-skill and learn about different roles
  • You get opportunities to collaborate and network

If you’ve received successful training on the job, you’ll be able to do your job with more confidence and expertise, whether you’re a new employee, learning a new skill or stepping into a new role.

Common challenges with on the job learning

Learning new skills can be challenging, and on the job training is no different. Knowing what challenges you could face with on the job learning will help you be able to identify and communicate those challenges effectively, so you can get help if you need it. Some of the most common challenges you may face during on the job learning include:

  • Time constraints: you should be given a realistic time frame to learn new skills while working.
  • Lack of resources: any new skill requires support in some way, including resources that work with your learning style.
  • Information overload: receiving too much information at once can be overwhelming. Training should be broken down into smaller periods to make things more manageable.
  • Difficulty transferring knowledge: some trainers are selected because they are good at the role, not because they are good teachers. This can be a challenge some employees face while learning on the job.
  • Not maintaining communication: learning on the job should come with a decent level of support and communication.

If you’re committed to on the job learning, remember to keep an open mind, ask questions and put your learnings into practise as soon as you can, so you retain the new information. And if the opportunity arises, offer to provide on the job coaching. Teaching someone else a skill is a great way to identify gaps in your own knowledge and help build strong relationships with your teammates. 

How to maximise the benefits of on the job training

There are countless on the job training advantages for both you and your employer. As an employee, you’re able to reap benefits of on the job training that will help set you up for ongoing success. Some top ways to maximise the benefits of on the job training include:

  • Developing a growth mindset: this is one of your greatest assets as an employee and as a person. Use it to see challenges as learning opportunities – and even expand on skills you already have.
  • Communicating effectively: let your trainers know where you may need additional help or support.
  • Asking questions: be curious and seek feedback to understand where you may need to work harder on a particular skill.
  • Taking ownership: be accountable for your learning and strive to bring your best self to the role.

When starting a new job or venturing into a new role, look out for on the job training opportunities. It might mean moving out of your comfort zone while you work and learn at the same time, but the extra skills and confidence you gain will make it worthwhile.  

The role of managers and trainers in on the job training

Manager and trainers are some of the most important people in your work life. These are the people who will be guiding you, supporting you and teaching you all you need to know to do your job correctly. Your managers and trainers can help ensure successful on the job training processes through:

  • creating a positive learning environment where people feel supported and comfortable about asking questions,
  • identifying employee strengths and weaknesses, and knowing how to nurture improvement,
  • providing constructive feedback to both trainees and business decision-makers to help ensure effective training, and
  • encouraging continued learning and development.

If you are a manager or trainer involved in providing on the job learning, you play a vital role in the success of your team. Not only through their training, but also by updating older processes to be more effective. 

The future of training on the job

On the job training has evolved greatly over the past few years and will continue to do so. As technology advances, it provides more opportunities for companies to adapt and grow – along with their people.

How businesses can evolve on the job training with new technology

New technology brings new opportunities for on the job training. Digital training software can be personalised to provide more targeted on the job learning for employees, including programs that can provide training remotely. Augmented reality and AI technologies will allow employers to provide customised simulation training that increases safety and reduces risk. Additionally, with remote and hybrid work becoming more popular, employers have more options for onboarding remote employees. 

Offering training on the job benefits everyone at work. Businesses that invest in their employees with effective onboarding and on the job training reap the benefits of an engaged and competent workforce. As an employee, you gain practical skills and abilities, while nurturing a growth mindset that will benefit you in every stage of your career.


What is on the job training?

On the job training (OJT) is a hands-on learning method where you acquire job-related skills and knowledge by actively participating in your work tasks – typically under the guidance and supervision of experienced colleagues or trainers. It’s an effective and practical approach for you to develop job-specific skills while performing your daily work duties.

What are the benefits of on the job training for employees?

The main benefit of on the job training for employees is gaining hands-on, practical experience in their chosen field. It enhances job-specific skills and boosts confidence, and can be combined with mentoring, to provide complementary guidance and support. On the job training is more efficient and cost-effective than offsite training, as employees can learn as they perform their regular work duties.

What are the different types of on the job training?

Common types of on the job training include:

  • mentoring, 
  • job rotation, 
  • shadowing, 
  • simulations, 
  • coaching, 
  • internships, 
  • cross-training, 
  • committee assignments and 
  • apprenticeships. 

Each method offers hands-on learning experiences tailored to specific job roles, promoting skill development and employee growth.

What is the onboarding process?

An onboarding process, or employee onboarding, is a series of activities and procedures to help employees feel settled in their new work environment. The onboarding process typically includes:

  • Orientation or introduction to the business
  • Paperwork, such as tax forms and employee contracts
  • Introduction to colleagues
  • Access to resources, like computers, tools and internal systems
  • Setting expectations of their role and responsibilities
  • Close guidance from a supervisor or colleague
  • Frequent check-ins with the new employee

Effective onboarding can lead to greater employee engagement and satisfaction. It also reduces turnover and helps new employees understand the business’s goals and values.

What are the characteristics of effective on the job training?

Here are some key characteristics of effective on the job training:

  • Having personalised options to suit different styles of learning
  • Receiving clear objectives and desired outcomes
  • Being encouraged to provide feedback or seek further help 
  • Getting opportunities for collaboration and networking to further ideas and skills
  • Having a variety of topics covered to both enhance existing skills and develop new ones

It’s also effective to have flexibility around learning milestones to ensure you have the time you need to pick up new skills.

What are some common challenges with on the job training for employees?

Common challenges you may experience in on the job training include:

  • time constraints, 
  • lack of structure, 
  • resource limitations, 
  • trainer competency, 
  • inadequate documentation and
  • the complexity of specialised roles.

Effective OJT programmes address these challenges through careful planning and ongoing evaluation to provide you with the best opportunities to learn.

How can employees maximise the benefits of on the job training?

To maximise on the job training benefits, employees should adopt a growth mindset and actively participate in programmes, seek regular feedback, apply new skills in their roles, communicate with mentors, ask questions and take ownership of their learning. 

What is the role of managers and trainers in on the job training?

Managers and trainers play a crucial role in on the job training (OJT). It is your manager and trainer’s responsibility to provide guidance, set clear expectations, assess progress and offer constructive feedback

Trainers should be knowledgeable and patient, while managers ensure that OJT aligns with organisational goals and the professional development of their team. While it’s their responsibility to help you succeed, it’s also your responsibility to communicate any struggles so they can provide the right support.

How is on the job training evolving in the future?

On the job training evolves with technology. Virtual and augmented reality pave the way for more realistic simulation training that can be customised to different job roles and skill sets. Digital OJT will also evolve, offering more ways of training, onboarding and upskilling remote workers.

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