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November 22, 2021 | Talent Management Software | Posted by Brandon Grinwis, Chief Financial Officer at Ascentis

How On-the-Job Training Helps Blue Collar Employers Boost Productivity

For most employers in blue collar industries, the first challenge of effective workforce management is building and retaining a workforce to manage. Labor-driven industries like healthcare, manufacturing, construction, logistics, transport, and agriculture are all mired in an ongoing worker shortage, and that does not appear likely to change any time soon. The transport industry projects a shortage of 175,000 workers by 2026, while in the manufacturing industry around half of skilled labor positions are currently unfilled.

Hiring highly qualified new talent to hold long-term positions is the ideal goal for every employer, but the makeup of the current employment landscape makes that unrealistic in most labor-driven industries. For sustainable success in maintaining a properly skilled and certified workforce, employers need to supplement their recruitment and hiring efforts with a strategic approach to on-the-job training (OJT). That on-the-job training plan should include upskilling, reskilling, and learning management programs for all levels of employees.

What is on-the-job training?

Whether or not you have a comprehensive OJT program in place, on-the-job training is happening every day in your workplace. Even your most experienced employees are constantly refining their skills and knowledge as the day-to-day demands of their roles evolve. The key from an employer’s perspective is to make sure that whether you’re training new employees or providing ongoing education to your existing workforce, all of your workers are learning the right processes and procedures to keep your workforce functioning at maximum productivity.

On-the-job training can be especially useful for speeding up the learning process in roles that involve special equipment or complicated procedures. While training manuals, instructional videos, and learning management software can all be valuable types of training, for many roles there is simply no substitute for hands-on experience. Having an existing employee perform daily tasks and operations alongside a new hire or trainee can often provide more practical insight into how your organization’s equipment, tools, software, and machines really operate than you could accomplish with more formalized training sessions.

Who provides on-the-job training?

There are a number of effective OTJ training methods for blue collar workers. Choosing the right type of training requires an awareness of the demands of your specific working environment. Most frequently, on-the-job training is performed by supervisors or co-workers who have extensive experience with the skill being taught. For example, in a manufacturing facility, a manager might take a new employee around to various work stations and provide hands-on demonstrations of the tools and machinery that will be involved in their day-to-day tasks. In a healthcare setting, a registered nurse might walk nursing assistants through complicated treatment techniques so they can learn from seeing the tasks performed physically.

In some cases, an employer might have a trainer on staff or a structured on-the-job training program to walk employees through important skills that are used especially frequently. In other cases, a vendor or third-party service provider might provide in-person on-the-job training to demonstrate how to use their tools and technology most effectively. No matter who administers your OTJ training, the ultimate goal is the same: getting your workforce properly trained to effectively perform the tasks, operate the equipment, and follow the processes that keep your business running productively.

How does on-the-job training benefit employers?

OTJ training offers a wide range of benefits for blue collar employers looking to hire and train new workers, as well as those who prefer to upskill or reskill their existing workforces. A few key reasons to invest some energy into on-the-job training programs include:

  • Faster Employee Training: Providing on-the-job education can significantly reduce the training period for new employees. Rather than dedicating time to extensive training during your employee onboarding process, allowing new hires to learn as they go from experienced co-workers can provide a more effective education in a shorter period of time. On a construction site where time is at a premium, for example, giving a new crew member hands-on, supervised instruction on how to operate a specific piece of equipment is faster and more effective than trying to learn those operations via a training manual.
  • Increased Employee Engagement: Letting your workforce learn from each other’s example is a reliable way to build rapport between co-workers. In the process of on-the-job training, your new hires and experienced employees have a chance to work together toward a common goal, which has excellent effects on your team building and employee engagement efforts. In a manufacturing role, for example, a shift manager or other long-term employee might be offered a bonus for demonstrating key processes for new hires. That kind of practical, hands-on training builds bonds between co-workers and is often more memorable than a more formal training session.

What are the financial benefits of on-the-job training?

Putting more attention on OTJ training isn’t just a useful means of saving time and boosting morale. There are serious financial benefits for employers who do it well. In workforce-driven industries where turnover is high and profit margins can be narrow, those are important budgetary considerations.

  • Improved Employee Retention: Feeling bored or stagnant in a role is a consistent driver of employee turnover. In labor-driven industries that report higher-than-average turnover rates, anything that boosts retention is welcome. On-the-job training does double-duty by both making trainees feel directly engaged with their work and giving trainers a sense of responsibility and knowledgeability. In both cases, OTJ learning also demonstrates that an employer cares about providing workers with chances to increase their knowledge and expand their skill sets, which in turn fosters a feeling of loyalty to the workplace.
  • More Efficient Scheduling: In industries where a traditional 9-to-5 schedule isn’t an option, diversifying skills across your workforce can be a huge benefit. Using on-the-job training to reskill and upskill existing employees can open up new avenues for keeping every shift staffed with fully qualified and trained workers. For example, a busy long-term care facility might require employees to complete a training program before they are qualified to take on certain required healthcare duties. By enlisting senior employees to guide their co-workers through that training, an employer can make it much easier to ensure that each shift has fully qualified workers on hand. That in turn can reduce the need for expensive recruitment, hiring, and onboarding of new workers.

On-the-job training happens every day in a busy workplace. It pays for employers to recognize the possibilities of taking a more direct hand in their workforce’s learning experience. Find out more about the ways learning management solutions from Ascentis can help encourage your employees to keep on boosting their knowledge as they work.

Brandon joined the Ascentis executive team in 2019. He brings more than 15 years of leadership in driving growth, efficiencies and profitability at high-performing technology companies. As CFO at Ascentis, Brandon is charged with managing financial operations to support the company’s growth as well as leading the finance and accounting departments. Before joining Ascentis, Brandon was Vice President of Finance & Business Operations at Code42, a fast growing global enterprise SaaS provider of data security technology. Brandon has held financial leadership positions at Digital River and Lawson Software, two other high growth, Software-as-a-Service based businesses.” Brandon received a B.A. degree from Ohio University and a master’s degree from Notre Dame.