Can you train well on the job?

When I studied for my Masters in HR, I loved the fact that they related the theory to the practical work that you would need to do as a HR professional. At the time of my studies, I was working for a small management consultancy, so I was involved in everything and could apply my learning almost instantaneously. Apart from one area, union negotiation!

My company was not unionised, there were not any union members in the organisation, so while I got the theory of negotiation and how long it could take, I really couldn’t see it as being a reality for me, as unionised organisations were big and largely nationalised when I was studying. So I filed it away and left the knowledge in a DEEP recess in my mind!

Fast forward 3 years and I found myself working for one of the largest international consultancies and negotiating redundancies for IT staff in the manufacturing sector with THREE angry union representatives.

Now it wasn’t the fact that they were angry that I struggled with (their jobs were on the line, so they had every right to be angry). It was the fact that I didn’t know how to respond, how to defuse their anger and find a solution that everyone could sign up to.

Luckily for me I wasn’t alone, my much more experienced colleague was there, and as he spoke I took note of his tone and the words he used to defuse the situation. When one particular individuals behaviour became unacceptable, he adjourned the meeting and spoke ‘unofficially’ with a few key individuals. It took two more meetings but in the end an agreement was made.

The next time there was a union related issue, I led and my colleague supported and gave me feedback. That training has stayed with me for my entire career. I’ve built relations with union representatives and am able to smooth difficult paths, without tempers becoming frayed.

I am definitely a person who learns by doing, the technical term is kinaesthetic. I can read all the books in the world, but I need to roll my sleeves and get in there for it to stick.

I think this is true for a lot of people and from a business owners point of view, on the job training has many positives:

  • It’s not too costly
  • You can quickly assess if the training is working
  • It helps to keep staff motivated
  • It can free you up to do other things

You still need to have a plan of action for on the job training and documentation to support it, e.g. process maps (although you can get your trainee to do that to check they really get the process).

Good ways to train on the job include:

  • Shadowing
  • Attending Meetings
  • Listening in on calls
  • Drafting communication
  • Minute Taking
  • Providing Holiday Cover

If you think on the job training would be great for you team, but are unsure where to start, contact us and we’ll be in touch to discuss how we can assist you.