On the job training.

Seems pretty straightforward: training that takes place in the workplace itself. It can involve one-on-one, sometimes referred to “knee to knee”, or one on 2-4 learners. 

Although the approach is very similar in most cases, the quality of the training varies widely, even within an organization!

On one end of the spectrum is the on-the-job (OJT) trainer who is prepared, engaging, honors adult learning and has learners who walk away with the skills and knowledge to do the job.

On the other end of the spectrum is the OJT trainer who says to the learner, “follow me and watch. … Now you do it!” Learning in this case is hit or miss, mostly miss. 

Employees with subject matter expertise are often good candidates to become OJT trainers because they are well-regarded by their peers and have a strong foundation of practical knowledge and skills used daily on the job. Using subject matter experts (SMEs) as OJT trainers is cost effective. When SMEs acquire training skills, they can be most effective in increasing the skills other employees. SMEs must be available for a training assignment and willing to spend part of their time planning and conducting training sessions.

Selection Criteria for OJT Trainers

Consider these qualifications when selecting OJT trainers:

The subject matter expert has:

___ Time available for a training assignment.

___ Willingness to take on training assignments.

___ Specific knowledge needed by others.

___ Practical experience in completing tasks that meet the job standard.

___ “Ambassador” skills: has spoken in positive terms about training to others, encouraged others to try/use the skills, has had success with the skills and shared with others, etc.

___ Experience in conducting classroom training or in giving presentations.

___ Experience in coaching or mentoring others either formally or informally.

___ Experience conducting one-on-one training or on-the-job training.

___ Good verbal communication skills.

___ Good written communication skills.

___ Facilitated team meetings or has been a team leader.

___ Demonstrated success within the organization.

___ Willingness to learn new things.

What criteria would you add to this list that are specific to your situation?

Ask your OJT trainer candidates rate themselves on the above criteria or have their managers do the assessment. Once selected, consider creating a written agreement with the OJT trainer and his/her manager that outlines the commitment they are making to being part of a team of one-on-one trainers.

Developing Effective OJT Trainers: What every OJT instructor must do…

The process for developing OJT trainers is much like that of developing other internal trainers. Provide a train-the-trainer workshop to help SMEs gain adult learning facilitation skills and become familiar with any support materials or tools.

Although OJT trainer roles vary in focus, at a minimum, an OJT trainer should be able to:


            Break down a task into its teachable parts. Identify possible areas of difficulty for the typical learner.

            Identify objectives for the learning session – what will the learner be able to do at the end of the session? Use specific and measurable objectives that describe the learning conditions or circumstances.

            Use the DIF Model to confirm how much training is required.

            Decide how to check for learning and performance of the skill. 

            Identify how the learner will be able to check his/her own performance after the lesson.



            Prepare themselves (procedure, location, equipment, etc.) and the learner for the OJT session.

            Begin with open questions: What does the learner already know and what are the objectives?

            Demonstrate the task and provide skill practice using an adult learning process.

            Have the learner do 50% of the talking and doing.

            Identify when and how the learner will try out the new knowledge or skill.

            Identify special considerations that must be addressed when teaching "live"



            Evaluate employee reaction at the end of the lesson.

            Test for learning.

            Observe how what was taught is applied on the job.

            Describe the bottom-line results that make this training worth the effort.


Consider arranging to co-train with the OJT trainer, at least in the beginning, to provide support, modeling and mentoring. Set up a feedback and coaching process as needed as the OJT trainer develops confidence. And don’t forget to create a system to evaluate, recognize and reward your OJT trainers. In fact, effective one-on-one trainers make great candidates to participate in peer coaching groups, which might be perceived as a benefit.

The key to effective on-the-job training is to provide OJT trainers with basic skills in adult learning and facilitation so they can bring their full subject matter expertise to the one-on-one training process.

We are experts in the train the trainer field, including OJT training. Give us a call and make us your partner in your next OJT training!


Melissa & Maria