Learning On The Job: When Working Is Also Learning

Mar 11 2021 | Insights

Continuing professional development is a great way for employees to learn new skills and get used to their responsibilities while they’re on the job, but how do we ensure that CPD time at work is properly tracked and managed?

A regular company employee will likely go through some level of training and education before they join their team. This usually starts with their college or university education, but those skills are only partially usable in the workplace. Everything else about their new role is usually taught as part of a training course after they have been accepted for the position.

This kind of on-the-job training typically involves several days or weeks’ worth of training to acclimate the new team member to their position. However, far too many companies neglect further training once their new recruits have passed initial training programs. They expect employees to learn as they work which is acceptable in many cases, but there are effective ways to accelerate the learning process.

Stagnating engagement has been a problem for many years

According to Gallup, around 70% of American employees weren’t working to their full potential back in 2013. This led to slowed economic growth and massive amounts of money wasted. Companies needed to accelerate the learning process to ensure that their employees were able to tackle roles that were becoming more advanced and more demanding

However, simply putting them on a training course wasn’t going to be enough. Not only does this remove them from the workforce for some time, but it also doesn’t provide them with practical experience to utilize their new skills correctly. While it offered some tangible growth to employee potential, it wasn’t nearly enough to tackle the stagnating engagement that affected almost every American company.

Why on-the-job training is the most promising alternative

An extensive report by LinkedIn revealed that 94% of employees would stay with a company if they were more invested in their learning. This is a massive boost to retention rates but also shows that employees value their continued development. CPD is certainly one of the biggest factors when it comes to building employee loyalty and helping them acclimate to their new roles and responsibilities, but how does it differ from off-the-job training that is currently being used?

Disadvantages of off-the-job training

Off-the-job training usually involves employees taking time off work in order to study and learn new skills. They’ll typically attend a classroom that is outside of the office, or they might study at home with the help of eLearning courses. This is generally considered a hands-off approach because the education is handled by a third-party, meaning the company itself doesn’t have to do anything outside of paying the course fee for employees.

Unfortunately, this disrupts workflows and means that the company must work understaffed for a period of time. This limits the number of employees that can be trained and could increase the costs of education.

The on-the-job approach

At first, one could assume that on-the-job training involves taking eLearning courses at work, using a coaching app, or attending lessons that are taught inside of the office instead. While this is one example of on-the-job training, there are actually many more ways to utilize your existing staff members, services, and equipment to train employees on-the-job.

Here are some examples of on-the-job training that can seamlessly integrate with a new employee’s workflow:

  • Partnering new employees with an experienced team member to shadow them and learn from their daily tasks and responsibilities.

  • Assigning mentors to staff members

  • Rotating responsibilities between team members to ensure every member of staff understands the entire work process and how teamwork fits in.

  • Internship training for college students to help them acclimate to different roles within the workplace.

These are just some examples of on-the-job training that are considered continuing professional development time (CPD time) and can form an active arm of a wider employee coaching initiative. These examples enable an employee to work, perform tasks, and generally be productive as they grow used to their tasks. They’re given an environment that lets them learn new skills while still contributing to the company.

Tracking CPD time

Keeping track of CPD time is important because it helps to optimize the processes that you use to educate new employees as they work.

Start by recognizing when CPD is happening.

The first hurdle to overcome is understanding when CPD is actually happening in the workplace. This allows you to optimize various CPD processes, but it also helps businesses plan ahead so they can dedicate resources to on-the-job training. Since much of the training will be handled by existing employees in senior roles or experienced positions, it’s important to account for the time they will spend educating other employees and being away from their typical position.

CPD should be scheduled and included in an employee’s regular workday. This is because they are still being productive even if they are working at a reduced capacity, but they’re also learning new skills (or in the case of the educator, sharing their experiences and knowledge) that are going to be valuable in the near future for the entire business.

In addition, formal lessons held by outsourced educators and senior employees can still be effective despite not being considered on-the-job learning. This kind of dedicated learning process is still effective, especially during business downtime when there are no active projects going on, or if a company decides to dedicate certain days of the month to education and recapping skills.

Making learning practical

It’s time to change the way that businesses look at educating their employees. We should no longer be isolating employees when they are required to study new skills and gain more experience. Instead, we should make active use of the workplace environment to teach practical skills. However, these processes need to be intentional with dedicated resource planning and scheduling to ensure maximum efficiency and to optimize the workplace. CPD time is going to be huge consideration for businesses moving forward, and it’s important to start recognizing and tracking when it can occur during the ordinary workday as well as within formally organized training.

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