Maximising on-the-job training: challenges & strategies

Maximising on-the-job training: challenges & strategies
JobStreet content teamupdated on 16 August, 2023

The rate of emerging graduates is rapidly increasing, making the job market extremely competitive. The skills you worked so hard to get may not even be relevant tomorrow. IBM’s research indicates that skills, in general, have a half-life of about 5 years. While technical skills become obsolete even faster, in 2.5 years.

Organisations understand this as much as you do. They are therefore investing in on-the-job training. It is unlike off-the-job training, which happens through classroom learning. Training on the job is all about hands-on experience. It is more of a practical approach that happens on the job and doesn’t need specific training rooms.

Definition of on-the-job training

On-the-job training (OJT) is an employee training method used at workplaces. Guided by the principle of ‘learning while doing’ OJT involves learning skills on the job. Unlike off-the-job training, it usually involves getting hands-on training from an experienced employee. Mentoring sessions, shadowing your colleagues, and attending one-on-one meetings are some ways you learn on the job.

The importance of on-the-job training

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report reveals that more than half of all global employees will need upskilling by the year 2025. This makes the need to impart on-the-job training all the more necessary for organizations to keep up with the evolution of global jobs.

By imparting on-the-job training, organisations fill skill gaps and nurture promising talents. This makes you an indispensable asset. Moreover, learning on the job helps you upskill and reskill to future-proof your career. OJT enables:

  • higher job satisfaction
  • hands-on experience
  • improved productivity
  • adaptability to the ever-evolving industry

What employees should expect from training on the job?

The OJT training program is a powerful development tool. It focuses on teaching skills and imparting the knowledge needed to perform your tasks better.

The first thing you can expect from this training method is to observe and absorb the company culture. The training process also involves exposure to basic technical skills. There will be training sessions for improving soft skills and developing digital skills as well.

Advantages of On-the-Job Training for Employees

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Some on-the-job training benefits include:

Higher job satisfaction

PwC's 2022 Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey shows that 66% of Malaysian employees say job fulfilment is extremely important when considering changing their work environment. Job satisfaction is a result of many things, including workplace training. Training refines your skill set and improves your job performance, instilling motivation to perform. This invariably boosts your earning potential and job satisfaction.

Helps employees acquire new skills

On-the-job training is the most effective way to acquire new skills. Training programs usually coach you on specific skills you need on the job. Areas many employers focus on are:

  • technical skills
  • soft skills
  • digital literacy
  • compliance training
  • diversity and inclusion awareness

These skills are imparted through real-time activities, knowledge application, and hands-on experience.

Career advancement opportunities

Besides gaining crucial skills, learning on the job also leads to career advancement. You can prove your commitment to continuous learning as you work on your soft and hard skills.

A report shows that 94% of recruiting professionals believe stronger soft skills give an employee a better chance of being promoted to leadership roles. These candidates are always ahead of those with more experience and poor soft skills.

You can download this free development planner to prepare for your next promotion.

Types of on-the-job training

You can learn company policies from lengthy PDFs or slideshow presentations. But imagine reading PDFs to learn soft skills—won’t you doze off? Certain skills need certain training methods. Methods that help you stay motivated and engaged throughout the process are:

Coaching and mentoring

Coaching refers to the training provided by an immediate manager to an employee. While mentoring is the counselling process where a senior employee pair with new employees to guide them through work procedures and professional norms.

Coaching and mentoring sessions give the new employee someone to turn to when they are struggling or need some advice.

Job shadowing

Job shadowing is a training method where new employees follow and observe an experienced employee. Hands-on shadowing is a practical approach. Not only do you retain information better, but you can also apply the acquired skills in real time.


Cross-training is when you learn skills from experienced employees in other departments. When you stick to the same set of tasks, most of the improvement you can expect will be incremental.

But with cross-training, you are exposed to other processes and a more comprehensive network, thus expanding your horizons, and making you an integral part of the team.


Being an apprentice is different from shadowing. As an apprentice, you're no longer observing but performing the tasks. Through this hands-on method, you gain the professional skills you need in the real world.

Simulations and role-playing

Simulation is the creation of true-to-life learning experiences that replicate real job scenarios. You can access it on desktops, mobile phones, or virtual reality devices. Role-playing allows you to act out real-life job scenarios. Both of these training methods give you the opportunity to:

  • experience real-life situations you can encounter in the workplace
  • apply and practice skills in a simulated and safe environment
  • receive real-time feedback based on observations of your reactions and responses

The Onboarding Process

A man guiding a woman through an onboarding process, both focused and engaged in the learning experience

Onboarding is the process of introducing new employees to the organization. You learn about its vision and mission, departments, values and culture, employees, and processes. Employers also introduce necessary tools, resources, and information.

The importance of the onboarding process

Onboarding ensures you seamlessly blend into the new environment. Your employer wants you to settle well into your new role. This paves the way for a long and successful relationship with the organization. Research shows that a positive onboarding experience is likely to make 69% of employees stay at the company for at least three years.

Steps and things to expect in the onboarding process

Some things you can expect during your onboarding process are:

  • First up, there's usually an orientation session. Employers introduce company policies, work procedures, and company culture at this point
  • Then comes some paperwork. You have to fill out forms for taxes and other administrative tasks
  • You can receive a tour of your work area. Familiarise yourself with your new environment
  • You can look forward to regular check-ins with your manager. These touch points ensure you have everything you need to succeed.

Onboarding may end after your first day or week, but you continue to learn the necessary skills on the job. This greatly aids in improving accuracy and efficiency as you get used to your new role.

Common onboarding mistakes to avoid

Onboarding can be a great chance to leave your new team with good first impressions of you. But with all your new responsibilities and tasks, it's understandable how your first few days, weeks, or even months can be daunting. Start on the right foot by avoiding these common mistakes :

Not asking questions

Asking questions is one of the most important things you can do during the initial job training program. It demonstrates that you're interested in learning and ensuring you do things right. It's best to get help from the right people rather than make a mistake that may be irreversible.

Isolating from colleagues

Understandably, some people can be shy at first. If you're one of them, remember that it's okay to say hi when you first meet existing employees. On your next work day, you can try to find a co-worker to have lunch with, some teammates may even ask you first. If they engage with you first, don't hesitate to respond.

Not setting boundaries

Set boundaries if there are topics you're unwilling to discuss. Do the same for activities you’re not comfortable being part of in the workplace. It may be hard at first, but this properly sets their expectations for how far your conversations can go. Setting boundaries allows you to maintain a harmonious working relationship with co-workers.


As we've previously mentioned, this is your chance to leave a great first impression. And being late is a big NO. Arriving at work early can give you extra time to prepare for the day ahead.

Not taking notes

A new role also means new experiences. You will likely encounter tasks or situations that are challenging and even unusual. Keep a pen and paper handy, or use a note-taking app to jot down details of this experience. If you encounter it in the future, you'll know how to handle it.

Read more tips on How to Prepare for a New Job: 7 Helpful Tips for Newbies at Work !

Characteristics of Effective On-the-Job Training

A man and a woman standing side by side, both wearing joyful smiles

Your success is a win-win for both you and the organisation. Hence, your employer aims to deliver an effective job training program. Some characteristics include:

Clear learning objectives

Setting clear objectives helps you understand what your employer expects from you. Having targets can give you a clearer view of the actions you need to take to hit the team's goals.

Active employee participation

Passive learning involves absorbing and retaining information. In contrast, active learning encourages you to process and use that information effectively. It also empowers you to use that knowledge in a real-life work scenario.

Regular feedback and evaluation

Regular feedback is essential because timely check-ins show your progress and what you need to continue working on. Your colleagues, trainers, or anyone else involved can provide you with feedback.

Practical and relevant training

Because this type of learning is customisable, your employer can keep updating it. Regular updates ensure you learn relevant skills. Deciding the training period, teaching styles, and qualified trainers are also necessary for an effective on-the-job training program.

Common Challenges with OJT Training Methods

As with any training method, on-the-job training also poses some challenges, such as:

  • Time constraints: organisations must be strategic in balancing training and meeting deadlines
  • Lack of resources: implementation of training can require resources that may need outsourcing
  • Difficulty in transferring knowledge: they may hire external trainers to teach employees, but they may not do a good job
  • Ineffective communication: information is not always communicated effectively between trainers and trainees. This can result in confusion and missed opportunities for learners

How to Maximise the Benefits of On-the-Job Training?

It takes both employer and employee commitment for an on-the-job training program to be effective. Here are some things to do to get the most out of it:

  • Develop a growth mindset by focusing on the learning process instead of the outcome
  • Practice effective communication with trainers so they are aware of where you may need extra help
  • Ask the right questions and seek feedback to stay on top of your progress and make changes to your working style
  • Take ownership of your learning by setting goals and taking action while utilising the resources available to you

The Role of Managers and Trainers in On-the-Job Training

Here are some tips managers and trainers can use to drive a successful training program:

Creating a positive learning environment

Your surroundings heavily impact your drive to learn and improve. A positive learning environment that involves interaction and engagement can help improve your learning experience.

Providing constructive feedback

Dr. Erik Jentges says, "Giving feedback that is accurate, honest, and supportive is a powerful way to enable others to perform at their best."  Fair, honest evaluations can support employees' personal development. Feedback equips you with the tools needed for future success.

Encouraging continued learning and development

Managers work with you and know your strengths and weaknesses. This enables them to define the objectives and methods of a training program better. They can also encourage continuous learning by offering learning opportunities such as:

  • mentorship programmes
  • online courses
  • workshops
  • conferences

The Future of On-the-Job Training

In 2023, automation and rapid technological advancements will make many jobs obsolete while creating new ones at the same time. On-the-job training, therefore, becomes crucial.

The rise of digital and remote on-the-job training

The rise of remote work paved the way for more companies to employ digital on-the-job training by developing technologically advanced programs. These improvements are making employees more adaptable and participatory. They also simplify the evaluation of learning progress and program effectiveness.

The use of augmented and virtual reality in on-the-job training

Companies have introduced augmented and virtual reality training programs to avoid webinar fatigue. Augmented reality (AR) overlays digital objects in the real world and can be used to simulate situations that may occur in the workplace. Augmented reality also boosts employee participation and safety awareness resulting in reduced training costs and shortened learning curves.

On the contrary, virtual reality is a computer-generated simulation of an immersive environment. Its benefits include employees gaining higher job satisfaction, test scores, and knowledge retention.

How on-the-job training will continue to evolve

Due to technology's role in future-proofing the workforce, you can expect on-the-job training to continue evolving. Technological advancements are leading to innovative learning and development at work. It will continue adapting cutting-edge technologies so trainees learn faster and better.

Wrapping up

On-the-job training is essential in today's fast-paced working environment. When implemented correctly, it can significantly benefit both employers and employees.

Establishing clear learning objectives that are practical and relevant will ensure adequate training. Additionally, developing a growth mindset is important. Seeking regular feedback and evaluation will maximise the benefits of on-the-job training.

Let us help you #SEEKBetter jobs with the best on-the-job training. Create or update your JobStreet profile now! For tips on job searching and self-improvement, check out our Career Advice page.

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  1. What is on-the-job training?
    ⁠On-the-job training is a form of instruction that takes place at the workplace. It involves of gaining skills and knowledge through hands-on learning. On the contrary, off-the-job training involves classroom learning.
  2. What are the benefits of on-the-job training for employees?
    ⁠On-the-job training offers many advantages. These benefits include improved productivity, job satisfaction, and the development of new skills. Skill expertise may lead to career advancement and better opportunities.
  3. What is the onboarding process?
    ⁠Onboarding is the process of introducing new employees to the organization. They understand its vision and mission, processes, departments, values and culture. They also meet their co-workers. Moreover, they learn about the tools, resources, and information.
  4. What are the different types of on-the-job training?
    ⁠Some common types are:
    ⁠- coaching
    ⁠- mentoring
    ⁠- shadowing old employees
    ⁠- cross-training
    ⁠- apprenticeships
    ⁠- simulations and role-playing

    ⁠Note that on-the-job training is continuously evolving. As technology advances, organisations are getting more creative with their programs.

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