Hands-On Training: A Simple and Effective Method for on the Job Training

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On-the-Job Training (OJT) is the single most used training method in organizations today. But it is also the most misused-because very few of those doing OJT are ever trained how to do it. In Hands-On Training Gary Sisson draws on his thirty-five years of experience to lay out a simple, systematic approach to OJT that can be understood and applied by anyone in any organization-- managers, line or staff supervisors, employees and both internal and external human resource and training professionals.

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1 Traditional On-the-Job Training: Popular but Obsolete

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If you are reading this you are probably already an on-the-job training (OJT) instructor or preparing to become one. This being the case, you are participating in one of the most powerful processes on earth— that of passing on your own knowledge and skill to others.

Your challenge may be to train new workers in “the basics,” or it may be to train experienced employees in new skills. You may be facing the start-up of a new facility or the launch of a new product or service. You might be assigned to help your organization deal with a changing technology or the implementation of improvements to a job. Your challenge could even be “all of the above.”

Regardless of the circumstances, training is an important responsibility that sometimes can be as painful as it is rewarding. But the reasons for reading this book are to minimize the pain, to gain insight into the process of on-the-job training, and to learn from the experience of others who use training to unleash the power of people. On-the-job training is the single most used (and misused) of all approaches to training. It happens whenever an experienced person shows an inexperienced person how to do a job. Sound familiar? It should because just about everyone who has ever held a job has been exposed to on-the-job training in one form or another.2

 

2 Improving Results with Hands-On Training

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Tim Horton was having a tough time on his new job. He knew it, his boss knew it, and so did everyone else. It wasn’t as if he didn’t try, but the computer system was complex, and there were a lot of applications to learn. Tim spent a week in formal training and had done well. Once he got on the job, however, he couldn’t keep up with the workload. Two of Tim’s coworkers had tried to help, but it didn’t work. Tim just wasn’t catching on.

Tim’s boss, Shauna Davis, was feeling the pressure to replace Tim with someone who could get the job done. But Shauna was reluctant to bring in yet another new person while there was still a chance that Tim might improve. “Maybe it isn’t Tim’s fault. Maybe he isn’t getting the right kind of help. After all, there is a difference between the classroom and the job,” she thought.12

Shauna decided to have Tim work with Linda Hart, who was one of the very best people in their department. Linda was the semi-official department trainer and had been to a class on how to conduct Hands-On Training. But Linda was very busy. If she was going to help Tim, it would have to happen fast—three or four days at the most. They couldn’t afford more than that.

 

3 Adapting the Method to Fit Your Situation

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Don’t kid yourself. Hands-On Training may follow a formula, but it’s not a rigid system. Each time the method is applied, it is being used by people. Their personalities, their situations, and their personal preferences shape just about everything that happens. There are choices to be made, pitfalls to avoid, and opportunities for creativity throughout the process. Perhaps a story may help to illustrate this point.

Recently I was invited to assist a company in the southeastern United States. It was a heavy industrial factory that produced steel wire. Those not familiar with wire manufacturing might find it helpful to know something about the process. Wire manufacturing (called “wire drawing”) is part science and part art. To form the wire, a coil of steel rod as thick as your thumb is pulled and stretched (i.e., drawn) through a series of smaller and smaller holes (called “dies”) by powerful motor-driven pulleys (called “capstans”) until it is drawn down to the correct size. The process is fast, hot, noisy, dirty, and relatively dangerous. You can burn yourself, break an arm, get a cut. Accidents can happen in an instant. Wire drawing is hard work, but it is also work that takes a good deal of thought. A considerable amount of technical troubleshooting is required, so job experience is a valuable commodity within the wire industry.40

 

4 Tools to Enhance Hands-On Training

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Several tools or techniques are commonly used by instructors within the context of Hands-On Training. Some of these govern the instructor’s basic approach to HOT and may not be obvious to trainees. Others are more procedural in nature and help the instructor carry out certain tasks during the training. As with the HOT POPPER method itself, most of the tools explained here are simple and straightforward. They don’t require a lot of complicated reasoning. Most people can readily understand them and use them to increase the effectiveness of training.

The more difficult question is when to use these tools, not how to use them. In a few cases the answer is obvious. For example, one of the tools (Daily Routine) describes a simple pattern to follow if your training lasts several days. When do you use it? Every day. But others, such as Question-and-Answer sessions and Self-Critiques must be initiated by the instructor on the spot—when called for by the situation. This means that the instructor must have these tools available (i.e., know them), recognize when it is time to pull one out of the tool kit, and then apply it to the situation at hand. Master instructors do this instinctively. New instructors usually have to think about it.48

 

5 Evolution, Revolution, and Execution: Opportunities for Hands-On Training

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It’s easy to pay lip service to a concept like Hands-On Training. After all, training has been going on since the dawn of humankind. In addition, HOT does not involve complicated theories—it’s not rocket science. If you’ve read this far you already know the concept. You can already “talk the talk.” In fact, it is entirely possible that you can talk about Hands-On Training like an expert. The question is, “How are you going to use it?”

Every HOT instructor must answer this question in his or her own way, but maybe a little nudge might help. Let us begin by thinking about the opportunities to use Hands-On Training. Actually, three very common situations may call for the application of HOT: evolution, revolution, and execution.58

If you think in terms of these three situations, you’ll see that the opportunities for using Hands-On Training are countless. They surround you every day. All you have to do is choose. Some of the opportunities are obvious and important while others are more subtle, but every application of Hands-On Training is a “reach out and touch someone” situation. Instructors who decide to apply the principles in this book quickly discover that Hands-On Training is more than just an effective method. It is also a process by which people’s lives can be changed for the better. What looks like a cold, step-by-step procedure in the book is warm and flexible human interaction in the world.

 

6 Hands-On Training Instuctior Guide

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An instructor guide is a step-by-step “recipe” for instructors to follow when conducting training. Some instructors use different names, such as lesson plan, training plan, facilitator’s guide, and so on, but they all refer to the same thing: a document that describes how to do the training. This chapter includes four instructor guides for Hands-On Training. These follow the Four-Phase Sequence described in chapter 4, but they go into a lot more detail.

Because this book may be used by instructors from many different organizations, such as factories, offices, retail stores, hospitals, and others, the instructor guides included here are generic. That is, they are written to be flexible and adaptable to your own situation. They are specific about how to do the training, but they only make suggestions about what topics to cover. For example, the equipment used in a bank may differ greatly from that used in a pharmacy or a photo lab. Yet our generic instructor guide for equipment must cover all of these situations and many more, as well. For that reason, you may want to go through each guide and adapt it to your own job. Also, some instructors like to have their instructor guides set up as a form. Many different alternatives are available, and you should feel free to choose the one you like best.72

 

7 Making Hands-On Traning Work

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It is one matter to start using Hands-On Training in place of traditional on-the-job training and another to keep it going. Unfortunate though it may be, the U.S. business community has a long history of embracing and quickly discarding new programs. A “been there, done that” mentality is firmly implanted in the minds of both managers and workers. This being the case, it is no wonder that many, perhaps even most, new programs are greeted with passive resistance from those who remain convinced that if they can just wait it out, “This, too, shall pass!” Hands-On Training is no exception.

To help you overcome this resistance, we looked at organizations that are committed to making Hands-On Training work to find out what characteristics they share. Most of these fall into the “lessons learned” category. As with just about everything having to do with HOT, the following suggestions, derived from these lessons, are simple and straightforward.90

This is probably the single most important piece of advice we can offer about using Hands-On Training on a long-term basis. Most of the other suggestions are intended to support the notion that HOT should belong to the workers themselves. It should not be regarded as a “management program.” In fact, HOT shouldn’t be regarded as a program at all. Rather, HOT should become an integral part of “the way we do things here.”

 

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