Business English training: on-the-job training (for the job)

On-the-job (OTJ) training has been a cornerstone in our approach to in-house Business English training since our first InCorporate Trainers started their jobs (one of them was Scott Levey). When we explain the concept of on-the-job training to potential clients, they “understand” what we’re saying … BUT …they don’t really “get” how effective and beneficial on-the-job training is until they have seen it in action. This post aims to explain what it is, how it works, and how participants benefit, using some non-specific examples of on-the-job training.

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The benefits of on-the-job training

OTJ training is highly effective because the training takes place alongside and as part of your daily work. The trainer uses your work situations (your emails, your virtual meetings, your plant tours) as the basis for your learning. On-the-job training takes place at work, while you are working. This brings two huge benefits.

  1. You maximize your time because you are benefiting from training while you are working.
  2. You can directly transfer what you learn to your job. Your training is completely based on a real and concrete task. Everything you learn is relevant.

If you are familiar with the 70-20-10 model, you’ll know that 70% of learning comes through “doing” and from “experience”. Learning while you work is highly effective and this is the heart of on-the-job training.

“I helped Hans to de-escalate a situation in Supply Chain Management. Hans felt that the American party was wound-up and overly difficult. Hans brainstormed phrases with my help and he wrote a draft email. I helped him improve the structure and tone of the email and suggested he rewrote some of his sentences in plain English. A few hours later, the American party positively replied and the whole thing was solved by the time Hans went home.”

What exactly is on-the-job training and how does it work?

With on-the-job training, the trainer is there when you need assistance in preparing emails, specifications, manuals, reports, slides and other documentation. The trainer can support you in the planning, writing and reviewing stage. The trainer is also available to you for preparing meetings, phone calls, web meetings, teleconferences, presentations and negotiations.  They can then shadow you in action and provide personalized and situationally-based feedback.

On-the-job training focuses on your priorities at work and on you improving your business English in those areas. It can be

  • reactive where you ask the trainer for help “Can you help me improve these slides?”
  • proactive where the trainer encourages you to share work you have done/are doing in English “I heard you are involved in writing the R-Spec for the new project. How can I support you?”

“One of my participants, a product manager, had to deliver two presentations in English. It was basically the same presentation, but for two different audiences.  Observing her in our first practice session, I made a note of language points to work on. We worked on these, and a few other things (key messages, adapting messages to different audiences, Q&A session) over the next week. She delivered the presentations to me again, already with much more confidence and fluency – and then she practised with a few colleagues in a weekly group session and benefitted from both their positive feedback and the confidence boost.  Finally, I watched her deliver from the back and she did great.  After the presentations we debriefed and I shared my feedback (what went really well, what would she like to focus more on next time etc) . She was too critical of her performance and I helped her to be realistic about what she needs to focus on.”

What on-the-job training isn’t

What the trainer does not do is write the email/document for you (where’s the learning in that?). One common misconception is that on-the-job trainers are translators or proof readers. They’re not, in the same way that translators and proof readers aren’t trainers. Collaborative proof reading and translation can be an option, but the ownership needs to stay with the learner.

Another misconception is that on-the-job training is traditional “classroom training” during work time. The trainer will certainly use the “insider” view and what they have seen on-the-job to tailor traditional “off the job” training. This means your group training, coaching, 1-1 training, and seminars are closer to your workplace and that the transfer of learning is smoother.  But “on the job” training is learning while actually doing. There’s a good example of how this looks in action in an R&D department here.

“Three of my participants had written a 300-page instruction manual and they came to me with the request to help them improve it. Nobody in their department understood it enough to successfully use the system that it was meant to explain. I told them I would read it. Oh boy. We worked on writing with the reader in mind, structuring documents to make them scannable and writing in plain English. Visuals replaced paragraphs and we even created a few video tutorials too.  Four weeks later, they produced a second manual. Over one hundred pages lighter, it was clear, comprehensive, mistake free, and written in a style that everyone could understand, even me. As a result, the system that was supposed to make everyone’s job easier made everyone’s job easier.”

Bringing on-the-job training to life

We sign confidentiality agreements with our clients. Even when we don’t, we wouldn’t use their actual documentation online, so these examples are non-specific and Hans is not really called Hans … she’s called XXXX.

If you would like to know more about the benefits of this approach, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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