Types and importance of on the job training

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In this chapter, different authors' view from different sources will be analyzed with relation to On-the-Job Training.2.0 Introduction

According to Peter Drucker (1999) 'the most valuable asset of a 21st-century institution, whether business or non-business, will be its knowledge workers and their productivity' and he further considered the human resource as being the lifeblood of any successful organization which as a result becomes of prime importance that such asset is cared and well managed. One way through which this can be done is training. Training of employees is an important factor if the organization wants to, obviously, achieves its objectives in an effective and efficient manner.

Training is defined by Armstrong (2001) as a formal and systematic adjustation of behavior through learning which occurs as a result of education, instruction, and development and planned experience. On his side, Noe (2002) view training as a planned effort by a company to facilitate employees' learning of job related competencies. Moreover, Bentley (1990, p.25) stated that the role of training may be seen as 'ensuring that the organization has the people with the correct mix of attributes, through providing appropriate learning opportunities and motivating people to learn, and thus enabling them to perform to the highest level of quality and service.'

Lanciono et al. (2004) highlighted the fact that call centre Managers are concerned about the continuous improvement of employees' skill, since the products, technologies, and services that they handle are changing at a rapid pace and as a result call centres are often forced to provide employees who service and sell their product with formal training and opportunities to upgrade their knowledge and skills.

2.1 The effectiveness of training

Effective training program helps organization to achieve their objectives. Drummond (1989) put forward the general objectives of training activities as being; orienting new employees to the organization and their job, helping employees perform their current jobs well, keeping employees informed of changes within the organization, and providing opportunities for personal development.

Sales and Cannon (2001) pointed out that both theory and practice have improved dramatically trainings' effectiveness. Kirckpatrict (1996) further affirmed that effectiveness is a concept that consists of four levels: satisfaction, learning results, job behavior and organizational benefits. The effectiveness of training is not only caused by training characteristics but is also influenced by the trainee's characteristics and organization's characteristics. The influence of the supervisor (and sometimes the influence of colleagues) on the effectiveness of training was evident in the work of Brinkerhoft and Montesino et al. (1995).

Furthermore, Tracey et al. (2001) asserted that for any training program to be considered as effective, trainees have to learn the training content and then apply such learning in the workplace; thus any training program can be conceptualized as being composed of training acquisition and transfer of training.

Walter (1998) further alleged that an effective and efficient on-the-job training program is vital for the development of highly skilled employees needed for business success. Jacobs (2003) lay emphasis that training is more effective when trainees possess the pre requisite knowledge, skills and readiness, including technical background, comfort with the use of tools and equipment, literacy, and previous work experience.

Effective training is vital to most call centres.

2.2 Types of training

With reference to Dessler (2000) and Treven and Mulej (2000), the most popular training methods used by organizations can be categorized by either:

Off - the - job training, or,

On - the - job training.

Off the job training

Off - the - job training is defined by Rothwell and Kazanas (1994) as any type of training that is not performed on the job, that is, training which take place in a classroom and which is designed to train groups of trainees rather than individual. Besides, Lewis and Trevitt (1994) reported that off - the - job training offers learning opportunity through attendance at training fora away from the job or workplace.

There are several types of off - the - job training and De Cenzo and Robbins (1996) summarized them as follows:




Classroom lectures

Lectures design to communicate specific interpersonal, technical or problem solving skills.


Video and films

Using various media productions to demonstrate specialized skills that are not easily presented by other training methods.


Simulation Exercise

Training that occurs by actually performing the work ; it may include case analysis, experiential exercise, role playing, or group decision making.


Computer base training

Simulating the work environment by programming a computer to some of the realities of the job.


Vestibule training

Training on actual equipments used on the job, but conducted away from the actual work setting.


Programmed Instruction

Condensing training materials into highly organized, logical sequences.

However, Jacobs (2003) pointed out that off the job training often do not have the desired relevance.

According to Smith and Smith (2008), in the Australian call centres, the Customer Service Representatives (CSR) undergo an initial off-the-job period of induction which covers the product knowledge required but focuses primarily on telephone techniques. During this session, the CSRs will typically role play telephone calls and listen in to live calls being taken by CSRs in the call centre.

2.3 Definition of On-the-job training (OJT)

Smith and Smith (2008) further elaborated that after the induction, the CSRs are placed out into the call centre usually with working with an experienced agent thus by gradually learning how to perform, or is being placed in a configured training teams that will not be subject to the same performance as live teams although the trainee will be working with actual customers. On the job training was claimed to be 'the most common, the most widely accepted and the most necessary method of training employees in the skills essential for acceptance performance.' (Tracey 1971, p.30, reported by S. Jones 1988, p.11). Levine (1997) simply stated that OJT is about 'two people working closely together so that one person can learn from the other.'

On his side, Campbell (1990) seen on the job training as the same as in an employee's normal work situation, as being designed to change the knowledge, attitude and behavioral patterns directly appropriate to the performance of a given task or job.

In addition, Siele (1988) considered on the job training as an informal type of training given to employees at the work place, where the trainer plays the role of the immediate supervisor of the employees and its purpose is to improve the employee's working skills, efficiency and productivity. Siele (1988) emphasized that on the job training supplements all other forms of training with the additional advantage of being provided to more people in any given year than it is possible at training institutions.

According to Jacobs and jones (1995) and Rothwell and Kazanas (1994), OJT refers to a form of training that occurs at the workplace during the performance of a job rather than in a classroom setting. In addition, Jacobs and Jones (1995) and Rothwell and Kazanas (1994) asserted that this form of training is the most widely used method of delivering training for a novice employee by an experienced employee today and is one of the most important components of learning in the work place.

Types of on the job training

According to Jacobs (2003), OJT as a form of individualized training, can be designed and delivered using two basic approaches:

Unstructured OJT

Structured OJT

According to various authors, the unstructured OJT is used frequently in most organizations whereas the structured OJT is the most recent application of OJT (Hamilton and Hamilton, 1997; Lawson, 1997; Levine, 1997; Filipczak, 1996; Rothwell and Kazanas, 1994)

Unstructured On-the-job training

Rothwell (1997) formulated a definition for unstructured OJT as an approach in which learners are thrown into the work and the training is based on daily work requirement rather than the learner/worker needs. Jacobs and Jones (1995) indicated that unstructured OJT occurs when trainees acquire job knowledge and skills from impromptu explanations or demonstrations but others, trial and error efforts, self-motivated reading, or simply by imitating the behavior of others. In addition, Rothwell and Kazanas (1994) acknowledged the fact that unstructured OJT are OJT that is not planned or logically organized; training and learning takes place by trainees performing the work or by watching others performing.

However, unstructured OJT is accompanied by loads of criticism. Levine (1997) argued that, as an unstructured system, no criteria are established for the quality of training, nor are records of the training maintained. Along with, Filipczak (1993, p.30) added that unstructured OJT "…does not enforce common work standard. It does not ensure the trainee will perform the way the trainer says they should be done. It allows the trainee to pick up the trainer's bad habits along with his good ones." Filipczak (1993) reported that Martin Broadwell confirms that about ninety five percent of OJT is done so poorly that the job is negatively affected. Equally, several studies conducted by Jacobs and Jones (1995) conformed that unstructured OJT leads to increased error rates, lower productivity and decreased training efficiency.

On the whole, just as OJT experts (Hamilton and Hamilton et al., 1997) confirm that most of the OJT that takes place in businesses is unstructured, they agree that unstructured OJT is the least beneficial and least effective type of training. Johnson and Leach (2001) also supported the above statement viewing unstructured OJT as being often ineffective and inefficient as compared with structured OJT.

Structured On-the-Job Training

According to Stolovitch and Ngoa - Nguele (2001), structured OJT differs from unstructured OJT in that a systematic planning process is used to design and carry out the training. Lawson (1997) defined structured OJT as a training which is planned and well organized and a one on one program designed to provide the employee with the relevant knowledge and skills required to perform tasks entailed in the employee's job. Furthermore, Jacobs (2003) viewed structured OJT as a planned process of developing competence on units of work by having an experienced employee train a novice employee at the work setting or a location that closed resembles the work setting. Moreover, Baron (1997), acknowledged the fact that structured OJT provides the delivery of training in an organized, sequential manner, with the aim of becoming as efficient as possible. Also Chase (1997) contends the fact that structured OJT is inexpensive, quickly developed, takes place at the work site, and focuses on task that are directly related to the job.

Equally important, Walter (1996) added that structured OJT can increased quality of training, employee morale, and communication as well as decision making along with employees who are trained in new skills very quickly. Empirically, researchers have demonstrated that structured OJT has helped in making valuable contributions in terms of an increased in productivity of an organization. (Bennett and Calvin, 2002; Jacobs and Osman Gani, 1999; Stolovitch and Ngoa - Ngule 2001)

Jacobs and Jones (1995) stated that structured OJT has the following main points:

A planned process, structured OJT requires an investment of time and effort before it can be used. As a result, trainees should be able to learn the appropriate content and achieve the desired training objectives.

Structured OJT focuses on the task level of jobs and does not involve an entire job but rather just a small part of it.

Structured OJT should be delivered by an experienced employee with the qualifications to become a trainer, thus not every employee can necessarily become a trainer.

Structured OJT usually occurs at the job setting, although in some instances. It may occur near the job setting.

Many authors among which feature Jacobs (1999), Jacobs and Jones (1992), Jacobs and Gani (1998), Rothwell and Kazanas (1990), and Scribner and Sachs (1990) have detailed the benefits of structured OJT and these benefits include reduced overall learning time, reduced overall training costs, greater flexibility to the needs of the individual worker, positive relationship building between novices and experienced workers/ superiors, higher transfer rates than those cited for classroom and other formal training, and perhaps most importantly, heightened new-worker confidence.

There are, generally, two distinct features of structured OJT compared with classroom training:

Firstly, DeSimone and Harris (1998) claimed that a trainee has an immediate opportunity to use and practice what he or she has learned on the job and therefore a trainer can achieve learning objectives more efficiently.

Secondly, Jacobs (2003) affirmed that the transfer of learning is enhanced in structured OJT environment, especially in the match between the training setting and work setting; because the learning environment is the same as the work environment in structured OJT, a trainee is able to use the same equipments and tools that he or she is meant to use to perform his or her actual work.

­­Other studies (Jacobs 1996) have demonstrated the effectiveness and efficiency of using structured OJT compared with mainly off the job training and unstructured OJT in terms of financial benefits, high satisfaction rating, and fewer quality errors. In complement to, Burkett (2002) showed that employees who learn tasks through structured OJT make fewer quality errors. Moreover, Lawson (1997) put forward that structured OJT is based on adult learning theories and on how and why people learn. Below is a brief overview about what is adult learning about:

Adult learning

Malcolm Knowles (1978, 1990) was the theorist who first brought the concept of adult learning to a prominent position. Knowles (1990) contends that adults need to control their learning, as well as feel that what they learn has immediate utility, and is focused on issues that directly concern them; adults need to anticipate how they will use their learning, and to expect performance improvement to result from their learning. Knowles's (1998) work was among the most guiding one with its six principles of adult learning being summarized as follows:

Need to know - adults need to know why they should learn something, that is why they need to learn something and how it will benefit them.

Self concept - adults fight against others imposing their will on them, but having been conditioned through the national school system of a dependent learner, they need to be moved into a self directed learner where they are responsible for their own learning and the direction it takes.

Role of experience - adult's experience should be used in their new learning and the technique should include ways to include the adult's knowledge as a tool that they can draw upon and also provide engagement by acknowledging them for their experience.

Readiness to learn - adults seek out learning as a way to better cope with real life task and problems.

Orientation to learn - the new learning should clearly define how the new learning will apply to their life in some fashion.

Motivation to learn - internal motivators are important than the external motivators that adults may receive for more learning. These internal motivators can come in the form of increased job satisfaction, self esteem and quality of life.

In similar vein, Birkenholz (1999) asserted that adults with more education have a stronger tendency to participate in adult educational activities rather than those who have less education since as people expand their knowledge base, they also increase awareness of what they do not know.

The following table summarizes important characteristics of adult learners and the implications to call center training programs:

Adult learners:Implications to call center training programs:

Want practical application

Develop task-centered and problem-centered training programs.

Want their real-life experiences to be recognized and valued

Use the learner's experiences and examples; develop interactive sessions.

Are continuous learners and prefer to manage their own learning efforts

Involve learners in development and evaluation of the program; encourage self-discovery and action planning.

Have varied learning styles

Use multimedia, varied methods of delivery, accelerated training methods.

Need to know why they are learning

Inform learner of the "why" behind the training before it begins

Are motivated most by internal pressures (themselves)

Help learners understand the benefits of training to job satisfaction, self-esteem and quality of life.

Source: "What Every Trainer Needs to Know About How Agents Learn" by Laurie Solomon, published in Call Center Management Review , June 1999.

Structured OJT typologies

Generally there are four commonly used types of OJT among which features:

Job instruction training



Job rotation

Job Instruction Training (JIT)

The JIT consists of four steps which were developed by Allen (1919) to train shipbuilders during World War I (Sleight, 1993). Rothwell and Kazanas (1994) outlined the four steps in the JIT model as follows:


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