Why Is Everyone Talking About On-the-job Training? 

This article is about why people invest in on-the-job training. You will gain insight into what it is and why it is useful. The article is relevant to everyone responsible for the staff and competence development.


What is on-the-job training?

On-the-job training is learning that takes place in the workplace. It is practical training, and not the same as a course you take outside the workplace. You get training from colleagues, not lecturers from a university. (Unless you work at the university). With on-the-job training, you spend less time than on learning that does not take place at work (Wikipedia). On-the-job training can have varying degrees of structure and formality.


The alternative to on-the-job training is off-the-job training. The latter can be about you visiting the college to get a lecture about a team. It can also be to attend a conference. On-the-job training is a collective term for several different ways of learning. For example, it could be trying out a new welfare technology with a patient. It can also be observing a colleague or even being observed.


Why on-the-job training is good?

People talk about on-the-job training because it has effects. You practice the work you are going to do, in real situations. It enables the employees to master the work tasks. Colleagues can provide feedback and improve each other’s performance. If you are first going to invest in competence development then it must be relevant. If not, you have wasted time and resources. It is much more certain that on-the-job training is relevant than off-the-job training.


Not everyone believes that one should spend so much time on competence development. A lot is going on in operation and the employees are tired. Therefore, I will give the two examples that show why others choose to invest in employee competence development. The examples are based on on-the-job training.


Example from the health sector 

Hanne is with Kari, a demented patient who is acting out. She spends 30 minutes inside Kari’s house. Her colleague Anja spends only 10 minutes. Hanne does not understand how Anja can spend such a short time. She is frustrated with Kari who always opposes the task. Kari will never dress or wash. She punches Hanne and calls her ugly words. Hanne thinks she is quite patient with Kari. She tries to remember that Kari has dementia and that it is the disease that makes it so.

The department head decides that Anja will supervise Hanne and a few more employees. This should be a measure for on-the-job training. This means that Hanne will be allowed to observe Anja and be observed herself. She will receive feedback from Hanne. Hanne observes that Anja approached Kari differently and that Kari became more compliant. She discussed this with Anja. Hanne tried out the new methods in practice. She had to try and fail a little but has now found her way. She only spends 14 minutes with Kari. This means that she has 16 minutes every day to help colleagues and perform other tasks.


Example from the school sector

Anne is relatively new as a teacher but is one of the best in technology. She is employed in what is referred to as an Ipad school, where technology is a central part of the teaching. She observes that more teachers are struggling to teach in new ways adapted to the new learning resources. The different level of competence of the students means that the teachers have to adapt the training. She sees that not all teachers adapt the learning method based on what suits the Ipad and far from all teachers have enough competence in computer security. The teachers have varied levels and some struggle more than others.

Anne has been chosen as a supervisor to develop the teachers’ competence around the use of the Ipad in the classroom. It is an on-the-job training initiative that the principal has chosen. Through the guidance, the teachers reflect on their own level of competence and Anne observes the teachers in the classroom. She adapts the program in collaboration with each teacher and helps where needed. Anne helps teachers test new students’ practice and technology. Some of the elderly in particular show great gratitude for the help Anne has given. They have been on courses about the Ipad, but find it difficult to transfer it to their classroom. It is something else to train in the classroom and get to press the iPad yourself. In the evaluation, the teachers’ progression seems good. The teachers who have participated receive certificates, it is a seal of quality that the teachers value.


There are also examples from other sectors, but we will save them for another time. The examples above show why it is important to invest in competence development. There is a cost now, which will reduce costs in the long run. Read about the measure they used in the examples here.


Why do people invest in on-the-job training?

Ellström and Kock (2008) have reviewed research when it comes to the prerequisites and effects of competence development. They say that managers often invest in competence development because they believe it has an impact on the company’s growth and competitiveness. There is an increased demand for competence due to internationalization, IT, new products, and the need to be more knowledge-intensive. They also found that employees with the opportunity for on-the-job training often have better health and working environment.


Korpi and Tåhlin (2021) have also studied on-the-job training. They say that managers who invest in on-the-job training are most often those with employees who have higher education. It may seem contradictory to some that those who have learned a lot should learn more. However, this is because knowledge-intensive positions require up-to-date competence.


According to the 70-20-10 model, 70 percent of learning takes place through what happens at work. The actual execution of tasks. 20 percent through the social. It’s about learning from colleagues. 10 percent through formal learning as a course outside the workplace. Thus, it is no wonder that companies are investing in on-the-job training. Read more about the 70-20-10 model here.



Everyone talks about on-the-job training because it is relevant learning that creates development. It is important to have good systems for on-the-job training to have a competitive business that delivers good results. It is also important for the well-being and health of employees.

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