By the
Mind Tools
Editorial Team

On-the-Job Training

Developing a Hands-On Training Program

© iStockphoto

Learning on the job is probably the oldest form of career development.

If you're in a leadership or management position, think about how you train your people in new skills. You'll probably use a mixture of training methods, including on-the-job training.

But when is on-the-job training appropriate? And do you know how to structure it effectively, so that your people and your organization get the greatest benefit from it?

In this article we'll explore on-the-job training. We'll look at where it works best, and we'll show you how to set up an effective training program for your team or organization.

On-the-Job Training

This type of training happens when a team member (trainee) works alongside a more-experienced colleague (trainer), so that he or she can learn new skills under normal working conditions.>

As such, it's probably the oldest form of career development. For centuries, people have been learning how to do a job by working with, or observing, someone more knowledgeable and experienced. It's still the most widely used training method today, and is suitable for many types of workplaces.

There are two forms of this type of training: unstructured and structured.


Unstructured on-the-job training is "free form." It mostly consists of the trainer acting as a guide or mentor to the trainee throughout the working day.

The trainer teaches vital knowledge and skills, and then allows the trainee to learn through trial and error. The trainer, along with a manager, offers feedback and suggestions for improvement on an ongoing basis.


Structured on-the-job training still takes place in the work environment, but differs in that it is better planned. For example, trainers may deliver presentations and lectures; may recommend reading materials; or may provide instructive questionnaires to help the trainee to learn new skills.

The trainee then applies what she's learned in the workplace. The trainer inspects work or shadows the trainee, and offers feedback and suggestions, as with unstructured on-the-job training.

Advantages of On-the-Job Training

One of the biggest advantages of this approach to training is that ...

Access the Full Article

This article is is only available in full within the Mind Tools Club.

Learn More and Join Today

Already a Club member? Log in to finish this article.