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Focusing on on-the-job training


The foundation of a successful on-the-job training is the quality of its coaches. Coaches must possess the ability to perform the jobs they are training as well as have the ability to share the knowledge and skills with a novice. Therefore, choosing the right people to be coaches and then giving them the support they need is key to a successful programme.

Opinion by Paul Nyausaru

On-the-job trainers are often chosen on the basis of their job experience. However, it has been argued that experts may not be the most effective trainers because they no longer need to think through each step of every task to do the job.

Instead, they think of the work in chunks or patterns that they have come to recognise or define during hours of practice. They may, in the process, leave out critical information when explaining a task to a novice who needs to have every step clearly explained.

While an on-the-job coach should be competent in the job for which a trainee is being instructed, the person with the most expertise is not always the best choice.

A person currently in the position is usually chosen as the trainer and that person is generally expected to teach all aspects of the job. However, a supervisor should consider whether another employee could be given the opportunity to guide the new employee. Using other coaches to train the new employee has been seen to lessen the workload on one coach and will give the trainee different perspectives on new tasks.

Job expertise should not be the only consideration when selecting a coach. The other side to give serious consideration is the personal characteristics of the coach. The following characteristics are essential to a successful coach:

A good coach must be responsive. This means he/she must have the ability to express interest in the trainee and be a good listener with good communication skills.

He/she must be able to accommodate individual differences, maintaining a relaxed manner and be receptive to questions from the trainee. Having such attributes results in the trainee settling down easily and mastering job.

Enthusiasm is another quality that makes a good coach. This, therefore, calls for the coach to be energetic, optimistic, prepared and willing to commit time. For the programme to be meaningful, it calls on the coaches to give of themselves into the programme so that the trainees are motivated to learn.  Some bit of humour is also good to enhance learning. As a coach, one needs to have the ability to incorporate humour in person and real-life examples during training. However, this should not overwhelm the whole training programme.

There is also need for a good coach to be able to take questions from the trainee seriously and not to pretend to know the answer he/she doesn’t know. The idea is to build trust in your trainee so that they can fully rely on you during the entire training period. A capable coach will always strive to be flexible.

This means having the ability to eliminate, adjust or alter material during training according to trainee’s needs and/or time constraints. Above all, a good coach must be able accommodate different personalities and learning styles as well as accepting constructive criticism and not taking it personally.

  • Paul Nyausaru is training and development practitioner. Views contained in this article are personal. You can contact him on email pnyausaru@yahoo.co.uk, pnyausaru@gmail.com

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