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Have a plan

March 2, 2008

The fourth activity a trainer will be engaged in during OJT is evaluating student progress. The whole purpose of this is to make adjustments to the training plan, in particular, the training pace. Pace is important. If the pace is slow, the student will become bored and not be learning at their maximum rate. If it is to fast, the student could become over tasked and the immediate reaction will be to shed some of the tasks (or in this case lessons).

It is difficult to evaluate the student’s progress if there isn’t a formal training plan. I’m sure that even if one isn’t written down, the trainer has a rough or informal idea of what order the lessons will be presented. Although you can adjust the plan in your head, its not a very effective practice because the student isn’t aware of the plan nor what additional ‘pace matching’ is required on their part. Although a lot of trainers would argue that a formal plan won’t survive the rigours of actual OJT, without one, its a solo effort.

Planning to succeed

There is an old saying: “failing to plan is planning to fail”. OJT is no different and believe it or not, having a structured, formal plan does improve the effectiveness and efficiency of training. Why? Two reasons: First, for a team to work there must be common goals and a shared direction. A training plan is that direction (and reinforcement of the goals). Second, it is preparation against the inevitable setbacks that will occur during the training (eg trainer absences, resource conflicts etc).

Here are some reasons why you should have a plan:

  • Measuring progress is simpler: The latest student achievements can be compared with planned goals. The trainer can identify quickly if the training is on track, behind or ahead of schedule.
  • You know what is coming up next: Both the student and trainer can look ahead to see what challenges are coming up. This provides more opportunity for preparation and if the student is performing particularly well, makes it easier to move goals forward.
  • It is easier to manage multiple trainers: If the primary trainer is unexpectedly absent, the stand-in trainer knows what the student should be focusing on next. For team efforts, multiple trainers can use the plan to avoid ‘doubling up on content’.
  • It assists identifying when critical or additional resources are required: All team members, not just those involved in the training, will know when a particular resource (classroom, equipment) is in use or if the operations side of the organisation is being used to supplement the training (additional staff, tours etc).
  • It assists identifying hurdles: Conflictions in staffing, special events, planned maintenance or peak activity periods can be compared with the training plan to see if any the operational activities preclude certain training activities.
  • You can identify risks and contingency plans: What if the student takes longer in one area or a critical resource is unexpectedly unavailable. By identifying the critical aspects of training and the risks to them, contingency actions can be prepared (and shared with the rest of the team) to reduce the impact of these on training.
  • It functions as a check list: If it is on the plan, it won’t be missed. Not only won’t it be missed, but it will be included at the right time to supplement a progressive learning strategy.
  • You can forecast: If something that was unanticipated crops up, you can identify what are the repercussions are in the training plan. Additionally, you can run through some what if scenarios (eg can the trainer be spared for a three day conference?).
  • You can assist learning by identifying progressive learning opportunities: A structured training plan will assist y quickly identifying when higher or more complex competencies can be preceded by lessor competencies. If a student has trouble with a particular aspect of training, a plan will assist in identifying whether it plays a part as a foundation for other learning.
  • It shows the student that you are prepared: Confidence in your ability to train the student = credibility, which in turn strengthens your relationship.

It may seem that I have gone off topic by discussing why we should include a training plan. A plan is an essential ingredient for being effective in evaluating the student’s progress and actually being able to do something about. This is the perfect segue for planning your OJT.

Next: How to create a OJT plan.

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