Is Documenting Your OJT Methodology Worth It?

The short answer is yes! 

Years ago, during the Qualified Trainers (QT) workshop, I would ask QTs the following two questions:

  • What is OJT?
  • How do you deliver OJT?

Invariably, all would answer the first question the same way: on the job training.  And then I would ask the attendees to form into groups to discuss the second question among fellow peers.  I purposely mixed the groups so that there was equal representation of manufacturing trainers and QC analytical laboratory trainers and a fascinating exchange occurred between the attendees.  During the debriefing activity, we learned that there was a lot of variability in how the trainers were conducting OJT.  How can that be when they all answered the first question so consistently? “Well”, one of them said, “we don’t have a procedure on it so I just go about it the way I think it should be done.  I’ve had success so far, so I keep on doing what I’ve done in the past.”

Declaring your OJT Model

In order to get consistent OJT, you need to define your OJT steps and you need to ensure that only approved content (i.e. SOJT checklists)  will be used to deliver OJT; not the SME’s secret sauce. I’m not proposing a cookie-cutter approach for QTs to become all the same.  But rather, I am advocating a clear distinction between each step/stage / phase so that both the learner and the QT know exactly where they are in the OJT process, what is expected of them in that step and why the OJT step is needed.  This is no longer just go follow Joe or Jane around; this is structuring the OJT sessions.  Defining your OJT steps in a methodology ensures that all QT’s consistently deliver their 1-1 sessions and document the progression through the steps.

I’m less focused on what you call these steps or how many there are.   I am looking to see how these steps move a new hire along the journey to becoming qualified prior to being released to task.  For me, this is what makes OJT really structured.  And that model needs to be captured in a standard operating procedure or embedded in a training procedure so that all employees are informed and aware of how they will receive their OJT.   

The Assess Step

What is your purpose for this step?  Is it to evaluate the learners’ knowledge and skill via a performance demonstration, the effectiveness of the OJT sessions, or to determine qualified status?  The answer matters, because the QT will be providing feedback that impacts very different outcomes.

Be clear on the purpose of the performance demonstration

 The visual on the right indicates the main difference between how QTs feedback is used during a performance demonstration for OJT vs. feedback for the Qualification Event. Despite that, the learner is asked to perform the procedure the same way.  Is it clear to the learner what the performance demonstration means?  Does your methodology articulate the difference between a practice demo, a readiness demo, a performance demo and/or a Qualification Event demonstration?

Documenting OJT sessions presents a challenge for many trainers and document control staff.  What is considered an OJT session?  My favorite lament is – “Do you know what that will do to our database not to mention the amount of paperwork that would create!” A workaround to all these questions and concerns is to capture at least one session along the progression of each OJT step as per the OJT Model, thus documenting adherence to the procedure. 

For example, the first OJT step may be READ.  It means Read the SOP first, if not already completed. We are pretty good at documenting R & U for SOPs.  Then, the next step may be DISCUSS / INTRODUCE the SOP.  Capture when that discussion occurred if it’s different from Step 1- READ.  The “trainer demonstrates” portion can also be documented.  Where it gets tricky is when we ask the learner to demonstrate and practice.  Are we required to capture every OJT session or just one? 

Why not capture the last instance when it is confirmed the learner is ready to qualify?  If we keep it simple and document that our learners have experienced at least one instance of each step /stage, then we are complying with our OJT methodology and minimally documenting their OJT progression.   It is important to describe how to document the OJT progression in the SOP.  Don’t leave that up to the QT’s to figure out.  It is in our documentation, that we also need to be consistent.

How do you know if someone is qualified to perform this SOP?

Ideally, the answer would be because:

1.) we have a structured OJT process that includes a task specific OJT Checklist and

2.) we can look up the date of completion (Qualification Event) in our LMS history. 

And that, of course, depends on how well the critical steps and behaviors are captured in the SOJT checklist. The checklist is a tool to help the QT be as objective as possible and consistently evaluate performance as demonstrated. In the article, “A Better Way to Measure Soft Skills”, author Judith Hale explains the difference between a checklist and a rubric.

            “Checklists only record whether a behavior occurred, though, and not the quality of the behavior.  Rubrics, on the other hand, measure how well the learner executed the behavior.”  p. 62.

Yes, but was it tolerable, adequate or exemplary?

What I typically see are checklists with varying levels of tasks, steps and/or behaviors with a column for Yes, No and Comments.  What I don’t see is a column to mark how well the learner performed!  Is it enough to mark Yes or No for each item since most Q Events are Pass or “needs more practice”?  Maybe. 

But consider the following situation.  A human error deviation has occurred and the LMS indicates the technician has earned qualified status.  The document used to qualify this individual shows all Yeses.  Yes s/he was able to demonstrate the step, critical task, and/or behavior, but what we don’t know is how well?  Are we to assume that No means “No, not at all” and Yes means performed “Well” or it is “As Expected” or “Adequate” or maybe in this case it was “Sort of”? 

An additional column describing what it means to score low, medium, high or in our situation: Poor, Adequate, As Expected, and even Exemplar could provide much needed insight for the root cause analysis and investigation that will follow this deviation.  It provides a level of detail about the performance that goes beyond Yes, No, or Comment.  In most checklists I’ve reviewed, the comments column is hardly ever used.

What does the QT Signature Mean?

What the signature means on the document used to qualify an employee performing the task, technique or procedure as defined in the tool is whether or not the performance matched criteria (Y/N) or to what degree if using a qualitative rubric.

  • It does not mean that said employee completed all his curricula requirements.
  • It does not mean that said employee explained how to execute the procedure without performing it.
  • It does not mean the QT is responsible for the future performance of said employee.

In fact, it means just the opposite.  It documents that on this date, said employee was capable of performing the procedure as expected and that from this date forward, said employee owns his/her own work including deviations.  The employee is no longer being supervised by the QT for this SOP.  Without this understanding and agreement, the integrity of the whole program is put into question, not just the effectiveness of SOJT.  Be sure to explain this in the QT workshop and in the Robust Training System SOPs.  – VB

Hale,JA Better Way to Measure Soft Skills, TD, ATD, August, 2018, pps. 61-64.

Who is Vivian Bringslimark?

(c) HPIS Consulting, Inc.

6 thoughts on “Is Documenting Your OJT Methodology Worth It?”

  1. Great post! I believe that documenting OJT is extremely important when it comes to HPI analysis. How will you determine what works and what doesn’t work? What are the strengths and weaknesses of specific types of OJT? What type of OJT specifically works well for each group of employees/team members? All of these questions can be answered with sufficient OJT documentation!

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