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Throw them into the ring: The benefits of on-the-job training

4 min read

Marketing Strategy

I work in an industry that has a unique training process.

Experiential marketing takes part-time, temporary employees and quickly turns them into go-to experts on products and brands — otherwise known as “brand ambassadors.” When you speak with a brand ambassador at an event, it’s possible that he has only been representing that brand for less than a day.

This need for instant expertise is a challenge, but it also provides great lessons to other industries that are looking to hone their training processes.

Typically, managers want to spend days or weeks training new employees before turning them loose in a real-world setting. But employees usually learn more on their first real day of work than they do during the entire simulated training process.

Why on-the-job training works

On-the-job training puts employees in a sink-or-swim situation. If they don’t quickly master their duties, they risk making themselves and their new employer look bad.

Here’s the good news: In my experience, nine out of 10 employees rise to the challenge.

For one thing, learning while doing is an effective way to keep information straight. When you hand a training manual to an employee on his first day and lock him in a room until he’s done reading it, he’ll barely retain the information. But by providing live-action training and forcing employees to learn and succeed on the fly, you’re making their training much easier to remember and apply in the future.

Some industries, like experiential marketing, require perfection on day one. In these scenarios, giving employees a brief tutorial and a cheat sheet of important information should be enough before setting them free. This is a proper blend of up-front and on-the-job training, and you’ll find that most employees appreciate the opportunity to jump in and get their hands dirty right away.

How to make it work for you

With the right preparation and mindset, on-the-job training is actually quite simple to incorporate into your company. Here are five universally applicable pieces of advice:

  1. Devote resources. It’s easy to overlook the amount of time and money it takes to properly conduct on-the-job training. Make sure you budget appropriate amounts of each toward your training efforts to ensure everything goes smoothly. Skimping on your training today will lead to an insufficient workforce tomorrow. 
  1. Prepare a cheat sheet. Condense all the crucial things your new employees need to know into a fact sheet. They can carry it around and refer to it as they learn. Consider your cheat sheet to be an abridged, portable training manual. 
  1. Take responsibility. As the manager or leader of your company, it’s your responsibility to enable the success of your new employees. They’ll look to you as the expert on everything, so make sure you’re available to answer their questions — and actually know the answers. 
  1. Be excited. This is your job, and you’ve worked hard to ascend to this managerial role. Your trainees will take notice if you don’t express love for your company and passion for your product. Be charismatic during training, and lead by example. 
  1. Stress efficiency. Keep the training process as short as possible, and refuse to let it get off topic. Your new employees — and bosses — will thank you for it.

If there’s one thing all industries can learn from experiential marketing, it’s that on-the-job training is the quickest way to produce expert employees. The key is finding a proper, efficient blend of hands-off and hands-on training, all while leading by example.

Anthony Russo has been a self-employed business owner for more than five years, and his seven-figure agency, Identity Marketing, is recognized among the top companies in the field of experiential promotional marketing. Russo is also a professional speaker and an emcee for large national events.