8 Simple Steps to Maximize Your
On the Job Learning

On the job learning is one of the best and most effective methods for developing your competencies.

It is learning by doing. You can apply it to develop your career or to change your career.

Various studies have been carried out and generally 60-70% of actual learning takes place while working on a task or on the job.

The remaining 30-40% of learning takes place through other methods such as reading, observing, etc.

The real time exposure to different situations with the ability to get real time feedback on your learning and performance is what makes this such an important career development technique.

Every career development plan should have a component of on the job learning.

8 steps to maximize your on the job learning

As most of your learning happens during on the job, it isimportant you spend some time planning it and setting it up properly.

This will ensure you maximize your learning and develop your competencies effectively.

Here are eight simple things you can do to set it up properly.

1. Identify learning objectives and competency areas

Identify what you want to learn and the competencies you will target in your on the job learning.

You can do this based on your competency gap analysis , your career management plan and discussions with your manager, coach or mentor. Also, think about the time frame, i.e. the amount of time you have to learn.

Try and also understand the proficiency level you need to target within the specific competency areas.

This will help you understand how deep your learning needs to be.

Finally, document your on the job learning objectives so you can refer to them later.

2. Gather information about how to do the job

It is a good idea to gather as much information as you can about how to do the job.

You can do this by talking to an experienced person, reading up about the task or even observing someone perform the task.

This step is particularly important when the task is complex, sensitive or has safety protocols that must be followed for your and others safety.

If possible document the information so you can refer to it later if necessary.

3. Establish a support system

A support system enables you to lean back on as you start your on the job learning and get feedback and advice.

This is best established before you start.

Support systems can include reference books and job aids, people and organizations.

Books and job aids typically provide information and steps to carry out the task.

People can include subject matter experts and others who are experienced at the task. They may also include your manager, coach or mentor who can guide you and give you feedback.

Organizations can include industry bodies or network groups that specialize in information and resources on specific topics and areas.

4. Start your on the job learning

It goes without saying that at some stage you actually have to carry out the task.

Pay particular attention to the nature of the task or job before you start it.

If What you are about to do is complicated, may have an adverse outcome if not done properly, is sensitive in nature or has safety protocols that must be followed then it is best to have your support person with you as you attempt the task for the first time.

If something goes wrong or you need immediate feedback then you will have someone close to you that can help you.

5. Check progress and seek feedback

As you go through your on the job learning set some time aside to check your progress.

  • How has it gone so far?
  • What went right?
  • What went wrong?
  • What did you learn?
  • What could you have done better?
  • What will you do differently next time?

These are useful questions to ask yourself to reduce your learning time and make your learning more effective.

You can do this through self-reflection, by asking for feedback from your support person ora combination of both.

It is a good idea to use this opportunity to talk to someone like your manager and get theirperspective on your performance.

Remember your manager plays an important role in assessing your performance during the year,forming opinions about you that may impact on your career development and sharing theseopinions with others of importance in the organization. So, it is best to engage them proactively during your on the job learning.

Seek feedback early in your career and it will become a useful and life long asset.

Use this feedback to enhance your performance and learning.

6. Document what you learn

Keep a journal or notebook with you as you go through your on the job learning. Use it to keep track of your progress by answering the questions in the above section.

Make it a habit of jotting down your thoughts regularly - preferably daily or at least once a week.

What may appear as important at a particular point in time may be difficult to remember later on if you do not record it.

You will find this a very useful process which will help you with your learning.

This will also help you refresh your memory if you are going back to the task after aperiod of time and you do not have your instructor or subject matter expert close to youfor advice.

7. Establish the process

You will find that there are usually many ways of doing the same task unless it is so complex or hazardous that there is just one prescribed method.

If there is flexibility in how you do the task then over a period of time you will have established your way of doing it.

If a process or way of doing the task did not exist in the first place then it is best to document how you do it and establish a standard. This is sometimes known as a SOP or Standard Operating Procedure.

If you can, establish a SOP for your task.

8. Improve the process

Once you have completed your on the job learning and done the same task a few times it is time to review it and look for areas of improvement. Consult your journal or notebook when you do this and you may find some opportunities for improvement as you review your notes.

This is an important step in your development which will help you become more effective in your job.

It is useful to also reflect on the way you went about your on the job learning. The above eight steps are a process in itself. Ask yourself how you will approach your next learning experience and make it even better.

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