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On-job training (OJT) is the most common approach to skills development in the industrial workplace. Unfortunately, OJT is often treated as a “follow me around and you’ll pick it up” method, also known as “helper” training. This form of unstructured OJT frequently ends up teaching old habits and risky shortcuts while leaving huge gaps in the learning process. There IS a much more effective and efficient approach to OJT based on a proven four-step method of instruction, selecting the right trainers/coaches, and top-level leadership.

This article is the third in a series of discussions about development and deployment of skills training in today’s workplace. It builds on the previous two articles, “Skills-Training Quick Start” and “Develop  Skills Training & Qualification Checklist.” (See links.)



Click The Following Links To Read The Previous Articles In This Discussion

“Skills-Training Quick Start” (April 5, 2021)

“Develop A Skills-Training & Qualification Checklist” (April 17, 2021)



Reliable equipment depends on reliable PEOPLE. Whether these people install the equipment, operate the equipment, maintain or repair the equipment, or adjust and calibrate the equipment, they ALL must understand the tasks and master their skill sets to keep the equipment reliable.

Reliable human performance is foundational to reliable equipment performance. The goal of skills training is job-performance mastery, i.e., doing the tasks right the first time every time. Skills training for equipment reliability should NOT be based on seat time, memory of steps and key points, passing a written test, or an A-B-C grading scale. Training for mastery means either you can do it right or not at all.


On-job training effectiveness focuses on doing the right things. Training efficiency focuses on doing things the right way. The elements contained in the Four-Step Methods are designed for both the trainer/coach AND the trainee to keep the training and the learning processes both effective and efficient.

The four-step method of instruction is not new by any means. No special bells and whistles or new tech stuff. But it works. There are two basic categories used in the four-step method: 1) Getting Ready to Instruct and 2) How to Instruct. The world-class simplicity of these approaches makes them timeless in the classroom and on the job.



Preparation is key to any task. “Measure twice. Cut once.” The more complex the task more preparation. Preparation should not be overlooked when it comes to developing skills that affect equipment reliability, availability, and maintenance. Getting ready to instruct is all about preparing YOURSELF to be an effective and efficient OJT coach. Here is a summary of the four steps for Getting Ready to Instruct.


 1.   Know who, what, when, where, why, and how the training is to take place.
 2.   Know the purpose of the training.
 3.   Know the trainee’s previous experience.
 4.   Know what skills the trainee should have after the training.
 5.   Know how much skill (skill level) the trainee should have by certain dates.
 6.   Plan your work, then work your plan.


 1.   Select the job duty and tasks (skills) from the “Training & Qualification Checklist” (Part 2)
 2.   Perform the skill yourself and list each important step.
 3.   Perform the skill again and list the key points that would:

    • Make or break the job.
    • Cause injury to the trainee or others.
    • Make the task easier to perform.


 1.   Select the proper tools, equipment, and materials for the training.
 2.   Arrange the workplace as the trainee is expected to keep it.


 1.   Where are we now?
 2.   Where are we going next?
 3.   Why are we going?
 4.   How are we going to get there?
 5.   How do we know when we get there?



On-job training as with classroom training depends on an instructional order, one that enables learners to learn. This four-step method of How to Instruct should be used to keep the trainer/coach, the learning process, and the trainee on track. It is most important to remember that adults learn best by DOING something they can effectively USE on the job.


 1.   Prepare yourself (see “Getting Ready to Instruct” above)
 2.   Prepare the trainee:
 3.   Put the trainee at ease.

    • State the skills and find out what the trainee knows.
    • Get the trainee interested.
    • Explain the expected level of skill performance.
    • Position the trainee as if performing the skill.


 1.   Select the best teaching method for each task: Explanation, discussion, demonstration, etc.
 2.   Use proper learning sequence: knowledge then skill, first things first.
 3.   Talk clearly, slowly and use basic terms.
 4.   Define unfamiliar terms.
 5.   Demonstrate and explain each step.
 6.   Stress key points.
 7.   Explain expected performance level.
 8.   Check the trainee’s understanding often.
 9.   Encourage questions along the way.
10.  Use all tools and materials properly.
11.  Summarize steps and key points.


 1.   Trainee tries out skills on the job with the trainer/coach.
 2.   Coach as needed for proper skill performance.


 1.   Follow-up:

    • Put the trainee on the job.
    • Designate who to contact for help/coaching.
    • Check frequently and decrease coaching.

  2.   On-job performance demonstration:

    •  Question to see if the trainee can identify and explain key points of the skill.
    • Check the trainee’s abilities to perform the skill (performance demonstration).
    • Let the trainee know the results of the performance demonstration.
    • Discuss the positives and opportunities to improve.


As reliability, availability, and maintenance improvement leaders, i.e., RAM professionals, we should all appreciate the benefits of a reliable OJT approach for skills development and reliable human performance. But it’s not just about the hands-on skills. OJT is also about knowledge, about understanding what, where, when and why of reliable skills performance on the job. Historically, knowledge testing came in the form of ineffective quizzes and tests. In the case of OJT there is a much better way. It’s called “identify and explain.”

Here’s how it works. Check their understanding by having the trainee IDENTIFY the proper tools, parts of the equipment, process or circuit flows, and methods then EXPLAIN their importance, their location, and their function on the actual equipment and on the job. Learning to follow maintenance procedures or operating instructions, reading work orders or parts lists, and understanding lock-out/tag out procedures can all be enhanced by the “identify and explain” method along with the hands-on skills development.

The final key to effective and efficient OJT is the trainer/coach. Sometimes this person might not be the highest skilled person at the task but rather the one who can master the skills and then communicate completely and patiently during the four-step training process. The “training & qualification checklists” (also known as duty-task lists) discussed in Part 2 of this series should be developed with the highest skilled equipment specialists and OEM resources. The trainer/coach must be disciplined enough to follow the checklist using the four-step methods described here.

The responsibility of top-level leadership then is to assure the trainer/coach and the training processes fully developed and are followed to result in improved job performance. Following up on the OJT processes are an important task. The results of effective OJT can be measured in improved equipment reliability, optimum availability, and better maintenance.TRR



Bob Williamson is a long-time contributor to the people-side of the world-class-maintenance and manufacturing body of knowledge across dozens of industry types. His background in maintenance, machine and tool design, and teaching has positioned his work with over 500 companies and plants, facilities, and equipment-oriented organizations. Contact him directly at 512-800-6031 or bwilliamson@theramreview.com. 



Tags: reliability, availability, maintenance, RAM, workforce issues, training and qualification, skills development