26 February 2019

The 4 biggest challenges of on-the job learning … and how to tackle them!

Globally, there are approximately 2 billion ‘blue collar’ workers, or in other words, employees who are not behind a desktop. Most of them learn the trade in the workplace and are trained by experienced employees. However, workplace learning also has its challenges. These challenges boil down to 4 main issues: lack of time, reliability of transfer, lack of repetition and “the expert’s paradox”. 

In this article, we will first address the first four challenges and then give suggestions on how to solve them.

1 – A lack of time

Onboarding a new employee can be a time-consuming task. Combining your day-to-day work with onboarding a new employee can create tensions, and the newcomer might even feel more like a burden than an extra pair of hands. This is not only a problem for the work coach, but also for the new employee. Due to lack of time, the new employee does not get enough time and attention to properly learn all the requirements of their job. This lack of time can result in inefficient workplace learning, higher costs or worse, mistakes and accidents.

2 – Reliability of knowledge

A direct consequence of time shortages is that important knowledge is not transferred properly. If a work coach needs to explain how a certain machine works, he will show the new employee which buttons to operate and how to handle the machine. It is understandable that the employee wants to get his new colleague up to speed as soon as possible, but he might forget to explain the background of the machine. In other words, the “how” of the tasks is explained, but the “why” is left vague or omitted. In this way, the new employee lacks important knowledge. 

3 – Lack of repetition

Another challenge for workplace learning is the new employee’s inability to practise or make mistakes. New employees often look over the shoulder of an experienced colleague without being able to try it for themselves. Without repetition, new employees will have forgotten a lot of information by the time they have to work independently.

4 – The expert paradox

New employees are often onboarded by in-house experts. These experts have their own routines and working methods. It could be that, over the years, mistakes have crept into the expert’s work unnoticed that is now being passed on to the new employee. It is almost impossible to be 100% sure that the new employee learns everything the right way.

How can you solve these problems? 

Facilitate digital on-the-job learning

To improve workplace learning within your organisation, it is important to address these challenges. One way to do this easily and quickly is with our learning platform GPAL. With GPAL, employees within a company can create instructional videos and easily share and view them in a protected mobile app. 

The GPAL app has been developed with these four challenges in mind. Below you can read what the benefits of our platform are.

Solving the challenge: a lack of time

The GPAL App allows you to provide employees with customised sets of instructional videos that explain, for example, an important SOP or procedure. These videos are easily made and shared by your own in-house experts with the GPAL app. In this manner, new employees can be trained in an efficient way that allows them to work more independently. Lack of time is no longer a barrier to successful knowledge transfer. The work coach can refer to the GPAL App for most procedures and can therefore be more of a “real” coach for the remaining time. The new employee can watch the videos while performing work tasks and thus learn independently. By watching videos on his mobile phone (in the GPAL app), new employees can learn anywhere and anytime. Employees can also ask questions directly to a colleague via the App. The coach therefore has more time to provide feedback in the relevant context of the workplace instead of repeating the same instructions over and over again. The coach still has a valuable role and thus should not be ommitted all together.

Solving the challenge: unreliable knowledge transfers

The GPAL app guarantees accurate knowledge transfers because the whole organisation participates in learning. Experienced employees can upload instructional videos in the GPAL app on how they perform a specific task. Deze video wordt vervolgens geüpload in de App. One possibility is to have all video’s go through a verification process before being uploaded to the app. This way, the videos are approved by internal experts and you can be sure that the videos are correct. Another option is to upload all videos without approval. Employees can discuss and respond to video instructions themselves. Colleagues can now suggest and create a new and better work procedure. In this way, videos are constantly exposed to feedback from employees and internal experts, resulting in constant quality improvement and organisational learning. A nice side effect is that the procedures are now “carried” by the responsible group of employees.

Solving the challenge: a lack of repetition

While an onboarding buddy might only show a task once, a new employee can use the GPAL app to pause, rewind and watch a working procedure multiple times. New employees can see what they need to do while standing in front of the learning object. It therefore becomes easier to practise in the workplace. Employees can now practise and handle their work at their own speed, without fear of making mistakes. Using GPAL leads to more self-assurance, autonomy and motivation among employees, resulting in faster learning.

Solving the challenge: the expert-paradox

Nobody knows everything. 

GPAL creates the opportunity to leverage the knowledge of the collective by facilitating peer2peer knowledge exchange within the company. Employees from the same discipline can access each other’s videos and give each other feedback with comments, likes or reply with a video of their own. This stimulates continuous improvement within the company and mistakes are detected and corrected faster. This creates 24/7 organisational learning.

Want to know more about on-the-job learning ? 

Don’t hesitate to contact us!

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