Steer issue 20 March - Page 18

We Learn Most From
Most of what we learn we learn through on-the-job development. Managers often get complaints from their staff
that they are not being developed and that they never get
to attend training classes. Maybe we even think that ourselves. So here’s an exercise for you to use for yourself and
with your team. Think about this time last year and write
down the following as it relates to your job:
• What did you know?
• List the skills you had.
• What experience did you have?
Now compare that with today. For the same job, write
• What do you know?
• List the skills you have.
• What experience do you have?
Do you know more and have a greater depth of experience
today than you did a year ago? I hope the answer is yes.
How Did You Learn Most Of What You Know?
Looking at everything you’ve learned this past year, how
did you learn it? I expect that even if you attended one
or more in-person training classes, or used online training
tools, most of what you learned you learned by actually
doing your job.
You probably learned by trial and error and by experiencing different situations. Maybe you learned by asking
colleagues and by observing others. Or maybe you read
books, manuals or process documents. You most likely
gained your skills by practicing them whilst doing your
job. Your breadth of experience will have developed by
performing a task in different situations. This is all on-thejob development.
On The Job Development
In most cases, you don’t have to wait for a training class to
learn. A training class can accelerate learning theory and
give you some knowledge. Practical classes can get you
started on developing skills. But in general, the development of skills comes through practice - more practice time
than you get in a class. The development of experience
comes through applying skills in a variety of situations
over and over again until you can perform the skill in any
Knowledge and Skill
Let’s imagine I asked you to take an engine apart and put
it together again. If you’d never done it before you would
probably struggle. With a manual you could learn the
theory and gain some knowledge. If you used the manual
to actually try it, you might need a few attempts to master
the practical side and develop the skill to be able to physically take the engine apart and put it back together again.
If you had an experienced colleague to ask you could
accelerate gaining knowledge by asking them questions,
and they could help accelerate you developing your skill
by showing you how to do key tasks.
Over time, you would develop confidence and could
start to branch out. Maybe you would learn to work with
engines that were slightly different from the one you
learnt on. Or maybe you would learn to work with engines
outside a training workshop - in the real world where the
environment is not so clean and organized, and where
people are busy working around you. That would give you
experience. Learning to rebuild any engine in a variety of
situations would increase your experience until you might
be considered an expert.
Gain Experience as You Work
All of the above could be done with no formal training. It
could all be part of on-the-job development. Attending a
class might accelerate the acquisition of knowledge (the
theory). It might accelerate acquiring the initial skill to be
able to rebuild the engine because you will probably have
a trainer who could help you get it right first time more
quickly. Developing experience, however, will only come
with practice and the application of your skill in the real
world over time, in a variety of situations. That can only be
done on the job.
How Can You Learn On The Job?
Encourage your employees to think for themselves and
identify the skills they want to develop to move their
careers forward (you can also do this for yourself). You
as their manager should be able to facilitate their career
progression, but it’s also their responsibility to decide what
they want to do. Jointly look for ways to develop on the
job. Would spending some time working with a colleague
help? Do you or they need an opportunity to practice


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