Training and Learning on the job

Most employers want you to do your job well. If they are honest, for a new starter, they want you to do your job well with the least amount of training.

Training you is a cost to the employer. When you are in training you are probably not adding value to the company, and if you are training in a team environment, you are probably slowing down the team while you complete your training, but that’s OK.

The boss will be OK with the cost of your training provided that you are enthusiastic, dependable, honest, positive, hard working, team player: all the things we discussed before.

Training is different to self-improvement. Training (in a work sense) is about getting you up to speed on the specific skills to do the company tasks you have to do as part of your job.

It’s not about adding value to you as an individual, or making you more valuable to another employer, except where you are gaining work experience.

Because training is a cost, businesses are generally not resourced to be training organisations. A lot of businesses outsource some training to other companies. This is especially true of statutory training, where there is a legal obligation to train a person to a “competent” level. Mostly you will experience this outsourcing with Health and Safety. So you may find your first work training is with a Registered Training Organisation “(RTO)”, who has prepared a training course that results in you receiving a certificate of competency.

If a business is large enough to have a training officer, the position is usually administrative, involved in the placement of new starters, keeping track and records of existing employees etc, mapping of competencies etc., making sure the employer meets his legal responsibilities etc.

A small business owner is unlikely to have training skills employees available to train the new co-worker.

In very rare cases is training about “making you excellent at work”; more likely, it’s about making you competent at work.

In some cases a training department or RTO will be aligning the trained skills with the business needs. But it would be unusual to find a training department that aligned the critical tasks of the business with attitude or cultural development training.

So you will find that even when a formal training course is complete, there will probably be a deal of learning before you can effectively contribute to the company.

Induction and early training

Your first experience of work training is likely to be an induction process. Sometimes this is contracted out to another company who may not be related to the company that you are going to work for. Quite small businesses will try to do this while you are doing your job.

A most important part about all inductions is Health and Safety; that is why there is legislation that says the employer must provide a safe place of work. So employers (to demonstrate that they are providing a safe place of work) will usually have all employees go through a Health and Safety induction where they are shown the ropes. The rules and regulations of the company. After the induction, there will be a test. You must pass this test to show that you have understood the rules and regulations and to proceed to the next stage of work.

Coming out of training

On completion of your training you should be ready to add value to the business. Businesses (and jobs) live and die by numbers - not because they are nice places to work.

Jobs exist not to keep people busy but to add value to the owners of the business. Not to add value to the workers, notice, but to add value to the owners.

For some businesses and jobs it’s relatively easy to see where value is achieved. For example in a coffee shop, if you are not selling coffee the business numbers are going to tell you to improve or shut up shop. If you are in a larger company, your job may not involve dealing directly with the customer. Most large companies have more people in support roles than they do dealing with customers. Your local pizza shop may have 5 guys working the oven, but only one at the counter taking the orders and the cash. All have important roles to play in adding value to the business.

Every job in a company is about adding value to what they do. At the “top” of the pyramid are the leaders who set the direction for the company, what they make, how they make it etc. These roles will require people who are skilled in making strategic, operational and financial decisions. These people generally take a long-term view of several months or many years.

As you move down the pyramid, there are many more workers carrying out the tasks that support the business activity. These people see a different horizon, planning maybe only a few days or weeks ahead.

All of these workers have tasks to do. As you move down the pyramid, so the tasks become more predictable and repetitive. However, don’t confuse predictable and repetitive with not adding value.

Let’s discuss one of these jobs, a waiter.

On first glance it’s a pretty repetitive job. In fact it’s probably the most important job in the business. Why?


The waiter has the opportunity to add or destroy value. These are the ways in which a waiter can DESTROY value:

• Ignoring customers
• Being rude to customers
• Having poor presentation
• Getting orders wrong
• Making billing errors
• Lacking clear communication skills

Just to reinforce how critical this job can be, it is said that if 1 person receives bad service he will tell approximately 20 people. How can a waiter ADD value to a business? In addition to doing the reverse of the above a waiter can generate growth by:

• Responding to everyone entering the store within an agreed time • Being cheerful
• Establishing relationships with customers to gain repeat business • Suggesting specials to customers

• Recognising repeat customers by a pleasant personal greeting
• Delivering small but meaningful “extras” (biscuit on side, water, etc. )
• Prompt but unobtrusive service, keeping watch on tables
• Asking for feedback on meals
• Making sure drinks are full
• Providing feedback to back office (owner, chef) on customer requests that currently are not met on menu

So you can see why good waiters are in such demand. Sure, it is a difficult job dealing with the public, but it is an important job. Likewise a receptionist or any job dealing directly with customers can ADD or DESTROY value by doing critical tasks well or badly.

As a new start employee try to understand what your critical tasks are. Ask your co-workers or boss. Find out ways to add value and become an important member of the work team.

Everybody Serves a Customer

In the 1980s there was a Quality Assurance program that advised that everyone you meet at work is to be regarded as a customer.

The idea was to improve service between employees by recognising that everyone at work is part of a value adding chain. And although it’s not so popular a model nowadays, it is still very true.

Most everyone you meet at work is part of a team adding value to the company.