Structured and Unstructured OJT

A Piece of the T&D Puzzle

Structured and Unstructured OJT

My PACT Processes incorporate many platforms and methods for deploying T&D. In the “blend” there are two types of On-The-Job Training (OJT):

  • Structured OJT
  • Unstructured OJT

These two “coached” deployment approaches for T&D co-exist with traditional and non-traditional “group-paced” and “self-paced” methods in the PACT Processes for design, including in the 3 levels of ISD that “are” the PACT Processes: CAD, MCD and IAD.

As the names suggest: one is structured and the other is unstructured. The first is more formal/tight, the second is more informal/loose.

After we have designed a CAD – Curriculum Architecture Design – it is obvious which are the “current” informal, U-OJT…the Unstructured OJT – all gaps are U-OJT because they don’t exist yet (or may never) – and any existing T&D is either S-OJT or Self-Paced or Group-Paced…that themselves may be deployed wholly or partially using E-Learning or non-E-Learning means.

Structured on-the-job training (S-OJT) is best used where group-paced and self-paced just won’t get the job done given supplier or customer issues and constraints, including:

  • Customer/learner population sizes for specific T&D
  • Customer/learner location and costs to reach/meet with T&D
  • Customer/learner timing needs for the T&D
  • Supplier instructor sizes/location and ability to flex their schedules and deal with the cost implications of meeting the timing requirements of their customers


However, ROI thinking dictates that sometimes ISD thinking must include the notion “that just because you can identify a training need doesn’t necessarily mean that you should formally address it.”

One of the key concepts in the PACT Processes is that not all defined T&D Events or T&D Modules will be developed/acquired due to insufficient ROI. For every “gap from the total set” in the CAD’s curricula/instruction/job aids/knowledge modules, etc. there are a number of performance tasks that will never-the-less have to be performed, and therefore learned by the performers, regardless of the availability of instruction.

The T&D Path from a CAD project’s 3rd Phase presents all of the T&D needed, including what is labeled in PACT as U-OJT – unstructured on-the-job-training.

Unstructured OJT is where T&D does not exist at all. Yet … or forever.

U-S-OJT - green

Theoretically the performers out there must be learning how to do these parts of the job one way or another…by hook or by crook. They are probably learning about certain aspects about the job tasks on the job, and probably without any consistent structure, or guidance/guidelines, etc.

This is the nature of Unstructured OJT. It is cheap, and not in control. But it still may be appropriate.

Again, not every learning need or opportunity, that can be determined via a training needs analysis, should be addressed by formal T&D. The return on investment (ROI) might be either nil or negative. And therefore…bad business to spend resources on it when it may never have enough payback.

If I needed to learn about our department’s electronic file system, I can do this without any formal structure simply by being guided by the title of the U-OJT Event or Module within an Event on my T&D Path…if titled appropriately. Naming “it” may be enough guidance.

A T&D Event titled: “Department Electronic File Systems Orientation & Overview” has enough clues and cues for me and my management to figure this out locally, and then conduct this T&D event locally. Without a job/performance aid to guide us any further. And then we check it off via our LMS.

So without spending any time at all in defining the content, the title was/is enough to guide the learning that we think should take place at the appropriate time by titling a T&D Event and placing it on the T&D Path for a target audience.

There are many titles representing T&D that may not have a significant enough ROI to warrant investing the shareholders’ equity in low hanging T&D fruit development and then deployment.

  • Internal/Upstream Supplier(s) Process and Product Orientation & Overview
  • Internal Downstream Customer(s) Process and Product Orientation & Overview
  • Departmental Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) Orientation & Overview
  • Departmental Organization Chart Orientation & Overview
  • Departmental Regulatory Compliance Issues Orientation & Overview

There may not be enough of a population, or enough of a cost-of-non-conformance, or enough of a reward for conformance, to make the case for developing and deploying a chunk of gap T&D. Those may be better left to a U-OJT deployment strategy.

Of course, as always…it always depends….

The regulatory compliance module above could have gone either way depending on the issues and costs revolving around any non-conformance. It could have been best as U-OJT or best if deployed as S-OJT or more…E-Learning, instructor-led classroom, etc.

If the regulations have to do with simple paperwork that is routinely completed and filed locally to create the required paper trail, and the target audience is the size of two, and the legal issues and monetary fines for non-compliance are extremely minimal or non-existent, then U-OJT would probably be appropriate.

If however the regulations are intended to be tough, with significant business impacts due to potential fines or disruptions of the work processes by the regulator overseers, then minimally an investment in providing more than a title might be an astute business approach.

Shareholder equity may be best protected by investing in formal T&D with high pay-off ROI potential. And that ROI is from a cost (fine and other business penalties) avoidance perspective.

For those gap T&D opportunities appropriate for shareholder equity investment, the next step up from U-OJT is Structured OJT (S-OJT).

Structured OJT is where we take the initial data from the PACT Analysis phase (in a CAD, MCD or IAD effort) and extend it in a template for various types of S-OJT.

S-OJT - green

Sometimes the S-OJT is to be delivered by a “certified coach” and not just “any coach” chosen locally. And sometimes not.

S-OJT training and development (T&D) is a delivery mechanism for providing structure to a coach and a learner, for as just-in-time as they can make it. S-OJT also allows for local customization and embellishment of the content where it is not feasible for the T&D supplier to capture and present all of the content at a level of specificity required to ensure that the learner not only “gets it,” but “can apply it.” This is especially true of “moving target”- volatile content.

S-OJT is intended to provide some level of guidance (as tight or loose as the situation calls for) in what the coach should cover with the learner.

Using the PACT Process for Mapping Lessons – an Event’s Module’s Lessons are composed of Instructional Activities – the CAD designs guide the developer using ANY authoring tools/templates available in developing the three types of PACT Instructional Activities: Information, Demonstration, and Application, which can include sub-types such as:


  • Self-Paced Readings (paper and/or online)
  • Document Review Guides
  • Interview Conduct Guides
  • Dynamic Information
  • Performance Aids (a.k.a.: Job Aids)

Information can include work instructions, the annual report, procedural guides, best practices, lessons learned, etc.


  • Real Work
  • Simulated Work

Demonstrations can be live or recorded, as appropriate to the need and to how the other other Instructional Activities in the Lesson are being deployed.


  • Knowledge Tests
  • Performance Tests: Simulation Exercises
  • Performance Tests: Real Work Exercises

Applications are the “evaluation tools” for Level 2. Did they master the objectives? Of course, where those objectives come from, how they are articulated, is critical.

S-OJT Coaches

There are also two types of S-OJT. They differ in the “who can deliver/be the coach” of the learner/Performer

  • Any Local Coach
  • Only a Designated Coach (is authorized) and may be required to be certified internally or externally or both

Either- (1) it doesn’t greatly matter who delivers/coaches the learners/Performers, and the choice can be left to the local management of the learners/Performers to decide who would be best to coach given their current local situation.

Or- (2) it really does matter who coaches the learners/Performers, and the subject-matter-expert (SME) or master performer (MP) should be carefully selected…and perhaps trained/certified/qualified before unleashing them on the learners/Performers.

Perhaps the regulators will someday want to know “who trained them,” and the company will want to be in a position to state who, what, where, when, and why and leave a sufficient paper trail for the auditors.

Examples of S-OJT – where the customer/supplier situation specifics dictate OJT as the best deployment approach – might include:

  • Completion of state/local EPA and OSHA regulatory required paperwork (routine and on-demand)
  • Use of the franchise financial software packages (that differ from one franchise location to the next)
  • Learning about the local (country specific) databases provided by the local government
  • Supporting and assisting the regulatory auditors as they audit the enterprise

Which of the above do you think might require a “designated coach” versus “any local coach” ?
S-OJT Administration
The post-development/acquisition administration issues involved with OJT are really limited to S-OJT, as the U-OJT is handled locally, due to it’s need, but less-than-critical overall impact to bottom-line performance.

The administration issues involved with S-OJT include:

  • T&D planning and scheduling by the customers with the suppliers – especially for the scheduling of designated coaches, where just any old coach will not do
  • Coach selection/training/certification (and the evergreening/ renewal of the same for volatile content) and balancing the burden of being a coach with getting the day job done
  • T&D Materials Distribution
  • Completion (satisfactory) criteria, for pass/fail, and consistent application of same across multiple coaches
  • T&D completion and HR records updating
  • Re-delivery/Remediation, as necessary, with all it’s attending issues of coach and learner rescheduling
  • Appeals, for learners who disagree with the coach’s verdict

Administration of most T&D systems is potentially expensive, and building a bureaucracy is all too much of a real potential. Getting the job done and being lean about it is tricky.

The T&D suppliers need to be able to cost-effectively manage and administrate this deployment strategy and effectively serve the customers. The T&D customers need to be able to figure out how to best use this driven by their local business needs.

S-OJT and U-OJT Summary
ROI thinking dictates that sometimes ISD thinking must include the notion “that just because you can identify a training need doesn’t necessarily mean that you should formally address it.”

Structured on-the-job training (S-OJT) is best used where group-paced and self-paced just won’t get the job done given supplier or customer issues and constraints.

But if the “R” is too low given the “I” needed, you might just be able to title a T&D Event and place it on the T&D Path for the target audience and their management to handle locally. The important thing is to keep them on the T&D Path for visibility, even if it doesn’t warrant addressing formally!

That’s where Informal Learning makes best sense to me.

Where the ROI is too low to address. Where the CONC – Cost-of-non-Conformance of the RISKS and/or REWARDS are not significant.

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3 comments on “Structured and Unstructured OJT

  1. Pingback: My Session Today on Structured & UnStructured Social Learning | The Pursuing Performance Annex

  2. Pingback: Scaling Social Learning for Performance Impact | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

  3. Pingback: T&D: Structured On-the-Job Training | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

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