Workers gain most of their knowledge about the job they do by watching others work, not by going to college or studying books, research for the Institute of Personnel and Development suggests.
More than half of training is carried out at workstations by a manager, supervisor or peer. But many people do not realise they are being trained. A lack of organisation and record-keeping by employers means that much of the value is lost, a report by the IPD points out.
The role of on-the-job training is often overlooked, says Mike Cannell, IPD policy adviser."Too many companies allow on-the-job training to be carried out in a way that does not make the most of its potential, despite the fact that it can be a cost-effective resource," he said.
The report gives a fillip to national vocational qualifications, which have come in for renewed attack following publication of data to show that over half the NVQs have failed to attract anywhere near the number of trainees hoped for.
Latest National Council for Vocational Qualifications figures showed that in 50 trades only one person for each had embarked on NVQ training throughout England and Wales.
The IPD study of training in 11 large organisations showed that NVQ-style standards, and the rigour and checks that went with designing them, did add considerably to the effectiven ess of on-the-job training by focusing attention training needs.
Standards developed at the glass manufacturer Pilkington's were set following discussions with operational managers. Skills checklists were then developed in discussion with team leaders and supervisors. It resulted in improved performance and greater commitment from staff.
Over three years, 900 people were trained and assessed, with 10,000 days on-the-job training and 3,000 off-the-job. An average skills development programme took six months for a person to complete. At the end of the three years, the company was given a National Training Award.