Promote On-the-Job Learning

You can directly facilitate your employees’ success by helping them focus on the four key components of on-the-job learning:


In order to develop a competency, one needs role models whose behaviours reflect excellence in the competencies to refine.  A particular area of knowledge, a new theory, idea, or set of “how to” instructions can also be drawn from formal training, suggested readings or other training materials.

As a manager, you can facilitate observation by:

  • Taking note of and discussing others’ appropriate behaviours, and encouraging the employee to do the same.
  • Encouraging the employee to participate in a mentoring relationship; this will provide great opportunities for observing other ways of doing things and how to work effectively within the organization culture.


Practice is undoubtedly the most important element when it comes to acquiring a competency. Actually trying out the observed behaviours, the abstract theory, idea or instructions to do something is key to learning. Learning is enhanced through a diversity of experiences versus one experience repeated over and over. Learning also involves a willingness to take calculated risks in trying out new approaches which you, as a manager, need to support.

As a manager, you can encourage experimentation by:

  • Enquiring about past experiences, already developed competencies, professional interests and aspirations and motivation factors.
  • Acquainting the employee with the organizational culture. You can also facilitate their integration in the work unit by focusing on the specific contribution they make to the team.
  • To the extent possible, trying to give the individual challenging projects that allow them to lever their strengths and develop expected competencies.
  • Exposing the employee to a diversity of experiences to maximize learning.
  • Providing opportunities to practice new skills and ensuring the employee knows they will not be punished for making mistakes in doing so.
  • Guiding the employee in the development of new skills by suggesting that they consult a colleague who has previously completed the tasks and can provide tips on ways to incorporate competencies into the day-to-day work.
  • Asking the employee’s opinion on issues they know well and following up with them on actions taken.


Reflective thinking allows an individual to measure the efficiency of their interventions, and to take stock of the strategies used in light of the results obtained. It is important that employees think about what happened that can perhaps lead them to modify their approach in the future.

Self-assessment allows employees to measure progress to date, to identify gaps in the competency, and to develop an action plan to monitor their progress against development goals in order to focus their development efforts.

As a manager, you can help your employees engage in reflective thinking and self-assessment by:

  • Discussing their performance with them on an ongoing basis, and after specific deliverables/initiatives.
  • Ensuring that you discuss their self-assessments in performance meetings.


Feedback is an effective learning tool for your employee because it provides them with information about how others perceive them, allowing them to recognize areas that need improvement. They need to show openness to feedback, both positive and constructive, while seeking it in a proactive way and a timely manner to ensure that it is pertinent. Feedback is an essential tool to get real time validation around the impact of developmental efforts and new behaviours demonstrated.

As a manager, you can help your employee use feedback as a learning tool by:

  • Working with the employee to identify potential sources of feedback.
  • Ensuring that you provide both positive and constructive feedback on an ongoing basis, and model appropriate behaviour by seeking feedback from others. (See Giving & Receiving Feedback page of this portal)