Internal training, also called on-site training, is training that employees receive from employers while working on the job. Internal training is different from employee instruction that occurs at third-party, off-site educational institutions. However, employees can simultaneously train at educational institutions while receiving internal training. Not surprisingly, given the variety of businesses, internal training programs can be very different from one another. For example, they might differ by the content being taught or by the formality of the program.
Internal training can serve a number of purposes. Employers offer training to new employees to teach them how to perform their jobs and to acquaint them with workplace policies and environments. Companies can teach their existing employees additional skills to develop their careers and can give them information about new work procedures and policies. Companies can also train employees to do more than one job in a process called cross-training. This process helps businesses maintain productivity levels while enhancing the individual skills of their employees.
Companies can train employees for new positions within their organizations through internships or through more informal training. Internships are programs that train people how to work in a specific field or at certain workplaces. While working in internships, trainees (interns) typically receive money, educational credits, or other benefits. Businesses employ people to serve as interns and often hire them after the training period has ended or at a future date. Informal training often involves one employee teaching another how to successfully do a certain job.
Businesses use internal training to instruct their employees on how to act in certain situations. They give them directions to interact with particular clients or information about working in particular situations, such as conducting business in foreign countries. Some companies provide forms of internal training that do not relate directly to career skills but address personal matters. For example, in the 1960s the Motown record company instructed its artists on how to dress and how to carry themselves because the company was eager to project a certain image.
Many internal training programs are voluntary, but others are mandatory. In the United States, companies must comply with health and safety regulations established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a U.S. federal government agency. To comply with these regulations, workplaces must require certain employees to attend courses that address OSHA's health and safety measures. Some companies have employees who deal exclusively with safety matters by educating themselves and others on such matters.
On-the-job training is not a new phenomenon. The apprenticeship system, for instance, is centuries old. In this system, a person skilled at a trade or a craft teaches a newer worker the trade or craft. People who completed the apprenticeship programs successfully later became journeymen and master craftsmen. Apprenticeships still exist in some fields, such as with electricians, who can become apprentice, journeyman, or master electricians.
Individual companies have developed unique processes and histories relating to internal training. The European financial services company Société Générale proclaims that it was the first banking company to create a department to train its employees. This department, which offered what it called “perfection classes” to employees in France, began in 1921. The company later began offering training through an entity called SG Learning.
The McDonald's fast food restaurant chain provides a noted internal training model. McDonald's started Hamburger University (known as Hamburger U) in 1961 to train its workers. Workers study for restaurant and corporate positions at Hamburger University's main campus in Oak Brook, Illinois, or at McDonald's training centers located in various countries. These programs train employees in several languages and allow them to transfer credits from these courses to college studies.
Various firms in other fields have offered training programs. In the 2000s, General Motors began sponsoring a program called JumpStart for new employees. This program provides guest speakers and mentorships, teaches about the company's offerings, and allows employees to network within the company. The automaker has a long history of employee training, back to the decades it sponsored work and study cooperatives with the General Motors Institute (now Kettering University) in Flint, Michigan. In retail, the department store Saks Fifth Avenue has offered programs that have trained executives for Saks as well as for various fashion brands.
Internal training programs can vary because of differences in career fields, the content of the training, the sizes of the workplaces offering such programs, and the formality of the programs. In 2014, Four Star Freightliner, a truck dealership with locations in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, created a program to train diesel technicians for its company. The dealership executives began a partnership with the mechanics program of a community college in Alabama. The partnership allowed
students to work at the dealership while they were completing their studies, and the truck executives then offered the students jobs at the dealership after they graduated.
Other workplaces have created internal training programs to address specific needs in their fields. Almoayed Chambers, a Bahrain-based law firm, established internship training programs for its employees. The firm has handled a variety of law cases, including complex international ones. Executives hoped that additional training for new employees would give those employees a greater knowledge of the law and the legal system in Bahrain.
To train their workers, companies either use people from within their companies or bring in outside trainers to share their knowledge with employees. Some businesses send specific employees to receive training from outside organizations. After this training, the chosen employees then return to their workplaces and train people there. In other places, people simultaneously receive both in-house training from employers and outside training. This latter model is used by the truck dealership that sponsors the training of diesel technicians.
Companies that employ more formal internal training programs may engage in a training process with a number of steps. This process could involve assessing the training needs of employees, conducting the actual training, and encouraging post-training activities. Before any training occurs, employers can study their employees to determine if there are any training gaps or training needs. These needs or gaps are holes in training that could prevent employees from achieving their work objectives.
After companies determine the training their employees need, they can then supply the actual training. This training can be provided through activities such as mentorships, internships, residencies, co-op programs, in-service programs, training sessions, employee tutorials, and work-study programs. Businesses can tailor their instruction to meet the specific needs of their employees and their workplace goals. Finally, in the post-training part of the process, some companies establish evaluation departments to determine if the additional training has been effective. Other workplaces might compare their employees’ learning objectives to their actual accomplishments.
Mentorships are another form of internal training. They can be formal or informal. In a mentorship, an experienced worker (a mentor) provides training for a newer worker learning the same career. Businesses may have formal mentorship programs to train newer workers. Experienced workers may also guide and instruct newer workers in more informal capacities in places that do not have such official mentorship programs.
Even more informally, employees teach other employees skills to make their fellow coworkers’ jobs easier. They also teach them new skills if they want the employees to help them with their jobs or if they will not be able to fulfill their responsibilities because of planned absences or other reasons. Employees teach each other skills to help reach productivity or performance goals. They also train others to prepare them for various changes within the workplace or within certain positions.
A good way to learn about internal training is to ask people questions. When interviewing for jobs, you can ask interviewers if their workplace offers internal training. If such opportunities exist, you can ask follow-up questions about the training. If you already have a career, you can ask your coworkers or supervisors about internal training opportunities within your place of business. Human resources departments might have resources about training opportunities within companies as well as other useful information for employees.
You can also learn about individual businesses and the types of training they offer by visiting your local library. Libraries have books and sometimes even software about various companies, employee training, and general information about working and learning. They also offer specialized journals, general magazines, and newspapers. Some of these periodicals discuss workplace matters, including which companies are good and which are not good at training their employees. Many libraries also have computer labs that allow library patrons to research training issues or actually perform training tasks.
Computers can be useful in different training processes. The Internet is a good resource for learning about internal training programs. You can study the websites of various companies to learn if they offer internal training opportunities. Online job board postings also sometimes feature reviews from current and former employees that discuss whether their companies offer internal training or other employee development opportunities.
The Internet can also help people with the job-training process. Workers at Subway restaurants, for instance, have to complete an online training program known as Subway University. Other organizations use Internet programs to teach their employees about safety measures and other matters. Workplaces also use the Internet to remind employees about future training opportunities and to check whether they completed mandatory training. These applications demonstrate the usefulness of the Internet as an online training tool.