NiSource is one of the largest fully regulated utility companies in the United States. The company’s utility subsidiaries—Columbia Gas and NIPSCO—provide natural gas and electric service to approximately 4 million customers across seven states in the Midwest, the South and New England.
Due to high retirement rates and increased hiring to support capital projects, NiSource is faced with the challenge of having less experienced employees in the field. As NiSource embarked on an initiative to strengthen its formal training programs, leadership recognized that employee development outside the classroom could not be adequately supported. In response, the training organization and operations leadership partnered to blend foundational instructor-led training with a focused and formally supported OJT program delivered by designated OJT coaches to develop field employees to full competence.
NiSource’s mandate is to give students just enough information and practice in formal classroom training to serve as a foundation, and then to rely on structured OJT to provide the broadening and deepening of skills that moves employees to full mastery. To support this, the company created an OJT coach position, and embedded dedicated resources throughout their geographically disperse field operations groups to support the development of field employees as they perform work.
The primary responsibilities of an OJT coach include:
The structured OJT program itself consists of batches of segmented tasks that are assigned to students based on their role and the classroom training they have completed. These tasks include a combination of self-study, job assignments, targeted conversations with supervisors, standards reviews, and more. When a student feels confident in their knowledge and ability related to a specific batch of OJT, they take a mini quiz. If they answer all the questions correctly, an OJT coach will do a ride-along to observe the student completing the related work, and then sign off to progress that employee to the next phase of training. If they get questions wrong or fail the ride-along, additional OJT steps are required.