Software Developer Training: How On-The-Job Training Can Improve Software Developer Skills

Published: 14 October 2020

To get more out of software development, organisations must create a continuous learning culture with practical on-the-job training.

Industry leaders are gaining competitive advantage by investing more in learning and development (L&D), according to a UK L&D report, 94% of companies recognise it is critical to success. This intentional prioritisation of L&D is critical to keep up with technology innovation. An investment in a continuous learning culture better adapts an organisation’s software development for continuous delivery.

The need for software developers to keep up with industry knowledge has never been more important, new technologies improve the productivity of software development teams. It is crucial that software development organisations have an in-depth understanding of technologies and be adaptable to rapid industry change.

Senior technology leaders are providing software engineering teams with a variety of ways to learn when at work. A research report by Training Industry Inc. found that a blended approach to learning modes (e.g. coaching, e-learning and on-the-job training) has a useful impact on their learning.

To meet the skill needs of software developers, there must be more emphasis on improving problem-solving skills and converting theoretical knowledge into practical application. This article discusses why on-the-job training is a better solution to foster continuous learning in an organisation’s software development culture.

Online Learning Platforms Are Not Situational To A Software Developers Work Environment

Technology-enabled approaches to learning are a flexible approach to support the knowledge and skills development of software developers. It fills the need for immediate learning and professional development. But, technical online learning platforms use traditional learning techniques which are not the most effective method to improve the current knowledge and skills of software developers.

Online learning platforms such as PluralSight, Udemy, CodeCademy, Skillsoft, Simplilearn, and Coursera provide mobile educational content capabilities. The courses offered to software developers use blended learning techniques, which incorporates traditional classroom settings within an e-learning environment. 

For example, technology skills platform PluralSight allows software developers to select topics related to improving their current knowledge and skill needs. This form of online training is said to help developers focus on what will benefit their technical skills. But developers have to anticipate specific areas to pursue within the learning platform’s library. 

This gap in relevant educational content can negatively impact a developer’s productivity since the educational content is not situational to their software development work environment. Situated learning environments place learners in authentic learning situations and actively immerses them in an activity that uses their problem-solving skills. Software developers need proficient access to knowledge that can immediately benefit their workflow. 

On-the-job training is delivered while an individual is performing tasks related to their particular profession. This approach is a vital form of professional growth; furthermore, 58% of developers surveyed by HackerRank agree and want opportunities to learn new technical skills on the job.

Online learning platforms are thought to provide situated learning capabilities; however, they use traditional learning settings that require an instructor and out of context experience. 

To improve the knowledge and skills of software developers, managers must focus on learning methods that engage a developer’s problem-solving abilities. 

Engaging A Developer’s Problem-Solving Skills

Technical online learning platforms use traditional learning techniques that require the processing of information and retention of knowledge. This form of training does not allow for immediate practical application of the knowledge acquired; as a result, knowledge retention is lower. In an article by Harvard Business Review on Where Companies Go Wrong with (L&D), admittedly only 12% of employees apply the new skills learned in L&D programs to their job departments workflow.

On-the-job learning uses knowledge as a tool to facilitate problem-solving and knowledge sharing. It is a better use of online educational content. This form of training is directly incorporated into practice and encourages collaborative learning within software engineering teams’ workflow. 

Software development is first about problem-solving, and second about writing code. Senior technology leaders who prioritise problem-solving skills will drive collaborative problem solving within engineering teams. A 2018 survey by HackerRank reported that 95% of industry leaders recognise problem-solving skills is more important when recruiting developer talent. A further 59% agree it is more important than programming language proficiency.

This method can be customised to meet the specific needs of individual developers. This tailored advantage gives managers transparency into what individuals are learning and how it aligns with organisational goals.

To succeed, senior managers must create conditions for continuous learning with more importance placed on collaboration and open communication.

How To Create The Conditions For Continuous Learning

BlueOptima’s How-To-Fix 2.0 (HTF 2.0) feature promotes knowledge retention and the immediate use of the knowledge gained. HTF 2.0 provides knowledge specific to problems identified in the files being worked on by the developers.

If developers are not provided with a practical approach to improve their knowledge it can negatively impact the codebase they are working on by making it less maintainable; as a result, they waste time searching for a solution. 

This is how HTF 2.0 can benefit the creation of a continuous learning culture with effective on-the-job training:

1) Promotes Self-Learning

HTF 2.0 promotes self-learning by understanding what is the root cause of the software developer’s mistake and how to fix it. It provides tailored and relevant links on information to teach developers how to fix specific problems identified in the files. Developers get to learn from tailored educational content and immediately apply it. 

The knowledge is received in bite-sized chunks and folds into their workflow. Studies have shown that acquiring knowledge in bite-sized chunks leads to better retention and use of knowledge gained. This form of learning can quickly close a skills gap, according to the Journal of Applied Psychology the transfer of learning to the desk is 17% more efficient.

2) Improves the Code Review Process

The quality of the code review process is benefited with consistency and adherence to software development best practices. Therefore, developers code contributions are cleaner and of higher quality before the code review process.

3) Knowledge Sharing Within Teams

Software developers are provided with chances to collaborate and seek help from senior engineers. HTF 2.0 can identify mentoring opportunities within an organisation by recommending other software developers that have successfully solved similar issues in the past.

Organisations that encourage mentoring can benefit from an increase in productivity. According to Mentorloop, industry leaders are using mentoring as a competitive advantage; reportedly, 71% of Fortune 500 companies offer mentoring programs to their employees. The guidance of senior developers provides junior developers with the opportunity for hands-on learning. It is an effective and fast way to improve their problem-solving skills and retain knowledge gained.

Succeeding At Fostering A Continuous Learning Culture

Online software development training courses are accessible for learning about new trending technology stacks and the latest best practices. They are better used to help develop new skills such as learning a new coding language. 

HOW-TO-FIX 2.0 helps make developers better at their craft. It concentrates on improving the current knowledge and capabilities of software developers. This strengthens collaboration within engineering teams and drives chances for continuous improvement. 

HTF2.0 is free with a subscription to BlueOptima’s Developer Analytics platform. Discover how to keep your organisation’s software development adapt for continuous delivery.

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