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Stacey Wonder
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Software Developers Improve Technical Skills through On-the-Job Training

Reading Time: 11 Minutes

Published : September 21, 2022

Last Updated: September 22, 2022

The modern world is very dynamic. Every day new development companies pop up in the market. Consequently, it is essential to create a skilled software development staff that has a thorough understanding of the software development process and possesses all other necessary technical skills. 

But how can software developers train without distracting themselves from their work?

Сreating an effective on-the-job training system is a key to the development company’s success. There are over 10 ways software developers can develop their technical skills. They have different pros and cons. Let’s discuss traditional and modern ways of on-the-job training, but first, let’s talk about principles.

Principles of on-the-job training to develop technical skillson-the job training

Source: itproportal

Development companies aimed at a long existence need constant development, so it is vital to use a strategic approach to personnel training. It will reduce the cost of contingencies within and outside the development company.

Problem-situational and tactical approaches are less effective and give short-term results. The human resources of the organization do not develop according to market requirements. The fundamental principles of personnel training include:

  1. Objectivity – organizing on-the-job training regardless of personal judgments and subjectivism.
  2. Reliability – on-the-job training should be systematic, despite external factors (weather, mood).
  3. Credibility – determination of the employee’s effectiveness at the end of on-the-job training.
  4. Accessibility – all on-the-job training procedures should be available to all software developers.

On-the-job training of the software developers is a necessary part of measures on work with the employees. It is called not only to develop the technical skills of the software developers and to teach them to solve more problems but also to form personal attitudes and systems of values. There are many expectations on the part of the development companies for this process.

On-the-job training is a systematic two-way process between the development company and the employee. Cooperation, mutual understanding, and trust of both parties are necessary for successful interaction.

It is necessary to emphasize that on-the-job training is essential not only for software developers but also for development companies because the quality of personnel is one of the most critical conditions for the successful functioning of any organization.

Traditional On-the-Job Training Methods

Now, let’s move directly to the methods of on-the-job training. The traditional methods of on-the-job training include:

  • Copying
  • Mentoring
  • Complicating tasks
  • Delegating
  • Job rotation
  • Training in project groups

All traditional on-the-job training methods have their pros and cons. When choosing an on-the-job training method, it is necessary to consider factors relevant to a particular development company and use an individual approach to software developers.

A. Copying

on the job training

Source: codemotion

Copying is the process of training a software developer, in which a software developer copies the actions of a more experienced software developer. This on-the-job training method is essential for companies where software developers must perform cyclic, step-by-step, monotonous coding. 

Suppose software developer activity involves a broader range of mechanical and logical actions. In that case, copying should be used as the initial method of software developer on-the-job training combined with other methods.

The advantages of this on-the-job training method are that a middle or senior software developer follows the less experienced developer. They prevent mistakes, can immediately correct them, and explain everything necessary. Also, the employee acts in a real working, not staged, situation. 

The disadvantage of this on-the-job training method is that it can be used only with others. In a short period, the software developer will not be able to learn, for example, cross-device functionality that may be needed to develop technical skills.

B. Mentoring

Mentoring as on the job training

Source: Jobadvice

Mentoring is a traditional method of on-the-job training. An experienced mentor is attached to the less experienced software developer, who regularly monitors and checks the quality of the software developer’s work and shows how to perform the task correctly. This on-the-job training method is critical, where practical experience plays a crucial role in software developer training. The mentoring process can have the following steps:

  1. Defining the mentoring goals. Establishing rules for the interaction between mentor and mentee.
  2. Creating a plan of action.
  3. The mentor does and talks about what he does and teaches it to the mentee.
  4. The mentee tries to do what the mentor tells him.
  5. The mentee says and does, and the mentor observes.
  6. Supervise and support during the implementation of the plan. Feedback is essential at every stage.

There are three methods by which a mentor can act: coaching, explaining, and developing. In coaching, the mentor gives clear instructions and algorithms to act in situations where one should not hesitate. Explanation – justification of each algorithm step and explanation of the crucial moments.

Development – a method in which the mentor does not give specific instructions and answers but encourages the student to become aware of what is necessary. The development will only work when the student has a high degree of professional development and is highly motivated.

The advantage of the mentoring method is cost-effectiveness. The employee learns the application of knowledge and technical skills. The disadvantages include possible psychological resistance on the part of the software developer since mentoring involves destroying some personality stereotypes and forming new habits.

C. Complicating tasks

On-the-job training..

Source: lighthouselabs

A Complicated task method is a gradual complication of tasks for a software developer in terms of volume, complexity, and degree of importance. The aim of this method is the independent execution of tasks. In the process of complicated tasks, the software developer expands his knowledge and immediately applies it in practice. The employee understands that they are responsible for completing the tasks.

An employee’s motivation plays a significant role. If it is high enough and the employee clearly understands the purpose of training, this method will be effective. The advantage of this method is the development of responsibility and independence in the decision-making process. The disadvantage of this method is that if the trainee has low motivation, too much time will be wasted.

D. Delegating

On the job training methods

Source: shrm

Delegating gives software developers some decision-making authority within one task. It is used to unload the team lead, to assess the speed of thinking of the software developers, the degree of their responsibility, and the ability to make decisions. After such an observation, if the software developer copes with all the tasks, he may be offered, for example, a higher position. 

Delegating is integral to the democratic management style inherent in many modern development companies. So it is quite a standard method of on-the-job training.

E. Job rotation

job rotation

Source: Trainingindustry

Job rotation is a professional on-the-job training method in which software developers are temporarily moved to other projects to acquire new skills. This method helps increase the knowledge and skills of the software developer and helps cope with stress, for example, if the employee is experiencing burnout or lacks social contact. There are vertical and horizontal job rotations

Vertical rotation is a promotion within the same occupation, after which the place of the displaced employee is vacated. For example, due to going on maternity leave, the position of CTO was vacated, and this position was offered to the software development team lead. 

To master the new aspects of activity, the software development team lead first should go through the vertical rotation. After one or several months, they will be approved for the position of CTO. 

Horizontal rotation is transferring an employee to another department with a change in professional activities. 

F. Training in project groups

Training in project groups

Source: enterprise.classgap.com

Training in project groups is specifically created to develop large, time-limited projects. This on-the-job training method is essential for organizations with project and matrix management structures. It develops teamwork skills, and the joint search for new non-standard solutions effectively influences the project result. 

It should be noted that for the best result, it is necessary to create a compatible team. For this, you should use the test to determine the roles in the group. But if HR wants to look at the software developers in a stressful situation, their actions, and their capabilities, it is possible to pick an incompatible team.

Modern On-the-Job Training Methods

Modern on-the-job training methods are more popular than traditional ones. The conservatism and fear of change can play a bad joke with development companies that do not move forward and do not change their approaches to human resource management. Rapid technological change also requires a change in on-the-job training methods.

Consider modern, innovative methods of on-the-job training that expand on traditional ones. These include:

  • Job shadowing
  • Budding
  • Secondment
  • Distance learning
  • Modular training

You can’t say that one method is better or worse. Depending on the situation and the specific employee, on-the-job training methods should be chosen.

A. Job Shadowing

Job shadowing as on-the-job training

Source: spin.atomicobject.com

Job shadowing can be used in any development position where observing the actions of an experienced professional is more visual than simply explaining them in words. With shadowing, the software developer sees the technical skill in action, but it does not allow them to see all the nuances of it.

Less experienced software developers observe the approach to the technical skill of an experienced employee, the required personal interactions, and all the necessary steps and actions for effective work. 

The disadvantage is that the trainee may interfere with the employee’s ability to do their job.

B. Budding

on-the-job-training

Source: livecareer

Budding is a method of on-the-job training based on providing each other with information and establishing honest feedback. It implies support in achieving goals (personal or corporate) as well as in developing new technical skills.

In budding, there are no categories of “senior” and “junior.” Advice and recommendations are passed on bilaterally. Buddy provides unbiased feedback on software developer performance. Budding is used to:

  • Educate the software developer to develop technical skills
  • Increasing the effectiveness of the development company’s change process
  • Transferring information between departments
  • As a team-building tool
  • Development of behavioral skills of employees

It should be remembered that this on-the-job training method requires constant attention from the coordinators of the HR department. Participants in budding should always be trained to establish honest and objective feedback. Otherwise, this method will be ineffective.

C. Secondment

secondment as an on-the-job training

Source: career-advice.jobs.ac.uk

Secondment is a type of software development staff rotation, the assignment of employees for a certain period to another structure to help them develop the necessary technical skills. Secondment can be internal when a software developer is sent to another structure of the company and external when a software developer is sent to a completely different structure with a change of activity. 

The exchange can be short-term (about 100 hours of work time) or long-term (up to a year). The secondment is suitable for software developers of all levels. This on-the-job training method is essential for development companies with a flat organizational structure, which limits opportunities for software developer advancement and the development of additional technical skills. 

Successful secondment requires the agreement of the software developer with the management for this procedure, clarity, and transparency. If we talk about external secondment, the software developer gets an opportunity for personal development, acquires new knowledge and valuable experience, and uses his skills in different areas, for example, network security.

The “giving party” gets back a more experienced software developer, improves staff motivation, and gets a good employer reputation. The “receiving party” gets resources for its projects.

D. E-learning

E-learning as on-the-job training

Source: elearningindustry

E-learning is when all or most of the training is carried out using modern information and telecommunication technologies. Software developers can develop technical skills on their own (long) or take courses with instructors (fast), choosing from the best online learning platforms. Only by comparing it is possible to find an ideal match from hundreds of platforms. This method can be attributed to the on-the-job training when the company allows software developers to learn between the work. The advantages of e-learning include:

  • Ensuring constant/continuous on-the-job training.
  • Continuous monitoring of knowledge level.
  • Reducing the time and financial cost of professional development. 

According to Growthengineering, using E-learning instead of traditional training methods saves the company at least 50% of training costs, reduces training time by 60%, and consumes 90% less energy from the participants. Companies with a strong learning culture are 46% more likely to become leaders in their industry:

  • Employee productivity increases by 37%
  • 34% better customer satisfaction
  • 26% more opportunities to create quality products
  • E-Learning delivers an 18% increase in employee engagement

Speaking of e-learning, we need to talk about hybrid learning. Hybrid learning represents e-learning and face-to-face formats. The main advantage of hybrid learning is that the instructor can explain the necessary things to the employee individually.

There is personal contact with the teacher, and a discussion can be organized, during which employees will share experience, knowledge, and impressions. 

This training takes into account the individual characteristics of the employee and practices a unique approach in face-to-face meetings. Cross-device functionality is necessary for both e-learning and hybrid learning.

E. Modular training

Modular training

Source: es-asp.net

Modular training is an on-the-job training method that includes two parts: theoretical and practical. After listening to all the necessary theoretical bases, employees apply them to practical experience. This training can take place either under the supervision of a teacher or independently. The knowledge control system in the process of modular training consists of 3 stages:

  1. After studying each topic and consolidating it on practical skills, the trainee passes the test on the assimilation of information, containing 10-12 questions or practical tasks.
  2. After studying each module, a trainee takes an intermediate control (also in the form of a test) or qualifying tests.
  3. Final control – knowledge check at the end of training.

The peculiarity of modular training is that it aims at studying modules independently. Still, if necessary, a group is gathered, and the issues that are not included in the training, but require consideration, are discussed in more detail.

Conclusion

The “70:20:10” approach is now gaining popularity, pioneered by Morgan McCaul and his colleagues at the Center for Creative Leadership. The essence of the approach is that basic training takes 70% of the time when an employee solves daily work tasks. During mentoring, a student receives another 20% of knowledge and skills. And only 10% consists of formal training. 

Now, let’s summarize the pros and cons of all on-the-job training methods to develop technical skills.

On-the-Job training method Pros Cons
Copying Technical skills and knowledge are acquired in a short time. Not suitable for all technical skills; it does not give a complete picture of the skill.
Job rotation Increases the knowledge and technical skills of the software developer; allows them to prove themselves in another position and cope with stress. High time costs; before job rotation, management should talk to the employee, get their vision of the professional activity, and find out if they want to do it.
Mentoring Higher quality of training; high probability of finding new solutions, high motivation for the trainee. High time commitment; higher learner responsibility; a possible increase of tension between mentor and learner.
Complicating tasks The development of responsibility and autonomy in the developing technical skills. If the learner has low motivation, too high time expenditure.
Delegating Helps to develop technical skills for the employee. It is necessary to delegate tasks properly, according to the trainee`s qualifications; otherwise, it can lead to collapse.
Training in project groups Develops teamwork skills; the joint search for new out-of-the-box solutions effectively affects the project’s outcome. The need for high preparation costs (allocation of space, tools, effectively selected team composition).
Shadowing The employee improves their knowledge of the new position and technical skill they want to move into or master. The software developer sees the technical skill in action, but it does not allow them to see all the nuances of the activity.
Budding Support in achieving goals (personal or corporate) and developing new technical skills; provides unbiased feedback. High time commitment; if a trainee is not connected to a buddy, there is no effect from the training.
Secondment Improvement of knowledge and technical skills on their own or through completely different activities. High time costs; the need to accurately calculate the importance for the employee; otherwise, it will not bring any benefit.
E-learning Provision of continuous, uninterrupted training; continuous monitoring of knowledge levels; reduction in time and costs for professional development. High cost of the formation and creation of e-learning; with unmotivated employees, e-learning is useless.
Modular training Independent learning provides the necessary theoretical material aimed at developing technical skills. Requires frequent adjustments to the theoretical part of the training following the market development and the requirements of the qualifications of employees; not everyone is able to study independently.

 

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Stacey Wonder

Stacey Wonder is a freelance blogger from California. She usually writes on educational topics, career, self-development, and writing. When not busy with her projects, Stacey creates detective stories. She dreams to become a well-known writer one day.

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