How developers can improve technical skills with on the job training

Ferreneik Betton, Head of Content at BlueOptima, explains how companies can effectively improve software developers’ technical skills.

Industry leaders are seeking to gain a competitive advantage by investing more in learning and development (L&D). According to a 2018 UK L&D report, a clear majority (94%) of companies regard L&D as being critical to commercial success. Gartner’s 2020 HR leaders report revealed that 86% of HR technology leaders emphasise that building essential skills and competencies is a top priority, and addressing the skills gap is considered key to growing the business.

There must be a greater emphasis on improving problem-solving skills applied in an actual work environment to overcome the skills and knowledge gap in the industry. 

The Limits of Online Learning Platforms 

Coursera, Pluralsight, Cloud Academy are popular online platforms that offer a broad range of educational content. The software development courses offered on these platforms utilise blended learning based on traditional learning techniques which is useful for a developer’s development.

Developers require access to practical knowledge that can immediately benefit the teams’ workflow. Online learning platforms don’t necessarily provide a situated learning environment because they solely offer educational content based on a traditional learning model.

On-the-job training is delivered while someone is performing tasks that are relevant to their profession and a crucial means toward professional development. A recent survey by HackerRank revealed that nearly 60% of software developers want to learn new technical skills on the job. Leaders must focus on learning methods that engage with their engineering teams problem-solving skills. 

Improving Developer’s Problem-Solving Skills

A Harvard Business Review article on Where Companies Go Wrong with Learning and Development revealed a concerning development. Only 12% of employees applied the skills learned in L&D programs. Online learning platforms will have the same issue: there will not be an immediate application of knowledge.

On-the-job learning, in contrast, utilises knowledge to promote knowledge sharing and problem-solving; therefore, a more useful practical approach. This type of training is directly implemented in the workplace and supports team collaboration. 

Software development is first and foremost about problem-solving; meanwhile writing code is secondary. HackerRank revealed in its 2018 survey that 95% of industry leaders prioritise problem-solving skills when it comes to hiring software developers. Organisations that prioritise problem-solving skills will drive knowledge sharing within engineering teams. 

Creating A Continuous Learning Environment 

Organisations need to promote knowledge retention and the immediate application of knowledge. If there is not a practical approach towards improving knowledge, it can negatively impact the company’s codebase maintainability and require valuable resources to be deployed as a solution. The following must be done to create a continuous learning culture: 

1.)Promote Individual Learning

Senior Managers can promote self-learning by creating bespoke training programmes tailored to the organisation’s needs. Directly relevant educational content will teach developers how to fix specific problems identified in the files.

However, the knowledge must be in bite-sized chunks and fold into a developer’s workflow. Academic studies have shown that acquiring knowledge in bite-sized pieces 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.


Organisations should set up mentorship programmes that provide software developers with the opportunity to collaborate and seek support from more experienced engineers.

Encouraging senior developers that have successfully solved specific issues in the past to take on mentees will increase team productivity. Mentorloop’s research revealed that industry leaders use mentoring as a competitive advantage, with an estimated 71% of Fortune 500 companies providing employees with mentoring programmes. 


For software development teams to achieve their full potential, organisations must seek to promote a continuous learning culture with on-the-job training. Whilst online learning platforms provide users with a vast range of educational resources; industry research has demonstrated the limits of a traditional education setting and deficient application of newly acquired knowledge. 

Author: Ferreneik Betton, Head of Content at BlueOptima

BlueOptima provides performance analytics powered by objective software development metrics that help you manage resources and budgets effectively. For more information visit their site.