First things first, why on earth would you want to train developers? Isn’t that just an added expense? This is a fallacy for a several reasons including the fact that:
DEVELOPER TRAINING DOESN’T HAVE TO COST ANYTHING
More on that part later!
Development training and continuing education is vital to companies that want to maintain a healthy and satisfied development group. When we opt to invest in training, we are choosing to retain valuable specialist employees and to teach them to be more effective at what they do. This has multiple benefits for the company and the employee:
Efficiency/Simplicity – Employees become faster, more efficient, and make fewer mistakes when they have hands-on training in best practices. This also results in a simpler and more easily maintained code-base.
Hiring – A great training program for development is an excellent selling point when looking to attract new development talent. Top tier developers want to surround themselves with others who are as good or better than themselves. A great training program is a good way to develop that talent and is something top talent looks for.
Preparation – Developers with training in upcoming technologies are quicker to see how they can implement them in their organization to the good of the company. These developers are better able to see industry and social trends which can give your company an ongoing competitive advantage. Also, they will be able to point to reasons why a new technology choice may not be right for the company. When the company’s bottom line is healthier, everyone wins.
Teamwork – Developers who train together work well together. They tend to develop camaraderie and work more effectively at solving problems as a team. Training together also helps expose developers to each other’s strengths.
Job Satisfaction – Well trained developers are are learning developers and let’s face it… if we didn’t like learning we wouldn’t be in this profession. When developers begin to feel stagnant they may start looking for work where they can grow or they may also become careless and write poorly thought-out code. A good training program will help to keep developers satisfied and satisfied developers don’t go out of their way to look for other employment. This allows the company to retain their existing workforce longer and save the money and overhead involved in hiring (training, recruiting fees, bonuses).
Potential Technology Training Topics
Topics should be chosen based on their applicability to the needs of the business. No responsible developer would expect otherwise. Also, real business problems should be given to help teach theoretical concepts through workshops (more on this below).
Methods of Training
Technology training can be very expensive if allowed to be. Hiring outside training companies, attending seminars, and certifications should be supplemented with sessions presented by internal experts, videos freely available online, and book discussions.
Valuable employees should be encouraged to train on their own time in addition to being given training on company time. This give and take approach will help your company realize the best gains by encouraging a knowledgeable and proactive culture among developers.
1-2 Hours – Daily/Weekly/Monthly
These can be held during lunch or outside normal work hours. If a developer misses the presentation they can catch up on their own. A great resource for Microsoft related videos is http://channel9.msdn.com/
1-2 Hours – Weekly/Monthly
Could be held any time. Presenters should be by volunteer only. Topics should be in line with the current curriculum.
2-4 Hours – Monthly
A workshop should follow a series of videos and/or developer presentations that cover the same or similar topics. No specific homework but the implementation should be something of value to the company at least as a prototype. Sessions held during business.
30 Minutes – Monthly
Developers present their solutions to the workshop problems. Should take place a few days after the initial workshop.
1 Hour – Weekly
Cost of Books (Free-$80 per participant)
Developers vote on and read a technical book each month and discuss it for an hour during lunch or work hours. Books could be purchased by the company or by the developers. There is a lot of great free material for discussions available online as well.
Onsite Training Seminars
1-N Days – As Needed
Varies: $1000-5000 for up to 25 attendees
An inexpensive, onsite training. The internet is your friend… do a little research and you can find many companies offering this type of service.
On-Demand Video Training
1 Year – Annually
$100-500 per user
This type of training can be handy because is is available at any time and the people who produce/present are professionals who are not only experts in the field but can also give great presentations. There are several providers of this kind of content including Tekpub, PluralSight, and Peepcode. **
**Tekpub and Peepcode have been purchased by Pluralsight since this was written. Looks like we’re going with Pluralsight!
Safari Books Online
1 Year – Annually
$199 or $460 per user
Safari Books offers hundreds of titles on technical subjects related to the development profession and Microsoft specific technologies.
Offsite Development Conferences
2-5 Days – Annually
$500-5000 per attendee
These are the conferences that really get the creative juices flowing in developers. Most major tech companies have at least one developer conference per year (Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft). Most companies with a decent training budget send their developers to one per year (almost never 2+). Estimated cost includes hotel and transportation.
Varies – Varies
Some companies pay for developers to train for and take development certification tests.
Graduate Degrees/Tuition Reimbursement
Varies – Varies
Many companies offer to reimburse employees engaged in higher learning. This is another great opportunity. Encourage your employees/coworkers to take advantage of this benefit if it already exists!
As you can see, the options for training developers run the full gamut of price, time, and commitment. The great news is, even if your company has little or no budget for training, all you need is a couple committed developers to get started with the less expensive (free) types of training. Now is the time to start training so that your company will attract, retain, and benefit from more highly trained and competent developers!