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Peer to peer learning is a type of mutual learning and training strategy in the flow of work. It involves participants of the same level collaborating to learn faster and supporting each other's growth and development.
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Peer to peer learning is invaluable in many situations.
While it is a term often associated with classrooms, peer learning is also important at work. It creates an engaged workforce that is constantly developing their skills in the context of work.
Here’s how to introduce peer to peer learning in the workplace and the many benefits of doing so.
Put simply, peer to peer learning is when one or more person, not an educator, shares what they know with other people of similar level and position. They might be students or coworkers.
Peer to peer learning is an informal, fluid form of learning. Think of it as "learning with" more than "teaching to." Rather than one "peer" acting as the instructor, each person learns from the others while working together through a task or challenge.
Regardless of whether individuals are students or coworkers, people support each other throughout the learning process. No matter their ability, the learning is multi-directional. Everyone is learning.
Although peer to peer learning may sometimes take the form of classroom or training room instruction, especially in a school setting, that isn't really the point.
In an educational setting, students learn from other students, usually through group activities. Instead of a teacher explaining a concept, students engage with one another as equals.
Each student isn’t just responsible for learning what is being taught, but also helping fellow students learn through cooperative learning.
Peer learning isn’t just for students at school or college. Colleagues at work can learn from each other through a peer to peer organization. In the same way that students teach each other, employees teach one another.
In the work environment, the important thing about peer to peer learning is that it isn't formal training. Everyone in the group doesn't have to be peers at the same level. A team leader might be demonstrating a new approach. Or, a more junior team member might get everyone up to speed on a new software tool.
As well as employees learning new skills, managers can also benefit. Peer training empowers managers to identify knowledge gaps within companies.
In addition, managers often can benefit from learning from each other. They can share tactics and approaches for leading their teams or achieving outcomes in a way that is unique to the organization. Each work environment has it's own challenges and requirements. That's why formal training often falls short.
It’s important to note that peer learning is not a cut-and-dry concept. Any meaningful collaboration of peers at work can be considered peer learning.
According to The Expertise Economy, peer to peer learning taps into existing expertise.
Employees' experiences and knowledge are one of the biggest assets to an organization. And this should be leveraged.
Think of all the knowledgeable and capable employees you hire and interact with on a daily basis. Now think about how much expertise their peers could gain if this knowledge was shared.
Peer learning is especially well-suited to the way humans learn new information.
It’s easier for us to learn new skills in an environment that includes the four key stages of the ‘Learning Loop’.
These stages are:
Peer to peer strategies cover all these stages, making for well-rounded and effective training.
Here are some of the benefits you can expect to see in a successful peer to peer organization:
Unfortunately, one out of four employees feels like they don't fit in. Fostering that sense of belonging in a peer to peer organization is crucial.
Peer training can happen in numerous parts of an employee’s job. Let’s take a look at how to introduce peer training as a practice in the workplace:
Onboarding is the first place where employees can participate in peer learning. Let’s look at three ways to implement peer training into onboarding:
Pair entry-level employees with a more experienced peer. Having a mentor can help new hires integrate smoothly into a company.
They can connect new employees with other colleagues to cultivate important workplace relationships.
Give your new team member access to a collaborative onboarding learning platform. The platform should share everything from company culture to payroll information.
Knowing the ins and outs of their new company will help new employees feel that they fit in. It’ll set them up for success and let them hit the ground running on their first day.
Online workgroups allow employees, new and old, to create collaborative learning communities.
These tools boost productivity by helping teams work together more efficiently. The best part is that knowledge is shared via one easily accessible platform.
You can implement peer training into employees’ day-to-day work lives. Let’s look at three ways to implement peer training in employees’ constant performance:
Also known as “learn at lunch” or “brown bag” events, lunches make for popular trends in peer training.
In these peer learning sessions, employees aren’t just gaining new information. They’re interacting with their peers in a relaxed, social environment.
Because of their informality, employees are less intimidated and more open to sharing. In exchange for their participation, employees can look forward to a free lunch. It’s a win-win!
Social media isn't just for sharing and liking pictures of family and friends. Platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter have immense social learning value in the workplace.
Tools such as Workplace, Slack, and MicroSoft Teams are great for collaboration and fostering more interaction. They facilitate online group work, video conferencing, and resource sharing.
Cloud technology enables peers to work remotely and collaborate together in real-time. Once uploaded, employees have unlimited access to the information they need.
Reviewing processes are a great learning opportunity for employees, and peer training helps to facilitate that. Let’s take a look at three ways to implement peer training during reviewing processes:
Peer reviews let employees gain a full understanding of their work and the work of their peers. More transparency adds insight that a manager might not be able to give.
Set aside time for teams and the peer to peer organization as a whole to assess their work, value, and beliefs. Group reflection helps employees build their emotional intelligence.
Workshops run by experts outside the organization have their value. But ongoing peer interactions are where the real magic happens. A hybrid approach, such as BetterUp's Coaching Circles™, can amplify the impact of peer learning.
Ask employees for their input on how they’d like to run the sessions and how often they’d like them to happen.
Keep up to date with the latest trends in peer learning to keep your peer training sessions relevant and engaging.
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Here's how you can set up a peer learning program within the workplace and make sure it's successful in seven steps:
If you are implementing more formal peer learning sessions, a facilitator can help the process run smoothly. They should keep the conversation flowing and might summarize or frame the discussion. They can keep track of understanding gaps and issues that might need to be elevated. They stay neutral but also involved in the learning process. It’s important that there is no authority associated with their role.
There's no good in setting up a peer training session if no one feels comfortable sharing.
Everyone should feel they can speak up and share their experiences. Participants must feel safe to ask questions without feeling embarrassed.
Emphasize the importance of respectful communication. The facilitator can help set up a code of conduct.
Networking events aren't all about exchanging business cards. They can be a great source of new perspectives and ideas.
Set up happy hour meetups, industry seminars, or office mixers. These sharing events will help form trust and build connections amongst colleagues.
Identify seasoned employees to create peer to peer learning content for new employees. It’ll give the newcomers a chance to learn their jobs hands-on and to integrate into the company.
Finding the commonality between experiences helps employees relate to one another.
The biggest commonality? The work itself! Employees who are trying to reach a shared objective will naturally learn from each other in the right environment. Make sure teams have the tools, and expectation, that they are learning from each other.
Learning from others on unrelated teams can be even more beneficial. Employees might be surprised to learn their colleague struggled with a similar problem. This drives a desire to learn how they overcame the issue. The ideas and insights gained from seeing how a different part of the organization approached a problem can spark more creativity and innovation.
Bringing together employees from different backgrounds fosters an open-minded, global company culture. This can make them better equipped to see situations from many perspectives.
Ask your peer learners for suggestions and feedback on what is working, or isn't, for their learning. Make a note of learners’ consumption of the educational content. You can use this information to improve future peer training programs.
Personalized development helps leaders and their teams thrive.
In today's world, it's not viable for every employee to fend for themself. Gone are the days of each person being an island.
The global pandemic has turned many of our worlds upside down. Pre-COVID-19, you may have discussed a project with your colleague at their desk. Or you'd hash out a problem over a bite to eat.
Unfortunately, many of us are now limited to Zoom calls. But we are still social creatures who crave that sense of community. Our desire to learn from others hasn't changed.
What needs to change is the way we do it.
New and actionable workforce skills are in high demand in the modern world. The rise of virtual teams means employees need new skills to get their work done.
The McKinsey Global Survey shows the urgency for addressing growing skills. 69% of organizations do more skill-building now than before the pandemic.
This shows a growing need for effective and affordable educational approaches.
New trends in peer learning give employees the chance to learn from each other remotely and in person. This enhances skill transformation and promotes meaningful collaboration in the workplace.
Peer to peer learning creates a collaborative environment among employees. New recruits are able to learn from seasoned employees.
Seasoned employees learn new tools and approaches from newer employees.
Everyone involved can solidify their own knowledge and mastery through peer teaching. And teaching others stretches individuals personally and professionally.
At the same time, they also gain cognitive agility through exposure to diverse ideas and new ways and approaches. In today's fast changing environment, cognitive agility is key.
Implementing peer learning can also help your employees and organization adapt to a changing world.
Wanting to learn more about peer learning and foster employee growth at your organization? Consider working with a BetterUp coach to grow both as an individual and in your organization.