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The personal and professional development of employees is synonymous with organizational growth. This means shifting from a top-down growth pattern to a bottom-up and collaborative peer-to-peer learning method is necessary for continuous employee upskilling and higher organizational revenue.
However, many businesses still consider training by an outside expert over peer-to-peer learning when the opposite might be beneficial.
According to Cognitive Research Journal, individuals engaged in P2P training and development are confident and accurate in their answers.
Harvard Business Review explained that peer-to-peer learning creates a natural learning mechanism that is already our innate method of learning new skills. They define it as a learning loop:
“People acquire new abilities best when they are exposed to all four phases of learning, including gaining knowledge, practicing by implementing that knowledge, receiving feedback, and reflecting on whatever has been learned.”
All these four factors are a part of peer-to-peer learning.
Peer-to-peer learning enables individuals in a team to learn from one another cooperatively. The idea behind this approach originates from group-based classroom learning, where students were encouraged to learn together to understand concepts better.
This employee training program provides valuable and feasible L&D medium to employees. The approach is structured but flexible to drive motivation and engagement among teams.
Here’s why peer-to-peer learning benefits businesses:
It is known that learning by sharing or teaching is a viable method to enhance your grasp of data and knowledge. In the peer-to-peer employee training program, colleagues learn together, share knowledge, and better understand intricate concepts.
These knowledge-sharing sessions also create a safe space for introverts and shy colleagues to ask questions and resolve doubts. As a result, they are more likely to share concerns with peers than with an external evaluator.
Incorporating peer learning may lead to improved skill degrees in the firm, particularly when staff already have an association.
Companies that invest in peer-to-peer learning programs spend less on outsourced training and seminars. Peer-to-peer learning is almost free as the already-hired skilled employees teach each other. It helps them overcome the experience gap.
When this learning is received from outside experts, employees need to dedicate a specific amount of time from their schedule for classes and training. Contrary to this, employees can save time in a peer-to-peer learning culture.
Employees are more willing to learn from their colleagues as they relate to their peers than executives at higher positions. Learning from colleagues who have already achieved success is inspiring.
Hence, peer-to-peer learning encourages sharing knowledge, offering constructive feedback, and respecting different perspectives, which creates a strong company culture.
Peer-to-peer learning can help organizations create a seamless and warm onboarding experience for new employees. Whenever a new employee is onboarded, an existing employee can share the knowledge and help settle into the team and organization quickly. Likewise, a new employee can go to peers with questions regarding the project or organizational policies to avail answers and clarifications in less time.
Existing employees can help new employees feel comfortable and clarify doubts they cannot ask managers or higher management. Even if an employee joins the organization remotely, efficient communication and knowledge sharing about the work culture can make the onboarding process seamless and smooth.
Constructive feedback is an art that is hard to learn, and the peer-to-peer learning model helps overcome this challenge. Mentors or peers learn to offer and receive feedback constructively and positively. This allows every employee to evolve their skills and learn through the valuable input of colleagues and peers.
As a result, an important feedback loop is developed in the workplace, which ensures high efficiency and productivity.
Organizations can foster peer-to-peer learning through the following strategies:
The most important step is creating a secure environment where peers feel free to ask questions, raise doubts, and share feedback. And organizations can create a safe environment to promote peer-to-peer learning by enforcing the following guidelines.
No questions should be considered unimportant
Organizations can assign a facilitator to coordinate and track the progress to encourage peer-to-peer learning. This facilitator should have prior leadership experience to create an organized rotational structure for employees. This will prevent employees from getting overwhelmed and help bring different perspectives to several processes and tasks.
Organizations can pair employees with different peers to encourage the adoption of new perspectives, ideas, and solutions. Employees can get exposure to others’ skill sets, knowledge, leadership styles, and teaching methods. This peer-to-peer learning strategy will improve the interaction between different team members and departments. In addition, it will help employees learn the art of communicating with people with diverse personalities.
Organizations can pair new joiners with experienced employees who can provide real-life problems and solutions related to their jobs. As a result, new employees learn practically and develop interpersonal and soft skills during the process. It will be a two-way street rather than a one-way struggle.
Peer-to-peer learning involves commitment, engagement, and effort. Offering incentives to employees who actively participate and make a difference will encourage participation. It is optional to provide financial incentives but should include things to aid career progression.
Some tips for the same are:
Technology implementation is one of the critical factors in implementing peer-to-peer learning strategies. The remote working culture arrived with the Covid-19 pandemic. Providing digital learning and interactive platforms will allow participants to share ideas, teach new concepts, clarify doubts, and offer solutions. This will foster collaboration even when team members are located in different parts of the world.
Lunch and learn sessions add to the above strategies in a social and relaxed environment. Like brainstorming sessions conducted in a natural setup without pressure, lunch and learn sessions help peers collaborate on exciting topics, engage in a group discussion, and share expertise.
While in a formal setup, employees are often hesitant to resolve doubts or ask questions, this method helps host events and discuss challenges and issues from every possible angle.
It is imperative to initially encourage motivation in such sessions with a complimentary lunch.
The facilitator must hold mandatory feedback sessions in the initial stages of peer-to-peer learning. Create a written report to improve communication and ensure constructive criticism. It will invoke practical and critical thinking in employees, scrutinizing how a task has been completed and challenges have been tackled.
The bottom-up needs approach is a method in which the workforce declares its learning requirements. This increases the chances of offering actual learning benefits to employees.
In reality, most businesses follow a top-down approach where the management decides L&D needs and describes learning gaps and associated goals.
Utilizing a bottom-up training method helps employees get involved in their own professional growth. This ensures the correct identification of learning gaps and appropriate peer-to-peer learning strategies for these challenges.
Job shadowing program involves real-life training in different job roles. The method helps employees understand job pressures, intricacies, and requirements for varied functions. As a result, cross-role empathy is developed across teams.
For example, when allowed to observe the work of an accounting or sales professional, a marketing team professional may understand their daily struggles closely. Hence, it will help each member develop empathy and respect towards different job roles, improving cross-team compatibility and collaboration.
Besides building cross-team empathy, job shadowing encourages employees to explore varied roles that may seem more relevant to them. For example, many professionals want to change careers, and job shadowing will help them judge the possibilities and feasibility of the new role.
The following are the steps that organizations should take to create an effective employee training program:
The first step involves determining the requirements and finding the gaps in the learning and development strategy. This will allow the development of training programs, determining areas in which their employees need improvement, and identifying the markers of success.
Organizations can research current trends or ask employees about their training needs.
Mercer | Mettl provides a Training Needs Analysis Assessment to help organizations determine the skills gaps and training needs of employees. The assessment follows a structured process to identify challenges and understand the reskilling requirements of the workforce. It helps find agile employees who have the power to learn effectively and quickly and identify professionals who have the closest skills.
Based on the findings, it is possible to create a dedicated peer-to-peer learning strategy for different employees according to their requirements.
The training methods have dramatically shifted from traditional training models to interactive and engagement-based learning. The hybrid and remote working culture has pushed organizations to change training approaches.
Once training initiatives are in place, organizations should track the progress and effectiveness of these training programs. This can be done through regular tests, employee feedback, and employee skill set assessments.
If employees are not satisfied with training programs and do not feel these are solving any problems or bridging the gap, there is a need to modify the approach or methodology.
Mercer | Mettl provides a Training Effectiveness Measurement Tool to help organizations determine the effectiveness of new training initiatives. Hence, organizations can bridge the skill set gap, save training costs, and strengthen the company’s culture with a clear focus on peer-to-peer learning paired with results from the Training Effectiveness Assessment.
Mercer | Mettl strives to help organizations meet their training objectives through different online and offline learning and development tools and services.
For leadership development, Mercer | Mettl has the following tools:
For reskilling and assessment of training needs, Mercer | Mettl has the following tools:
Peer-to-peer learning is one of the best ways to develop a learning environment in an organization. It creates a culture of cooperation, collaboration, and growth. Employees are more inclined to learn from their peers as they relate to them more than their managers or professionals from higher management.
Organizations should promote peer-to-peer learning to build a culture of cooperation, save training costs of outside trainers and experts, and ensure the transfer of knowledge, skills, and information to create future leaders. It also strengthens current skills while increasing efficiency, morale, and employee experience.
Here are some suggestions for implementing successful peer-to-peer learning in the workplace: i) Make a recommendation for a peer learning guide,ii) Include a companion network, iii) Reward involvement in peer-to-peer learning, iv) Invest in tools for interactive employee training programs and learning, v) Plan networking activities.
Peer-to-peer learning allows individuals to share their expertise in a relaxed and flexible environment. Sharing information amongst peers is less intimidating than organizing and delivering a formal demonstration on a subject. This collaborative environment fosters a desire to learn from mistakes.
Peer-to-peer learning encourages cooperation and teamwork to obtain information. Indeed, it is up to the learners to solve a problem using a concept and several pieces of knowledge without the assistance of a teacher. Every learner serves both as a receiver and giver of information.
Employees benefit from peer-to-peer learning because it fosters a collaborative environment. New hires can learn from more experienced staff. In exchange, seasoned professionals may consolidate their expertise via peer teaching.
Originally published November 7 2022, Updated November 7 2022
Learning and development initiatives, also known as organizational development initiatives, are activities designed to develop employees in their present roles as well as for future roles. It consists of identifying training needs, conducting training initiatives and measuring the ROI.