Peer-to-Peer Learning in the Workplace
Encouraging peer-to-peer learning practices in your organisation has always been an important element of working life. However, you could argue that it has never been as valuable as right now. As the workplace becomes more fragmented, with remote environments becoming increasingly popular, and after years of working alone, encouraging collaboration is more crucial than ever.
This style of learning is also no less important in the more traditional environments, as the benefits to individuals and the organisation as a whole can be endless. This article breaks down some of the greatest advantages of encouraging peer-to-peer learning in your business.
What is peer-to-peer learning?
Peer-to-peer learning refers to the idea of collaboration between employees in a manner that allows them to gain knowledge and skills from one another, which can then be put into practice to boost productivity and performance.
Peer-to-peer learning can happen organically, as individuals may turn to those around them for advice or guidance, but organisations can get ahead of the curve and encourage it to really reap the benefits. In a 2019 report from PwC, research suggested that 79% of CEOs worldwide are concerned that a lack of essential skills in their workforce is threatening organisational growth. With the recent Great Resignation threatening workforces even further, finding informal and organic ways to fill skills gaps, promote a healthier environment and encourage growth and development is vital for organisational success.
Peer-to-peer learning is often included in classroom training, for example through small group activities, as it offers opportunities for teamwork and communication. This approach to collaboration can be translated into the everyday environment too. Whilst it does not substitute more elaborate and thoughtful learning and development strategies in your organisation (such as e-learning tools and classroom training), it can be used to complement more formal training approaches to further boost productivity.
What are the benefits of peer-to-peer learning?
- Strengthens Company Culture. Before we speak of how beneficial it can be to upskilling, peer-to-peer learning promotes better communication and engagement in a way that brings teams together and helps them feel better connected with one another.
When employees feel connected, they can collaborate better, which means both employee wellbeing, and the productivity of your organisation benefit simultaneously.
Moreover, it can be more inspiring to learn from those around us every day than from outsiders or external experts. Many people will feel more inspired to take ideas and guidance on board from someone they deem as more like them. On the opposite side of the same coin, employees providing the guidance and advice to others are likely to feel valued and motivated in their roles. Being able to share your expertise feels good!
- Knowledge Sharing. In many ways this goes without saying, but peer-to-peer learning means the exchanging of knowledge amongst a network of employees. This means everyone stands to benefit as know-how and experience are shared between everybody.
This is especially useful as knowledge shared is relevant to the organisation. Whilst some employees may offer more knowledge than others, they still benefit in terms of coaching experience and reviewing their own understanding. Future senior employees can be shaped through company-specific knowledge that they learn from those who have gone before them.
- Cost-effective. Quality training materials are crucial to business success, and they are a worthwhile investment. That being said, some skills gaps can be filled without extensive resources like e-learning courses or classroom sessions. With peer-to-peer learning, in-house experts are effectively leveraged to train others in day-to-day skills, and existing employees (at any level) have a unique knowledge of your business that cannot be sourced from elsewhere, meaning some of the best training is right in front of you, and virtually free!
- Helps with the onboarding process. The above can be useful for onboarding. New hires can learn from those with real, first-hand experience in the job they have been brought in to do. Or at least, first-hand experience of the company itself.
When new employees feel comfortable approaching others for advice and guidance, they are not only going to settle quicker, and feel like a member of the team (which boosts productivity), but they are also more likely to be shaped to suit the specific requirements of the organisation.
All of the above goes for physical, remote and hybrid learning environments. Healthy company culture is keenly sought after by the new generation of employees entering the workforce, and whether you are encouraging it through screens or not, it will help you retain the best employees in a time of workforce uncertainty.
How can peer-to-peer learning be encouraged?
As mentioned, in many ways peer-to-peer learning happens naturally and informally, as employees turn to one another with issues or questions. However, organisations can implement practices that encourage this type of behaviour and ensure the benefits are obtained. Once this type of culture is given an early push, you can expect to see it grow and develop naturally moving forward.
Peer-to-peer company culture must start from the top. You can provide tools designed to encourage connectivity in the form of internal social networks, making it easy for your employees to engage with one another in a professional capacity is crucial to encouraging more communication.
Encouraging open communication channels is beneficial. It’s important that employees feel safe to be open and honest when they have questions or issues. It is the responsibility of those higher up in the organisation to make sure appropriate methods of communicating these issues are in place and that employees are treated with sincerity and respect.
Coaching opportunities can be afforded to the most expert employees in the business. Whilst they may not stand to gain from the knowledge or experiences of others (at least not to the same extent, as we can always learn new things from anyone!), they can upskill in the form of coaching skills.
Buddy systems for new hires are one of the oldest practices in the book, and they can be beneficial to both old and new employees. As discussed, peer-to-peer learning with new employees improves the culture for everyone, reduces transitionary periods, and helps boost the overall productivity of the business.
Ultimately, taking time to develop an approach to peer-to-peer learning in your organisation will create a collaborative environment that has healthy communication skills and offers all employees opportunities for growth and development. Workforces with collaborative skills are more equipped to navigate obstacles, more likely to stay in their jobs longer, and more likely to consistently perform well for the benefit of the business.
Peer-to-peer learning strategies are excellent to complement your organisation’s training programs. Trainer Bubble offers an extensive range of training resources across a range of topics including communication training, business development, leadership training and compliance. Find our free resources that promote peer-to-peer collaboration or explore what we can offer your business here.
Or for more information, and to discuss the learning needs of your business, contact us and we’ll be happy to help.