Peer learning is one of the strongest ways to accelerate employee development.
For starters, learning sticks when we’re collaborating with others. We’re discussing things back and forth, explaining ourselves, actively listening to others, and refining our ideas.
It’s leaps and bounds ahead of traditional learning that’s out of a book.
At Together, we see more and more companies starting peer learning programs on our mentoring platform because they recognize that employee growth starts with the relationships they have. For that reason, leaders prioritize matching every employee with someone to learn from.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. In this article, we unpack the compelling benefits of peer learning and how organizations can take advantage of it.
By the end of this article, you’ll be well suited to start your own peer-to-peer mentorship program.
What Are The Benefits Of Peer-to-Peer Learning In the Workplace?
Peer learning is happening informally in a lot of workplaces. According to the Harvard Business Review, they report that 55 percent of employees will often turn to their peers when they want to learn something new. The fact that employees turn to one another to learn is an important insight for people leaders to recognize.
Seeing that 79%of CEOs worldwide worry that skill gaps are “threatening the future growth of their organization[s]” peer-to-peer learning is becoming the lever for organizational growth. This is in contrast to traditional corporate training programs which are outdated and ineffective.
So what’s the deal with peer-to-peer learning?
This article will break down what peer-to-peer learning is and six benefits that HR leaders need to be aware of.
What Is Peer-to-Peer Learning?
Having employees learn from each other through collaboration can be an effective way for organizations to grow stronger teams that work together more productively. It’s also a more positive experience than quarterly training that isn’t personalized and disrupts employee productivity.
The idea of collaborative learning comes out of the classroom. It’s an approach to teaching that sees students put into groups and asks them to solve a problem or finish an activity together. These activities result in each student developing their strengths while also learning how to collaborate effectively with others.
These skills and practices translate well into the workplace.
According to Harvard Business Review, peer-to-peer learning fits naturally with how we naturally learn new skills. They describe what is called a Learning Loop:
"People gain new skills best in any situation that includes all four stages of what we call the “Learning Loop”: gain knowledge; practice by applying that knowledge; get feedback; and reflect on what has been learned. Peer-to-peer learning encompasses all of these."
Why Is Peer-to-peer Learning Important For Organizations?
Research has found that many employees are struggling with development at their workplaces. A recent Harvard Business Review study found that 75 percent of managers feel that learning and development at their workplaces has not been showing results.
A peer-to-peer learning approach can be a more effective learning tool, particularly when peers are motivated to solve a problem or overcome a challenge together. In this type of scenario, there can be a lot of learning for employees.
Peer Feedback Loops
Peer-to-peer learning also helps employees get better at giving feedback. Knowing how to deliver constructive feedback to your peers, and understanding how to accept it are vital skills for modern workplaces. It can also teach them to be good team players and compromise to get things done. All of these qualities are indispensable for a successful workplace.
Gaining New Perspectives
Collaboration that happens in peer-to-peer experiences also exposes people to different perspectives, which is key to supporting diversity in your organization. The experience offers opportunities for employees to foster meaningful connections with others who may be different from themselves.
Peer learning has several benefits to the workplace, such as developing their communications skills, professional development, teamwork, making onboarding more efficient, and building a stronger company culture. Let’s go into more detail about the benefits of peer-to-peer collaboration.
6 Benefits To Peer-to-Peer Learning In The Workplace
1. Learning By Teaching Others: Knowledge Sharing
Knowledge sharing is the transfer of the tactic knowledge between employees. Employees will develop a lot of tactic knowledge as they grow in their roles. It’s critical that, if they are to leave, that learning is captured and shared with others. Peer-to-peer learning encourages knowledge sharing so critical know-how is kept within organizations.
Many high potential employees can benefit from participating in peer-to-peer learning because, as they coach others, they'll learn themselves. Moreover, these employees may also be able to share their knowledge with others in your company which will help develop future leaders.
Essentially, each participant in peer learning will be able to strengthen their skills through the experience of sharing them with others. Whether they teach their colleagues or learn from them, it’s a win-win for everyone.
Peer-to-peer learning also enables knowledge sharing among participants in a comfortable setting. Rather than planning and giving a formal presentation on a topic, sharing knowledge among peers is less intimidating.
There is a willingness to make mistakes and learn from them from this collaborative setting. It’s a back and forth style of learning where they can riff off each other. This leads the conversation to explore new ideas and spur innovation - something every company should see value in.
- Knowledge sharing keeps critical tactic knowledge within the organization
- High potential employees will validate their knowledge by sharing it with others
- Hidden talent, or the “silent expert” will gain visibility for succession opportunities
- Knowledge sharing is more comfortable than a formal presentation
2. Cost-Effective Training
As far as employee development programs, peer-to-peer learning is an affordable option that requires less money than hiring instructors for workshops and training sessions. You can pair this training with free educational resources like Studocu that provides summaries of study resources used at top universities.
Yet, it can still deliver great experiences for participants and the organization. Leverage the talent and skill you already have internally to cultivate employee development. Doing so will lead to reports of higher skill levels in your organization. If you agree you’re in good company. Google shared a report on their blog that an employee-to-employee learning program is better than traditional training because “your own employees are perhaps the most qualified instructors available to you.”
If you want to draw inspiration from Google, consider ways to make your high potential employees the top trainers within your company.
Implementing peer learning can happen very quickly in an organization with little support. Learn how to develop peer-to-peer learning in your workplace with Together’s step-by-step guide.
- Peer-to-peer learning is almost free compared to traditional training
- Rather than hiring outside consultants leverage your in-house experts to train others
- Be like Google when it comes to developing your people
3. Peer Learning Strengthens Company Culture
Learning from those that are similar to us and have a success story can be inspiring. These peer teachers are often more relatable than higher-ups in the company or an external instructor.
This kind of connection with colleagues and the willingness of everyone involved to work together can build a stronger company culture. Employees exposed to a peer-to-peer learning program can grow from the experience and may start to be more ambitious as a result.
Employees that are treated as experts in their field by their company will naturally feel valued. Peers will be motivated to learn more and to share that with others in the organization. The result of this will improve productivity and company culture.
- If you want a strong company culture you need to foster collaboration and learning between employees
- Employees want to learn from each other rather than instructors
4. Onboarding Employees
Joining a new company is nerve-wracking for an employee and a lag in productivity for organizations. Peer-to-peer learning quickly gets new hires up to speed and part of the team. It gives them people they can go to with questions and keeps them from feeling stuck.
One of the best onboarding techniques is to help the new hire feel at home quickly. Peer-to-peer learning can do this and help you create the best onboarding experience for your employees.
New employees can get to know co-workers in the company who can show them the ropes and guide them through those tricky first few weeks on the job. Companies don’t have to wait until the first day to employ peer-to-peer learning. Introducing a new hire to co-workers before they start can help ease any first-day jitters they may have.
Peer learning in the onboarding process can help new employees feel comfortable asking questions they don’t want to discuss with their manager.
- Peer-to-peer learning will get new hires up to speed quickly
- New employees will always have someone they can go to with their questions
- Peer-to-peer learning should be integral to a successful onboarding program
5. Remote Employees
Employees don’t have to be in the office to benefit from peer learning. There are a variety of ways to bring collaborative learning to teams virtually. Video mentorship is an effective way to connect employees together for one-on-one meetings or group mentoring. There are several types of mentoring programs remote workplaces can leverage.
Remote mentoring can be a great tool to help combat feelings of disconnect and isolation that come with working from home. It helps with employee engagement and helps them connect with team members on different teams they may not connect with as regularly.
So if you need to engage remote employees peer-to-peer learning is an effective strategy.
- Remote employees need to connect with each other but it can be more difficult
- Peer-to-peer learning formalizes collaboration
- Organizing remote mentoring programs is an effective way to foster collaboration between distributed teams
6. Supporting Employee Development and Career Pathing
Peer learning helps employees take ownership of their career path and development. It creates more independence in staff, allowing them to direct their development. By connecting more with their colleagues they’ll gain a broader perspective on different career paths. In turn, they may find new opportunities and set new goals for their careers.
Using a peer-to-peer learning approach to employee development can help companies quickly respond and fill experience gaps. Organizations can struggle with abrupt skill loss if a senior employee quits or retires. Encouraging employees to learn from each other is an excellent way to overcome skill shortages and experience gaps.
- Peer-to-peer learning encourages employees to take ownership of their career and expertise
- Employees can direct their own learning and broaden their perspective on paths their career can take
- Companies can quickly fill experience gaps with peer-to-peer learning
Research has found that employees have been struggling with traditional training programs. However, a peer learning or collaborative approach to employee learning and development has several benefits that could overcome the challenges organizations face.