Peer-to-peer learning

What is peer coaching and how do can you do it well?

Every organization should encourage peer coaching. Here are the benefits and how to start pairing employees in your workplace.

Ryan Carruthers

Published on 

March 14, 2022

Updated on 

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Employee engagement and growth are essential to building a successful organization. Researchers at the World Economic Forum predict that half of the global workforce will need reskilling in the next few years. To prepare employees for the future in business, companies have been investing more on growth and development initiatives. The learning and development industry brings in about $165 billion each year. 

Yet, companies often overlook peer coaching as one of the best ways to develop employees. One study found that nearly 70 percent of employees turn to their peers or read articles to learn. By formalizing peer-to-peer coaching, organizations can take advantage of connections that are developing informally. 

What is peer coaching?

Peer coaching is where one or more employees collaborate to help each other define and reach their goals. 

It has further been defined as: “an avenue to develop a collaborative workplace where staff members interact freely to address curriculum and instruction, observe and teach each other, develop and analyze materials, plan, and solve problems together.” 

That is, it is a tool that organizations can use with employees to cultivate collaboration, learning and growth. 

Where does peer coaching happen?

Many different organizations and institutions use peer coaching to enhance skills and reinforce learning. Some of the places that have been successfully using peer coaching include:

Education

Teachers have been using peer coaching for a long time to build their teaching skills. 

It can also be used in a classroom setting between students. When one student who excels at a subject helps coach or teach another student who is struggling. 

For example, Minnesota State University recently announced they would be allowing hundreds of transfer students access to coaching and mentoring programs. 

Companies

Peer coaching is a common practice for workplaces of all sizes. 

It can be used as an onboarding process where new hires are paired with a co-worker from the same department to help train them. These are often referred to as new hire buddy programs

Another situation where peer coaching is successful is when new managers coach each other to help them transition into leadership roles. 

With the pandemic, more employees were working from home, and companies responded by allowing remote workers to connect and learn from each other in a virtual space. 

Employee Resource Groups or ERGs are another space where employees can find peer coaching opportunities and support. It can aid employee development and build camaraderie.  

What are the benefits of peer coaching?

There are several advantages to using peer coaching in a workplace, such as:

For employees

Accountability - having a coach or mentor makes employees more accountable for their actions. 

Connection - peer coaching relationships can be deeper than other mentoring relationships because they share the same perspective. 

For organizations

Productivity - coaching has been shown to improve employee productivity

Learning - peer coaching allows for learning and leadership development. 

Improve teamwork - encouraging peer coaching can lead to participants collaborating on other work projects and tasks. 

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Tips for effective peer-to-peer coaching

Several elements can contribute to effective peer coaching experiences, including:

Trust - When participants trust each other, they are more comfortable unveiling their vulnerabilities or weaknesses. And it is when they risk being vulnerable that growth can happen. 

Setting goals - It’s best to have some standard of measurement that allows you to see if the peer mentoring experience has been beneficial or not. 

Reflection - There needs to be a time of reflection on what was learned or discovered during the peer coaching experience. This reflection leads to a deeper level of learning. 

Colleague Connect: A new way to accelerate peer coaching

Colleague Connect facilitates informal interactions among team members, mirroring the spontaneous and collaborative exchanges that often happen in physical office environments.

This tool enables employees across different levels and departments to engage in relaxed, non-work-related conversations, building a sense of community and camaraderie.

Colleague Connect inspires spontaneous conversations, like two colleagues discovering a mutual interest in photography. They share tips and tricks, and perhaps a recent challenge they faced on a project. The other, drawing from a photography technique, suggests an out-of-the-box solution that perfectly addresses the issue. This exchange exemplifies how Colleague Connect facilitates unexpected problem-solving opportunities through casual, everyday conversations, promoting a culture of innovation and collaboration in a professional, yet relaxed, digital setting.

Inclusive Learning Without Constraints: Colleague Connect moves beyond the traditional mentor-mentee dynamics, fostering a learning environment that is fluid and less formal. This inclusivity caters to the diverse needs and preferences of all employees, encouraging a broader spectrum of participation in the coaching process.

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Mentorship Without Hierarchy: This platform is designed to complement traditional mentorship programs by enabling learning experiences without strictly defining roles as mentors or mentees. This approach promotes a sense of equality among participants, making the exchange of knowledge and experience more accessible and less intimidating.

Establishing Meaningful Connections: Through its sophisticated matching system, Colleague Connect facilitates meaningful connections based on shared skills, goals, locations, departments, Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), and more. This ensures that employees are paired with colleagues who can truly resonate with and enrich their learning journey.

Unlimited Growth Opportunities: With Colleague Connect, opportunities for professional growth and development are boundless. Employees can continuously find and connect with new colleagues, forming dynamic learning partnerships that are tailored to their evolving goals and interests.

Customizable Learning Templates: To support a wide range of learning objectives, from cross-department introductions to specific onboarding needs, Colleague Connect provides customizable templates embedded with best practices. These templates serve as a structured yet flexible framework for participants to engage in productive and goal-oriented conversations.

By integrating Colleague Connect into your organization's peer coaching program, you empower employees to engage in relaxed, non-work-related conversations that can lead to innovative problem-solving and knowledge sharing.

eBook How To Fast-Track Employee Learning With Colleague Connections  

How to plan and implement a peer coaching program where you work

Starting a peer coaching program isn’t as difficult as it might sound. With a solid strategy and the right tools, such as Together’s mentoring software, you’ll be able to get your peer coaching program running quickly. Here are some steps you can follow in the planning and implementation process. 

What’s the goal behind your peer-to-peer coaching program?

It’s vital to define the goal or objective of your peer-to-peer coaching program. 

Are you looking to onboard new hires? Do you need to help employees transition into manager roles? Is your company looking to provide learning and growth opportunities to increase employee engagement? 

Your objective informs your measurement strategy. For example, if you’re looking to improve employee engagement, you can measure their satisfaction in the job or gauge if their productivity improved after the peer coaching experience.  

Know how to pair employees

Pairing employees in your peer coaching program is essential to success. If participants are matched well, they will gain a lot from the experience.

On the other hand, if the match is less than perfect, participants may not get as much out of the peer coaching. Understanding how to pair employees involves learning what makes a great match

You can also use Together’s free tool to pair your employees together based on their profiles. 

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Provide pairs with discussion agendas

Kick start the connection by offering discussion agendas for participants to help guide them through meetings. Together provides customized agendas for clients, so you’ll be able to make it easier for peer coaches to cultivate connections. 

Build a coaching culture with events

Consider ways to encourage a coaching culture in your organization. Some activities can include introducing pairs to other pairs. This can lead to knowledge-sharing activities and opportunities to encourage one another.

Remember to recognize leaders

Organizations that publicly recognize leaders in coaching demonstrate they value learning. This action can encourage other employees to strive for growth. There are many ways that you can acknowledge leaders for their efforts and achievements. The key is to make sure others in the company are aware of the accolade. 

Collect feedback from employees to improve

Feedback from program participants is critical to gauge the success of the program. It can also be helpful for identifying what is working and what areas need some improvement. 

Crystal Black, Sr. L&D Specialist at AAA and Lynita Taylor, Program Manager - Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion at Samsara, talk about the success of their mentoring programs and how participants view it as an open opportunity for everyone.

Every organization should encourage peer coaching

Employees often share their challenges and questions with their co-workers. These are the individuals they are around each day and who understand what they’re going through in a way no one else in the company really can. 

Companies can encourage this connection between peers and boost engagement with peer coaching programs. It’s also a great way to promote growth and development in your employees. 

Starting your peer coaching program is simple with Together’s mentoring platform. Our intelligent algorithm helps you get the best pairing between employees.  Our software also allows you to easily measure and report on your organization’s peer coaching program so you can see the impact. 

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