Three benefits of peer-to-peer learning

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Employee-to-employee – or peer-to-peer learning – is something that’s increasingly important in today’s workforce. It’s a great way of developing skillsets, and can be done in-house with all the necessary tools to hand.

But, why are more organisations still not utilising its power? Given the ‘war for talent’ is a never-ending fight, businesses have to be even more savvy than usual when it comes to retaining – and attracting – staff.

There’s the skills gap too – something many companies are struggling to cope with. However, through developing employees well, an organisation maintains its competitive edge with an engaged workforce ready for the future. It’s true that employers should be supporting collaboration amongst teams too – an essential part of any firm’s survival.

If you think about it, 10 years ago a professional may have had to learn how to run a campaign, design compelling messages for collateral and/or organise events. Today, they have a good understanding of technology and big data experience that’s analytical. Why? They have had to develop their skills, and learn from others, to understand an extensive range of tools – and have most likely done this whilst in work – with peer support.

It’s been reported that over 80% of CEOs say they are worried about the skills gap in their organisation, and 38% are ‘extremely concerned’. So, how can organisations not do anything about it?

1. Peer-to-peer learning is cost-effective

People prefer to pick up industry nous from colleagues. It’s a common trend to learn in the flow of work, and gain information from fellow staff to enhance skillsets. Leveraging existing knowledge in the workplace to supercharge internal peer-to-peer learning – is what businesses should be doing more of.

Peer support can be easy to access too. For example, Learning in the Flow of Work was realised through Deloitte’s research, which saw its corporate training organisation utilising tools – such as video and audio – to share knowledge between employees.

2. In-house learning empowers staff

Think about it, employees being able to offer what they know – and be seen as an ‘industry expert’ – can be vital when it comes to feeling valued in the workplace. That in turn creates a positive influence, spurring others on, and encouraging greater productivity. Businesses can also harness internal staff goals to consistently improve the company.

An award-winning example of peer-to-peer learning is jetBlue Scholars – a project created by the American airline which uses tuition reimbursement to provide lower-cost online degrees to its staff. It requires senior employees to mentor scholars online and face-to-face. And, this programme alone has saved jetBlue £2.1 million ($2.8m) in tuition fees.

On top of those figures, the feedback has been remarkable. Employees report that they feel 85% ‘more engaged’ in their roles, and 96% believe they are ‘more likely’ to stay with the company, thanks to the scheme. Finally, it has improved the student outcomes significantly because employees have been able to collaborate with others who may have had similar challenges – and encourage ways in which to overcome them.

3. Learning at work can make staff stay

We know from experience, the majority of learning happens on the job. The question is, how can organisations move from a traditional training and eLearning delivery model, to something where in-house learning is supported?

If businesses continue to revert to the ‘standard’ methods of delivery, they’re missing a huge opportunity, and will likely fail in the war to either acquire – or upskill – talent. That alone could have a detrimental impact upon staff retention rates.

The 70:20:10 model reinforces how people enjoy learning too – with 70% of it happening on the job. This can be further backed up by the Modern Workplace Learning Survey which was conducted across 5,000 people in 65 countries. It highlighted that employees preferred to gain knowledge from colleagues and share insight among teams. A total of 90% of respondents saw this way of development as being ‘very essential’ too. Interestingly, classroom training was low down on the preferred method – in 10th position.

So, putting everything into context, can organisations really afford to avoid peer-to-peer learning? There’s certainly a lot of research to suggest that employees need – and want – to be developed, as well as use their expertise to help colleagues. So what’s stopping employers?

About Conor Gilligan

Conor Gilligan

Conor serves as Vice President of Global Services at Webanywhere. In 2012, he founded the Corporate Learning Division which now delivers learning to over three million people worldwide. His focus is on customer experience for enterprise large scale projects and has been fortunate enough to work with many partners including Twitter, Motorola, jetBlue Airlines and Reckitt Benckiser. Conor is a thought leader in corporate learning and has presented at many exhibitions including Learning Technologies and CIPD.

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