Peer-to-Peer Learning: The Most Powerful Tool in the Workplace

In order to be the best organization, you must hire the best people, right? Well, not necessarily. I mean, let’s be honest, all of us are not created equally. There is usually a small pool of folks that for all practical purposes are nothing short of rock stars. So, how can we leverage their knowledge and expertise to magnify the overall strength and performance of most workers in our organization? The answer is peer-to-peer learning.

Knowledge Shared is Power Multiplied

Most managers understand the power of learning. However, the most powerful tool in the workplace is peer-to-peer learning. In fact, most learning is informal and one need only look around the workplace to see this happening. Therefore, the focus should shift from classroom training (to include virtual and e-learning) to tapping into the institutional knowledge and the experiences of high-performing workers.

Peer-to-peer learning saves time and resources. It also allows you to maintain knowledge of simplified processes that might disappear when a high-performing employee changes positions or leaves the organization. Peer learning also allows managers to identify where knowledge gaps exist and to task the right people with closing those gaps.

From Whom Do you Harness the Power?

Generally speaking, when determining peers, consider people that are in similar situations but do not have a role as a teacher or an expert. They also share the status as a fellow learner. Most importantly, they do not wield power over one another by virtue of position or responsibilities.

Methods to Initiate a Peer Learning Program

Here are some tips to initiate a peer-to-peer learning program:

  • Get executive support by showing them why peer learning is effective and worthwhile.
  • Form a committee to set the strategy and decide who will manage the tasks.
  • Create processes to establish the peer learning content.
  • Identify experts in your office and maximize who creates content.
  • Promote a peer learning environment by managing quality control and encouraging participation.
  • Monitor consumption of content. Keep track of who consumes what and how they rate the information.
  • Promote user engagement. Solicit comments and feedback and use the data to improve the quality of the content over time.

Lastly, supporting this program can be included in performance objectives to emphasize its importance. Some examples include: employee growth, effective communication, team building, organization effectiveness and leading change and innovation.

LaMesha Craft is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.

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Avatar photo Nicole Blake Johnson

I’m a big fan of peer-to-peer learning. Where I work we have been doing lunch and learns, where colleagues can share their skills and knowledge with the rest of the team during lunch. So far, so good!

Mathew Scott Eagles

I have always liked the idea of peer-to-peer learning. I have not been successful at making it stick though. Too many competing priorities.
Congrats to those that can make it work!

Avatar photo Blake Martin

Totally agree with you, Mathew. I love the idea of p2p learning, but it’s so easy to let this fall to the bottom of a list of to-dos and competing priorities. Executive support for this is important, but more crucial is the impetus from each employee to participate as an active and engaged learner.

LaMesha Craft

Great points Matthew and Blake. It definitely takes support from leadership and participation from employees, it’s truly a win-win situation.

Rey Carr

Peer-to-peer learning is not just an add-on; it’s essential for a healthy workplace. One of the most important positions for such learning is during the transition to, orientation or even exit phases of work. Too often the introduction to the workplace is carried out by a burdened manager or HR person who relies on lecture, and operations manuals. We’ve designed (and published) and used a peer-based orientation approach that is engaging, empowering, and educational, and increases the likelihood of a good fit between the new employee and the workplace, thus preventing expensive training going out the door with increased turnover.