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How to Implement Peer Learning in Your Team

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In the workplace, your longer serving staff often become the stewards of institutional knowledge. Even though new staff are coming into their roles better prepared than ever before, peer to peer (P2P) training still has the potential to accelerate your organisational development programme and to make your team more fleet of foot. From learning stock taking procedure to adjusting into the job quickly, here are some of the benefits of investing in peer to peer training, and some tips to make it happen.

Why P2P Training Works

For many organisations, peer training is the ultimate way to make new staff feel at home in the team while giving more experienced employees an opportunity to demonstrate leadership. When it comes to new staff, the onboarding process can be daunting. Confident individuals will often feel comfortable speaking up and fully engaging in a group training environment, as might new staff with significant experience elsewhere in your industry. On the other hand, some members of your team might find it difficult to speak up. There are many reasons why new staff might feel hesitant to fully immerse themselves in training, although it often comes down to nervousness and a desire to project a competent, professional image. P2P training can break down some of these barriers, making it easier for all staff to fully participate.

Peer training also allows organisations to share responsibility with experienced staff. Experienced team members sometimes do not enjoy frequent opportunities to step up unless they move into management roles; having those staff take the lead on training new team members can provide an opportunity to step up. Peer training also lets newcomers come up to speed in the work environment. Even within a workplace, formalised learning often fails to grasp how staff are actually working – for example, the actual method used by staff to undertake your quarterly stock count might differ from the formal stock taking procedure established several years ago. By working collaboratively with their peers, participants in P2P training will usually adjust to their new roles much more quickly.

Of course, there’s also a financial benefit in that your organisation might be able to invest less in formal training programmes and your new team members are contributing to the work programme while coming up to speed.

How to Get Started with a P2P Training Programme

Because running peer to peer training takes some resourcing away from day to day business, it might be important to get buy in from managers across the team or group. In most cases, managers will be receptive; here is a win-win opportunity to reduce costs and build team culture.

The next step is to identify your training needs, and to determine what aspects of your current training programme might be appropriate for peer to peer training. Some formal aspects of your training may still need to be delivered in a group or top-down context. So learning the organisation’s stock taking procedure might be appropriate for P2P learning, while a session on bullying and unconscious bias might best be led by HR.

Once you’ve set the scope for your peer training programme, you’ll want to identify ‘experts’ in the office who would be appropriate to involve. Not every ‘expert’ will be the right fit; some experienced staff will be juggling high workloads, some will need to focus on mission critical tasks and some simply might not be good at (or interested in) mentoring others. However, in most teams you should be able to easily identify people who are willing and able to help. Even busier ‘experts’ might be willing to pitch in for one-off events, such as helping new staff navigate the stock taking procedure for the first time.

Start your peer training programme slowly – as with any organisational change, moving too quickly can sink the ship. Once the programme is underway, consider letting it evolve naturally; as this is learning on the job, team members might be best placed to identify a ‘teachable moment’. As with any change, review your peer training programme regularly to ensure it is achieving the results you want.

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Melanie - Unleashed Software

Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.

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