3 Advantages of Peer-to-Peer Learning

If businesses continue to revert to the “standard” methods of delivery, they’re missing a huge opportunity, and likely will fail in the war to either acquire—or upskill—talent.

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

But why are more organizations still not utilizing 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 organization 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 organize 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 while at work—with peer support.

It’s been reported that more than 80 percent of CEOs say they are worried about the skills gap in their organization, and 38 percent are “extremely concerned.” So how can organizations not do anything about it?

Peer-to-Peer Learning Is Cost-Effective

People prefer to pick up industry intelligence from colleagues. It’s a common trend to learn in the flow of work, and to gain information from fellow staff to enhance skill sets. 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 realized through Deloitte’s research, which saw its corporate training organization utilizing tools—such as video and audio—to share knowledge between employees.

In-House Learning Empowers Staff

Think about it, employees being able to offer what they know—and be seen as “industry experts”—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 also can 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. This program alone has saved jetBlue £2.1 million ($2.8 million) in tuition fees. 

On top of those figures, the feedback has been remarkable. Employees report they feel 85 percent more engaged in their roles, and 96 percent 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. 

Learning at Work Can Make Staff Stay

We know from experience that the majority of learning happens on the job. The question is, how can organizations move from a traditional training and e-learning 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 likely will 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 percent 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 prefer to gain knowledge from colleagues and share insight among teams. A total of 90 percent 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 organizations 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 to use their expertise to help colleagues. Employers need to help fulfill that need.

Conor Gilligan is vice president of Webanywhere, an e-learning training provider with UK and U.S. clients.