I know this will sound really weird coming from someone who designs and delivers training for a living but, all learning opportunities do not have to be training. In fact, training can have a greater impact when it’s delivered in concert with other learning opportunities. It’s about bringing the right methods together to create the best experience for the learner.
I’ve never worked somewhere with a formal training department. Oh sure, the corporate headquarters had a formal training and development department. But at individual locations, we delivered training with the employees on site. So peer-based learning was very popular. And we learned how to identify the subject matter expertise in employees so they could share that expertise with others. Here are four ways we tapped into the knowledge and experience of our workforce:
Lunch and learn. There are so many topics that can be conveyed in this manner. Reserve a conference room, bring in pizza or sandwiches, and allow a SME to share their knowledge. Lunch and learn sessions are great for topics that might change regularly or need constant reminders. They are also a terrific way for SMEs to become comfortable presenting information.
Happiness Bar. Similar to a lunch and learn, the happiness bar could be a place where employees learn from each other. I’ve seen this type of peer to peer interaction at conferences and could see it working during a company town hall or safety fair, etc. Possibly even for long-term employees to help new hires.
Peer-to-peer feedback. There is no rule that all feedback must come from your immediate supervisor. In fact, sometimes it’s better for some feedback to come from anyone BUT your immediate supervisor. Organizations should consider teaching every employee in orientation how to deliver feedback. It creates a workplace where employees can support each other.
Coaching. Like feedback, there’s no rule that all coaching must come from a member of management. If given the proper tools, employees can coach each other. Obviously, there’s a larger commitment involved than simply providing feedback. Peer-based coaching could be very valuable during the onboarding process and with virtual teams.
Mentoring. This shouldn’t be viewed as an age driven relationship. Mentoring is about using SMEs to convey knowledge on an individual level. And it benefits everyone. The mentee is learning. My guess is the mentor is learning as well. The organization benefits through the success of the relationship.
Any of these programs – mentoring, coaching, peer-to-peer feedback, and lunch/learn – can complement an existing onboarding program, classroom training, eLearning course, or management development program (just to name a few.) The value is in using the vast experience currently found within the organization. What a great way to engage talent by having them share their knowledge with others!
Oh, and P.S. While we’re talking about peer-based learning, let’s not forget peer-to-peer recognition. When learning does happen, it’s important to recognize it – both in terms of the person who conveyed the knowledge and the person who received it. Shawn Achor wrote a nice piece on Harvard Business Review about peer-to-peer praise at work. He’s going to be speaking on the subject at Globoforce’s WorkHuman 2016 event in May. For details, check out the WorkHuman site. As an HR Bartender reader, you receive a $300 discount on registration using the code WH16SL300. Look forward to seeing you there!
Icelandic street art image taken by Sharlyn Lauby after lunch at Primo Ristorante in Reykjavik.