Peer Learning is often thought of as a practice we left in college, yet peer learning in organizations has been helping bridge the knowledge gaps without our notice. When we talk about peer learning in the workplace, it includes coffee break conversations, quick suggestions shared when a co-worker overhears a conversation to knowledge transfers, and brainstorming sessions among employees.
As Lucinda Pullinger, global head of HR at workspace management company The Instant Group puts it in “How HR can encourage peer-to-peer learning in an era of remote work” learning by osmosis suffers in remote working environments. The simple reason is that peer learning does not only mean direct conversation, rather it also consists of learning by observing the working style of colleagues, the way they converse with clients, imbibing different leadership styles of managers and their values, etc. These interactions are invaluable because they contribute to company culture, strengthen connections amongst employees, prompt new ideas and discussions, and lead to the overall development of employees.
Considering that remote/ hybrid working is here to stay, it is important to find ways to replicate peer learning interactions in remote working. Organizations can implement the following practices to encourage and assist peer learning in remote workplaces:-
- Buddy System
When a new employee joins the organization, assign a buddy i.e a colleague who has been in the organization for an extended period. This will help new employees to get used to the company culture and the buddy will also be able to gain insights into the working style of the new employees. Further, this helps to create a sense of belongingness and prevents the feeling of isolation that comes along with remote working. Collaborative learning is accelerated for new joiners when they have someone who can help them.
- Quick Chat Culture
Employees should feel free to send a quick message on hangouts/ slack when they need a suggestion, have a doubt, or just want to know about a project that someone else is working on. This substitutes for quick chats during breaks or asking questions about a project led by someone else. This acts as one of the effective peer learning strategies.
- Informal Meet-ups
One of the biggest challenges that employees face in remote work is to speak up without the fear of being judged as employees are not sure how their colleagues or managers will react. To overcome this, it is important to have informal meet-ups like lunch meetings, brainstorming sessions, etc where ideas and day-to-day office life can be discussed informally. Not only does this enable people to do away with their inhibitions, but it becomes easier for employees to collaborate whenever required while creating a safe space to ask questions and learn from one another.
- Games and Activities
Organizing simple online activities and games in regular intervals to bring employees together. It goes a long way in understanding each other’s strengths, likes, and dislikes. This can also act as a platform where creative/ new ideas emerge by thinking out of the box and knowing that performance in these games will not affect compensation or results.
Encouraging peer learning can seem like a tricky task in remote workplaces, but building a culture where employees can interact with ease, will enable them to find new ways to learn from each other. Idea is to give employees the tools, and they will find how to use them most efficiently.