Your organisation’s employees and members can contribute a lot to one another’s professional development. Here’s how to make that happen.
Professionals have many educational resources at their fingertips. But when they need to learn something new, they are more likely to ask their colleagues for recommendations than they are to search the internet.
Professionals crave peer-to-peer learning opportunities, and they can be highly effective. This type of learning can also break down barriers by encouraging connection among people who otherwise wouldn’t cross paths. And during the pandemic, when loneliness and isolation are common, a peer-to-peer learning program offers a way for employees or members to interact regularly with one another and establish community.
If you’re ready to tap into expertise already within your organization, consider these strategies as you implement peer-to-peer learning for your staff team or members.
LEVERAGE MESSAGING AND SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS
You may not have the time or organizational resources to create a robust employee learning program with a clear curriculum. However, setting up a dedicated channel for peer-to-peer learning on your workplace collaboration platform (Slack or Teams, for example) can encourage casual knowledge-sharing that employees can contribute to on their own time. To stimulate regular conversation, you might designate a “conversation starter” who drops prompts into the chat every so often. Messaging channels have worked as educational tools before—some universities have used them to facilitate distance learning initiatives.
If you want employees to continue the conversation with professionals beyond your organization, take to social media and start a conversation with a prompt about a specific topic and a hashtag to go along with it.
CREATE A MENTORSHIP PROGRAM
For more pointed one-on-one learning experiences, establish a mentorship program—something that is particularly helpful during the pandemic—in which senior employees take young professionals under their wing to help them develop. By pairing a junior employee with a more experienced one, your young professionals have an internal resource to turn to in bolstering their professional development.
TURN EVENTS INTO OPEN DISCUSSIONS
Members are also looking to learn informally from each other at association events. For example, the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges did away with experts and keynote speakers for its California Great Teachers Seminar. Instead, it started operating on the principle that its members—all teachers, after all—are experts in sharing knowledge.
This approach works particularly well for an organization of educators, but every association is rife with experts in their fields. One way to shift future events to be more focused on peer learning is the fishbowl method, developed by Adrian Segar of Conferences That Work, designed to facilitate more discussion.
MICHAEL HICKEY - Michael Hickey is a contributor to Associations Now.