5 Comments

  1. This is a very useful article. It covers the most important aspects of establishing a successful peer learning program in the workplace, including that:
    1. They should be programs and not “building it and they will come” fantasies
    2. Participants should have something in common that is important to them
    3. Start from where they’re at, from their current reality. Don’t bequeath a totally new topic on them, because you find it interesting.
    4. Use an advisory committee to guide the program, and include some of the peer learning members themselves in the committee.
    5. Manage the program, e.g., evaluate the peer process, individual results, attendance, etc.

    I’d add, though:
    1. Don’t see discussion as the only method of exchange between members. Also consider, e.g., peer coaching, one of the members doing a short training followed by discussion, etc.
    2. Consider self-facilitation — external facilitation is powerful at first, but let the groups continue on their own at some point
    3. Help peer learning members to get the support of their supervisors to take part in the peer learning sessions. That’s critical.
    4. Be even more clear on the desired outcomes of the peer learning, e.g., is it primarily to learn a topic or skill OR is it to cultivate relationships between each other OR is it for each to solve a pro problem. Trying to design a peer learning program for all of these outcomes is a bit like trying to do very different designs of a house on the same foundation :-).

    (“Peer learning” is an outcome from peers supporting each other in an endeavor and with intentional focus on learning. It’s not a format of exchange between members.)

    • These are great tips, mcnam007. We’ve also used variants of the peer coaching format you mention. They’re one of our most popular formats. When the majority of the group shares a goal but reaching that goal seems impossible, we search for people within the group who have “done the impossible” or at least made significant progress. We invite them to share their story and strategies on a webinar or at a meeting. People love this format–it not only provides new ways of thinking and helpful resources, but hope as well.

  2. hi Jessica, (and Kate 🙂
    Nice article! In re. Carter’s point about desired outcomes, I have created several peer coaching groups for senior managers – which generates rich learning. The desired outcomes include:
    to build their coaching and problem-solving capacity;
    to increase their skill in identifying root causes of problems;
    to improve their coaching skills which they can apply with their staff.

    If they all work for the same orgn/enterprise: to foster and improve collaboration across departments (or silos).
    If they are all non-profit directors: to strengthen their relationships, which may enable them to advocate collectively for policies that serve the non-profit sector.

    Hope that’s a useful addition!
    regards,
    Abby

    • Thanks for these thoughts, Abby. The relationship-building is a key factor with peer learning communities, and especially important with non-profit directors, association members, and other groups where people don’t know each other well enough (yet) to collaborate effectively. It takes a certain amount of trust in another person to work collectively. Peer learning communities are a good way to start building that trust and familiarity.

      • Over the years, I’ve come to recognize at least 10 different outcomes. The design of the peer learning program is usually a bit different for each of the different outcomes, as well. Trying to design a program to get primarily more than one outcome is like trying to build two different houses on the same foundation. To help our students select which outcome/application they want to customize their program to, we have them pick which one of the following questions is the most important for their program to accomplish, and then we help them detail a program design to accomplish at least that one primary outcome:

        1. Coaching culture — Across the group members’ organization?
        2. Core coaching skills — For each group member?
        3. Leadership development — Enhanced ability to create vision and influence others?
        4. Management development — Skills in planning, organizing and coordinating?
        5. Deep networking — Strong relationships among members of the group?
        6. Problem solving — Solved problems and/or achieved goals for each member?
        7. Supervisory development — Stronger oversight and guidance of direct reports?
        8. Support — Decreased burnout and increased renewal?
        9. Team building — Increased productivity of a work team?
        10. Transfer of training — Applied content from a training program?


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