Should you mix business with pleasure? Conventional wisdom says no, but there is mounting evidence that coworker friendships are critical to the modern work experience.
By some accounts, we spend roughly one-third of our lives at work. Given the amount of time we’re investing, it’s only natural that we want to enjoy the company of those around us. According to one study, employees who have good relationships with their coworkers are more likely to be engaged and happy at work. In fact, people who feel more camaraderie with their colleagues are more likely to stay with their current employer than those who don’t.
Work friendships help create a strong company culture in which employees feel valued, productive and committed. Smart companies not only encourage strong peer relationships, but increasingly leverage them for peer-to-peer (P2P) training and education programs to share expertise, insights and feedback.
Friends with Benefits
Very often, P2P training programs only formalize what’s already happening in the workplace. Given the rapid pace of change, employees frequently need help learning about new applications, new processes or new technologies. Although many organizations provide a variety of learning and development (L&D) documents, manuals and videos through their human resources departments, employees are far more likely to first ask their peers for help.
P2P learning has long been a formalized practice in K-12 educational environments. Studies find that students are more likely to pay attention when working with a buddy. As an added benefit, the student teacher gains mastery of the subject by teaching it to friends. The same principles apply in the workplace. P2P learning helps employees keep up with frequent changes and innovations in ways that more structured programs can’t.
Since the 1990s, organizations have depended heavily on learning management systems (LMS) to deliver, administer and track formal training and development courses. However, these programs are falling out of favor. Most workers say they only take about one LMS course a year — and they tend to tune out the training.
P2P learning can take place far more frequently, perhaps weekly or monthly. Sessions can be conducted formally or as informal “lunch-and-learn” programs that might only last a few minutes. Best of all, readily available technology allows organizations to set up P2P learning programs with very few resources.
Setting up a P2P course can require little more than an Internet connection. Coworkers can simply establish a restricted group page on the social media platform of their choice to demonstrate a new app, technique or process.
More robust P2P platforms include collaborative authoring features that make it easy for anyone in the company — from L&D professionals to coworkers with special expertise — to author and share learning exercises. The best such platforms have intuitive menus featuring a variety of drag-and-drop operations for sharing text, images and video. Ideally, these solutions will be integrated with the company’s HR portal to create a central repository for these resources.
P2P technologies can improve onboarding processes, job training and strengthen company culture. They also give organizations the opportunity to capture valuable in-house knowledge and avoid the so-called “institutional memory loss” that occurs when key employees retire or move on.
Formal L&D programs still have an important place in corporate learning, but P2P learning offers an important adjunct. Because it is less formal and requires very little infrastructure, peer learning can support a more agile method for aggregating in-house expertise and fostering continuous learning.
Written and composed by Lyndsay Soprano, Director of Marketing