Peer Learning Groups and Learning in the Flow of Work

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According to Josh Bersin, founder and principal at Bersin by Deloitte , “Learning in the flow of work is a new idea: it recognizes that for learning to really happen, it must fit around and align itself to working days and working lives.”

When he refers to the flow of work, he is talking about a steady, continuous stream of work activities which, by definition, is not interrupted and incorporates all essential components necessary for work to be done well. That includes learning new skills and gaining new experience while working.

Learning is critical. Skills have become the currency for better performance. And there is as much if not more demand for soft skills than for hard skills. Oral communication, ability to formulate and present information with meaning, is at the top of the list. Continuous development and learning in the workplace is critical.

Traditional Training Disconnects Work from Learning

Typical management training takes managers out of their work day, thereby interrupting the flow of their work. Courses are held in classrooms, either on or off site. The courses are one or more days in length. The course content is theoretical and, if participatory, still generic enough to meet the needs of a heterogeneous group of managers from different organizations.

Such training events can offer basic knowledge but fail to deliver the skills, knowledge and experience that is timely and relevant for a manager facing a particular challenge in a very specific work environment and culture. Transferring the good ideas and examples from the off-site or on-line training remains a challenge, and there is no translator who can easily and quickly make them applicable to the manager’s real world.

Connecting Work and Learning into a Flow through Peer Learning Groups

So how can we make learning a part of daily work and use the knowledge assets to your advantage? One effective way is through workplace peer learning.

We at the Peer Learning Institute use peer learning groups to connect learning with work and use the skills and knowledge that already exists for the greater use by all managers and the whole organization. The model is based on small groups of managers working together using a structured skills transfer process that engages the participants in a constructive dialogue and application of the knowledge in the workplace.

When managers convene in six-person peer learning groups, they are meeting in their worksite with their organizational peers to discuss current job challenges. The meeting (or session) is only 90 minutes in length. The content is practical, timely and organizationally relevant. The managers in the peer learning group direct the conversation. They share information about specific management issues and apply the new strategies or skills offered by The Peer Learning Institute’s module materials to those real job issues.

The goal of the peer learning groups is for the managers to learn and practice new techniques to handle the specific job challenge under discussion. Practice occurs during a month long interim between two 90-minute sessions. Since the new strategy or skill is intended to address a current job challenge, the managers’ practice is immediately integrated into the manager’s daily work flow. Some, if not all, of the managers’ interactions as they go through their daily work responsibilities will require the practical application of this new strategy or skill.

This is true whether the interaction requires helping employees see the big picture, resolving conflict, communicating more effectively, or managing time in a manner that minimizes stress.

Peer learning groups epitomize Bersin’s notion of learning in the flow of work. Learning happens on the job, learning is practiced on the job, and learning is integrated into job performance. Learning emerges from work and work dictates what learning is needed for sustained performance.

Developing a peer learning group program that puts learning into the flow of work is an easy and affordable proposition for companies of all types and sizes. For more details, please contact The Peer Learning Institute for a free session to discuss how peer learning groups can strategically fit into your overall professional development program.

Deborah Laurel

Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer

The Peer Learning Institute

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