The need for Co-Learning in the workplace by Robert Mitton
The need for peer to peer or co-learning is needed more than ever in places of work. Current training and development practices are just not reliable or capable on their own; this may sound odd coming from someone with a training based business!
When a group of people are learning from each other, critical advances happen in the work quality alongside the trust and transparency which then grows. Something that would not occur in a traditional learning and development format. Alongside this, the engagement and motivation levels increase. Not just in the person who is now absorbing a wealth of new information, but also through the member delivering the knowledge; the person is being used to their advantage, and that person is now feeling a sense of responsibility through empowerment.
Co-learning is not a new thing in business, people have always learnt from each other in the office. This has usually been to share best practice and specific skills which has been related to a task. However, the development of further co-learning exercises regarding skills that team members have developed from outside the workplace and not directly linked to the functions in the place of work could help increase the innovation and productivity which powers the business forward.
As a leader, you may never have asked your team members what other skills and areas of strength they are developing in their own time. It has never been business related, therefore, why would you? However, those coding skills, language skills, creative skills could be turned into transferable skills or new ways in developing a process. And what better person to deliver it, other than the team member themselves.
The sharing of knowledge and learning is a great asset, and I believe the development of co-learning opportunities in the workplace, alongside other sharing economy features, will help any leader to then get the best from the team and the task at hand.
Despite many developments in making formal training more interactive, it doesn’t meet the needs of many styles of learning. Kinaesthetic learning in particular, and, although the co-learning experience can be as equally as visual or auditory, there is a certain higher level of understanding through a personal approach that is engaging and captivating.
The transferring of skills in a workplace can be easy as getting team members to write down what they feel comfortable with and getting them to complete their skill swaps with others. Therefore, eliminating the management levels and allowing employees to feel trusted in a task which will enable them to grow with the business, thus, increasing the empowerment, intrinsic and self-development levels.
When I have helped to put this process into existing businesses, I have often advised the leaders that the content of what is learnt may seem irrelevant to the job. However, this is not a significant concern as the real power of co-learning comes from the new connections which start to form. A clear indication that strong social capital is developing, this is an essential ingredient if the business is then seeking higher innovation and productivity through team members extending internal connections which have meaning.