What is Peer Learning? Definition, Purpose and Benefits
Hattie Pursell
Writer
4 minutes
Duration
April 12, 2024
Date

Peer learning, sometimes known as peer-to-peer learning, draws on the expertise of colleagues and peers to accelerate employee growth in your organisation. 

Given that only 38% of learning and development professionals think they’re ready to meet the needs of tomorrow’s learners, there’s a clear need to expand learning and development with new ideas. 

This is why more and more organisations are turning to peer learning over traditional learning and development. It offers a cost-effective solution for continuous, collaborative learning that gets results. Best of all, your people may already be doing it. 

So, what is peer learning and why is it so effective? 

What is peer learning? 

You may have heard the term already. With roots in the education sector, peer learning is a tool where colleagues, peers or, in education, students, come together to teach one another.

Peer learning is essentially the act of learning with and from your colleagues. The concept isn’t new but is becoming increasingly common in the workplace as organisations seek new, innovative ways to upskill and develop their people. 

Types of Workplace Peer Learning

Workplace peer-to-peer learning is a vital component of professional development, helping to create a collaborative and supportive environment. Here are various examples of peer learning in organisations: 

  • Peer mentoring: Inclusive of traditional mentoring; where more experienced employees guide less experienced ones. This fundamental strategy should be actively supported by organisations to enhance knowledge sharing, accelerate learning, and support career development.
  • Buddying: Buddy systems are particularly effective during onboarding processes, helping to integrate new hires, especially graduates, into the organisation smoothly and providing new employees with a structured support system. This type of peer-to-peer learning helps retain top talent by fostering early and strong connections within the company, increasing job satisfaction and longevity.
  • Employee Resource Groups (ERGs): Specialised networks or micro-communities within an organisation, often known as ERGs, support various communities and minority groups. These groups naturally facilitate peer learning through encouraging sharing experiences, but significantly benefit from formal programs and central learning hubs to drive engagement
  • Coaching: In addition to mentoring, this involves a more structured one-on-one approach where individuals receive guidance on developing specific skills and achieving career objectives. Finding internal coaches within your organisation can be a succinct, impactful and personalised way to enhance professional growth. For more details on how coaching differs from mentoring, you can visit our article here.
  • Lunch and Learns: informal sessions where employees gather during a lunch break to learn about a specific topic from a peer or an expert. These sessions are not only educational but also serve as great tools for advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) initiatives. They are beneficial during transitional periods and help in achieving various business goals by fostering an atmosphere of group learning and open communication.

How is peer learning revolutionary?

This method is happening, you just aren’t measuring it. Peer-based learning puts learning in the hands of people first. It draws on the expertise already in your business, creating pathways for knowledge sharing that don’t rely on external trainers or formal learning programs. 

A Degreed study showed that employees are most likely to ask their boss or mentor (69%) and their colleagues (55%) when they need to learn something new. Formalising and encouraging opportunities to learn from peers means that everyone can access it across the business. It also provides a great way to foster continuous learning in your workplace

Given the amount of expertise that lies within your business already, why outsource your upskilling? 

What are the benefits of peer-to-peer learning? 

There are many benefits to peer learning, some of them similar to the benefits of mentoring.

From increased knowledge retention to better skill development, peer learning enhances continuous growth from an unlimited resource of knowledge within your business; your existing workforce.

Here are just some of the ways your teams can benefit:

Build trust 

When people learn together through peer learning, trust is built between colleagues and departments. This benefits your working culture and improves communication throughout the business, which ultimately improves productivity and retention. 

Draw on existing expertise

Tap into the experts that are already working in your organisation to share knowledge and upskill others. This not only means you don’t need to spend on external trainers but helps prevent knowledge from being lost when people leave the business. 

Improve knowledge retention

One of the reasons peer learning is so powerful is that when we teach others what we know, it helps that knowledge to stick. It also develops social and emotional learning at the same time. By bringing peers together to teach one another, you’re reinforcing learning for all. 

Create a learning loop 

The ‘learning loop’ is a concept that describes the 4 continuous stages of learning. These are; gaining knowledge, applying it, getting feedback and reflecting on what’s been learned. Peer based learning encompasses all of these, meaning it creates a loop that provides continuous learning and growth to participants. 

📖 Find out more about how continuous learning can benefit your organisation in our guide 📖

Develop management and leadership skills 

Through peer learning, your people can practice the communication, organisation and support skills needed by good leaders and managers. What better way to gain experience helping to develop people than working with them through peer to peer learning? 

Learn more about supporting career progression today 

Encouraging peer learning: key takeaways  

The benefits of peer learning are practically limitless, but scaling across large, multinational businesses can be tricky. Using focused peer learning software, you can centralise collaborative and social learning and create cost-effective strategies for enhancing knowledge retention and overall team development. Given these significant benefits, it’s evident why many organisations are turning to platforms like Guider to develop and sustain formal peer learning programs, making them more accessible and scalable. 

Take a look at our next steps to learn where to go from here!

What's next?

Whenever you’re ready… here are 3 ways Guider can help you supercharge your L&D with mentoring:

See how much mentoring can save your business with our ROI calculator

We've crunched the numbers from all of our customers to work out the financial value of mentorship to businesses. It might be just what you need to get executive buy-in

Build your own mentoring programme

If you're looking to build and launch a mentoring programme in your organisation, then our guide is the best place to start.

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Everything you need to create and scale an effective workplace mentoring programme. Includes: setup checklist, matching guide, expert advice, proving ROI and much more.

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