SKILLS development has become a key factor in building employee engagement and ensuring that an organisation has the skills it needs to remain agile and competent, particularly in the technology sector.
That’s according to Mandla Mbonambi, CEO of Africonology, who said skills development is a critical issue, particularly in South Africa, that can be addressed through ongoing professional development and peer to peer training.
“Peer to Peer training empowers people to share their expertise and hard-earned professional skills with their colleagues. It’s a powerful way of engaging with people and recognising their talent and their ability to share their knowledge with others.”
He said peer to peer training bypasses some of the usual problems associated with traditional training methods in that employees feel more relaxed and more inclined to absorb new skills.
Having a peer educate, inform and train, removes some of the barriers that impact on how people respond to formal training and improves collaboration and communication throughout the learning process.
“What peer to peer training does is remove the sense of formality from the process, allowing people to become more engaged with the information and the process. This immediately puts them on a more even footing, giving them the freedom to ask questions and really drill down into the details. Something they may not do when they feel that they’re suddenly back in a classroom setting.”
Mbonambi believes a successful peer to peer training programme should embrace informality and engagement. It should allow participants to feel comfortable asking any questions they may have in embracing the ability to build their understanding of product, service, and solution.
If anybody feels that the environment is judgmental or lacks mutual respect, then they won’t respond well to the process. There has to be an agreed stance of open learning and information sharing that works both ways.
“Peer to peer learning isn’t just about the expert offloading their expertise. It’s also about the expert learning from others, using the insights and commentaries provided by the peers they are teaching to reshape their own understanding and build their own skills.
“It’s a two-way process that allows for continuous learning and growth across the board, and it allows for deeper engagement in the technology or solution as people become increasingly excited about sharing content and ideas with their colleagues.”
He said leadership must get behind the potential of peer to peer learning for it to become embedded within the culture of the organisation and to see any value. This should be further supplemented by clearly defined outcomes that outline the expected results of the peer to peer training programme and how this can evolve over time.
This can then be assessed using key performance indicators (KPIs), employee feedback, and overall employee engagement.
“Implementing a peer to peer training culture and methodology in the business doesn’t have to be incredibly complex. You can use external service providers that specialise in peer to peer training solutions to help build the culture and focus of your employees.”
He said organisations that support a culture of peer to peer learning and continuous skills development are not only investing in the future of their people but also in the stability of their business.
“Research has shown, time and again, that those companies that invest in their people are more likely to retain them. Considering how competitive the market has become, how voraciously companies search out talent, this is a powerful edge in a time when skills are the difference between delivering innovation and watching it happen.”