Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Creating Employee-to-Employee Learning

You may have heard about a little company called Google. They are ranked with Apple, Zappos and several other web-based employers as one of the best employers to work for. In their head office Google
provides all employees with three gourmet meals a day. Nice, but not very realistic for most employers, including nonprofits that struggle to make ends meet every month.

However, Google has a new idea for employee learning that costs almost nothing, can be used by almost every employer I know and can have a huge impact on employee skill and morale. It’s called Employee- to-Employee Learning. Here’s a few ways that you can make this work in your organization.
  • Create two streams of learning, one that is work-related and one based in personal interests. 
  • Ask all employees (use a survey, individual or team meetings) to chat about some of the things they are skilled in that could be learned by others or that they would like to learn more about. 
  • From these discussions, develop a master list with a “teacher(s)” identified after each. 
  • Shorten the list to 10-20 topics, a few from each stream. Send the list to all employees to determine interest or choose one or two that seem to be relevant. 
  • For each session, schedule a date, time and place that is suitable for your workplace. Options include, learn over lunch/brown bag sessions, early or late in the day and even weekend sessions. 
  • Work related training should be done during the workday. If possible, pay attendees for their time and make sure your forward attendees’ names to HR for inclusion in their professional development records.
  • Sessions should be short – an hour or two at most. If the topic needs more time, schedule it as a series rather than trying to jam it into a short session.
  • There is no fee for any sessions for employees, but popular topics may be repeated with external attendees paying a nominal fee. 
  • For non-work related learning, participants may be asked to pay for materials or supplies if these are required for learning.
  • For work-related topics, develop a short 4 or 5 question feedback form given to participants after each session. One question must be: “What other topics would you be interested in learning or teaching?”
Have fun with this great idea! Send me a note to [email protected] if you give it a try in your workplace!

Paula J. MacLean is the author of several best-selling human resource books that provide practical advice on how to be a good supervisor and manager and for non-profit boards of directors. Visit her website at

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