Context Matters: Why Peer-to-Peer Learning Works


To get a job these days, you need the right specialized skills. Architects need to know how to use computer-aided design, medical professionals need to be able to monitor vital signs, and software developers need to be good at coding.

Employees of all professions also need transferable skills such as communication, teamwork and problem solving. It’s these soft skills that can set job candidates apart – and are arguably more valued than hard skills. According to a recent survey by online job site ZipRecruiter, 93% of employers said that soft skills play a crucial role in hiring decisions. Another recent survey found that six in 10 companies said they would hire and train employees for jobs if they had time management, leadership or a host of other transferable skills.

This framework of hard versus soft skills is useful for workers who want to express their worth while seeking promotions or new opportunities. It’s also valuable for learning and development professionals looking to educate their workforce for the ever-changing future of work, and for HR professionals making hiring decisions.

However, this binary hard/soft lens is the wrong way to view skill development. A more effective approach to supporting the development of new expertise is to provide specialist and transferable skills alongside the provision of peer-to-peer learning, i.e. in the context of a particular industry by professionals who work in this field.

Apprenticeship and business development programs do not always deliver the returns that businesses seek. There are several underlying reasons for this. In some cases, the training is top-down and delivered by external consultants. In other cases, employees don’t see the need to do anything different. Sometimes new skills and knowledge fail to take root in an ingrained company culture.

But employees in all fields are eager for training and education. In fact, they are actively looking for it. In the case of licensed professionals — one in four Americans who need a local, state or federal professional license to perform a particular job — it’s mostly because they have to fulfill continuing education mandates at the college level. State. However, research also suggests that most professionals want more than just tick training. Not only do they want to improve their skills, but they also want to stay current with industry trends so they can grow their business or open the door to career development opportunities.

In many cases, professionals from all fields and types of businesses are particularly keen to improve their transferable skills. It’s not just critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, and written communication skills that potential employers value so much. It’s also networking, strategic thinking, a basic knowledge of finance, and other entrepreneurial tools that are valuable for people running their own businesses as well as company employees.

When people decide to become engineers, chiropractors, or veterinarians, for example, they enroll in apprenticeship programs to learn the specialized skills needed to build bridges, straighten spines, and care for animals. These courses are almost always taught by instructors who have a long history of working in these same fields.

But when it comes to transferable skills – essential building blocks for lifelong learning and continuous professional development – such training is usually provided by leadership or team building experts who actually know little about the day-to-day or long-term profession. – the specific challenges faced by the individuals they teach.

Transferable skills are often more abstract than hard and technical skills. Teaching leadership, critical thinking, or entrepreneurship is in many ways more difficult and less concrete than explaining a new process, technology, or industry trend. That’s why lessons taught by peers can help unlock the full potential of corporate training. Peers have detailed knowledge of their companies and industry, and they understand the context in which the training is delivered.

L&D that takes place within the framework of a profession will have more relevance. An individual will be more likely to understand something and apply their new knowledge and skills if they are able to learn in a real context and see exactly how something connects to their profession.

Take communication, a universal skill needed in every corner of the working world. It’s one thing to bring in an outside expert to teach written and oral communication skills. But different professions require different approaches. A vet tech talking to a pet owner about their sick pet will need a different set of communication skills than a home inspector writing a report listing the issues with their dream home. a buyer. Peers with industry-specific expertise can provide training and education in the context that practitioners need to develop their own skills and grow a business.

Learning from peers can help individuals identify other skills they should acquire. Because the peers have expertise in the same field, they are able to give industry-specific information in the context of their similar professional experiences. Moreover, peers are also trusted sources of information and knowledge.

Whether licensed professionals and other workers want hard skills or transferable skills or another set of skills, they need to seek out peers. Context is king and professional peers are in the best position to help people get even better at what they do best.


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