Nov 16, 2014

Peer training inside organizations can be very effective

In one organization I was working with, there was a desire to improve overall coding skills. The guys had used some external training sessions, but as most often those were in such a general level, that those didn't give much value to the environment they were working in. We started to think about solutions for the problem.

Team had couple of people who were thought to be gurus, who could easily train the others, but as always, the gurus were also the busiest guys in the organization. Creating a proper training takes lot of time and effort. Anyone who have ever created tailored training sessions, know that it takes at least 5-10 times more time to create the training than keeping it. If the training is for 2 hours, you easily need 10 hours of work on creating it.

So the answer didn't lay on the gurus. We also did have a look for external tailored training, but there wasn't much of a budget prepared for this. And also, the external trainers are never as effective as internal ones. So we decided to try peer training. We decided that everyone in the team needs to keep one session to everyone. At that point, we came up with an idea of taking few valued books of the subject and divided chapters from the book to be the subject areas people had to make their training sessions.

In addition there was created a good template for the training. Template made people to explain the basic theory from the book and then it was made mandatory to bring examples from their own production code as a reference learning for the training.

Exercise was successful. Of course people were hesitant in the beginning, but the feedback after the sessions was good. One of the best ways to learn is to teach. When you have to teach others, you have to know the subject much better than you will ever learn from any training sessions.

This example was from actual coding, but in can easily be taken in to use in different professions. I believe the ability to take learning from a valued book and consider and show the examples from organizations daily life is really beneficial. Experienced external trainers are excellent in keeping the atmosphere and proofing points, but they rarely know enough about the daily life to actually be able to make a change to stick.

I have experience in doing tailored training sessions. I've kept close to 50 sessions during change projects inside companies. Even though I normally know quite much about the companies, the challenges people have and the practicalities, still I've seen that my teachings are much more effective when there is internal experts backing me up.

I highly recommend this practice to all teams. I can guarantee it works. It might work differently than you think, but it will definitely make people to learn and find ways to improve.

Written by +Henri Hämäläinen

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