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Pair up to foster more learning

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in Leaders & Managers,Team Building

Groups collaborate more effectively when individuals learn from each other. Give them a chance to pair up—so that they share their expertise—and you’ll build a stronger team.

One way to foster such collaboration is through “learning pairs” in which two employees work together to develop new skills.

Example: A technician shares his know-how with a salesperson who shares her mastery of social media. Both benefit as a result.

By encouraging two employees to learn from each other, you create an inexpensive training tool. Staffers start to view their peers as in-house experts and supportive coaches.

To set the stage for successful learning pairs, have a manager host a meeting with the two employees. It’s important to gauge the commitment of each member of the pair; ideally, they should both want to learn from the other person as well as provide training.

The manager should explain the program’s goals and expectations. It helps to establish checkpoints to track the pair’s development and exchange feedback to refine the process of mutual learning.

The pairs should meet every week for the first month or two. Once they gel, they can convene every other week. At the close of each session, each employee should write questions they expect to answer before the next meeting or list new procedures or work habits that they will practice.

The manager may also want to define when the pairing will end based on the level of insight or knowledge that both employees take away. You’ll want all participants to agree on a transparent way to measure their newly acquired skills.

— Adapted from “Learning Pairs Program, An Internal Development Tool,” Beth Armknecht Miller.

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