Make learning part of the culture
In order for an employee-to-employee learning program to work, it needs to be part of a wider organizational culture that values continuous learning. No matter your industry, it’s likely that your employees, your organization, and, ultimately, your bottom line would benefit from a culture where employees were constantly learning new things, seeking out new opportunities, and developing new skills.
The success of the g2g program at Google is due largely to the culture of learning fostered within the company. The g2g program is aligned with Google’s core learning philosophies:
- Learning is a process, not an event, that requires motivation, opportunities to practice, and continuous feedback.
- Learning happens in real life, especially during transitions or challenging moments.
- Learning is personal. Everyone has different learning styles and different levels of challenge within which they can work.
- Learning is social. Google supports an environment for Googlers to connect with peers for advice and support.
Here are a few things Google has done to help make peer-to-peer learning a part of the culture:
- Strong leadership sponsorship: Like so many large-scale efforts, getting support from the top is critical. Employees need to hear (and hopefully see) that leaders believe that learning is an important part of work. At Google, one senior leader said: “It’s very unlikely that you’ll ever learn faster, or better than you will from one of your fellow employees.”
- Connection to core values: It can be easy to pay lip service to employee development, but it’s difficult to fake if your core values include how you treat employees. If your organization is serious about fostering a learning culture, tie it into your organizational mission or core values. By then supporting an employee-to-employee learning program, you’re sharing responsibility and ownership for a learning culture with your employees and everyone can see how it connects to your organization’s reason for being.
- Start early: Making it clear and explicit from day one that learning is expected and part of everyone’s job is an important opportunity. Consider how you can incorporate it directly into new hire orientation or encourage managers to bring it up with new team members. At Google, the new-hire (“Noogler”) orientation program itself features multiple g2g facilitators talking about a variety of topics.
The g2g team is often asked: “How do you motivate people to do something outside their core job?” The answer is actually pretty simple; trust people to do great work, give them tools and feedback, show them how it connects to the big picture, and then step aside. When the team focused their strategy around trust and support, participants have consistently exceeded expectations.