Here’s How To Be More Effective At Learning And It’s Not How You Think

I’ve always thought that team members learnt most of what they need to know from their manager. It’s usually their manager who inducts new team members, shows them the basics and teaches them what to do. We are big believers that managers have to lead by example, so they can show their team members the right way of doing things.

So I was a little surprised to see some stats come through recently that found:

80% of team members learnt as much or more from their peers as they do their managers! Specifically, team members learnt 53% more from their peers as opposed to only 20% who said they learnt more from their manager (source Wow!!! Time to do a bit of a re-think about how we train then.

Here are some of the reasons why peers have more influence:

  • Peers are often more available to teach than a manager. Team members often spend more time working with each other so it makes sense this is how they learn.
  • People learn best when doing and similar to the above, team members often spend more time at the coal face with their peers.
  • Team members may not ask their manager, questions which they feel they should know. Yet they would feel much more comfortable asking a team member.

Often in retail, there are limited cross over times where a manager actually spends time with a team member. New team members will often spend more time with a peer rather than their manager reinforcing the points raised above. The answer to this, is for retailers to develop team members as peer coaches.

Peer coaching is where two colleagues work together and share experiences as they learn together. The more experienced team member can provide insight into product knowledge, store operational procedures etc, whereas the new team member can bring in a fresh set of eyes to challenge convention. This is a powerful combination when set up well.

A word (or two) of warning. Peer coaches have to be provided with some training in how to coach, not just thrown into the role. Peer coaches have to be exemplary in undertaking the roles you want your newer team members to learn, otherwise they will learn the wrong way from the start. I’m reminded of the importance of this from my trip to the Disney Institute a few years ago and was blown away by their amazing training – Disney trainers have to be the best of the best before they get promoted to that role.

Peer coaching is not something you quickly set up, it needs to be a structured process (under the rostering conditions of your business), however it’s a powerful way to ensure your entire team are well trained and continue to perform at a high level. One big outcome is a higher level of customer service on a more consistent basis and that’s what your customers want more of.

Roger Simpson – CEO, The Retail Solution and Author of “The Ultimate Retail Sales Experience” With over 35 years’ industry experience, Roger Simpson is recognized as Australia’s #1 Authority on customer ROI in the retail industry and as a global expert on staff coaching, customer service, and selling skills.