Employees Take the Stage: Why Letting Employees Teach Their Colleagues is a Great Idea

Nohar Zmora
Updated January 24 2021
Letting Employees Teach Their Colleagues is a Great Idea
Nohar Zmora
Updated January 24 2021

Remember that one time your teacher asked you to prepare a lesson for the rest of the class? I do. And while I’m not entirely sure if it was meant as a sort of punishment or not, it certainly felt like one. I remember thinking it would probably take the entire afternoon, and besides, I’m not the teacher – she is! Truth be told, more than anything else, I dreaded being laughed at by my friends.  


But it wasn’t that bad – on the contrary even. Other than still knowing a lot more than the average person about the siege of Carthage, I also ended up having a great time – preparing and teachingAnd not only no one laughed – some claimed I should teach a class every week (my realistic enactments of the battles and combats surely have something to do with that). Undeniablythis unusual assignment had more merit than I had initially given it credit for  not just for me as the teacher, but for my classmates too.   


See, though we think we have a very clear idea of who the teacher should be and what constitutes a student, this method – ‘Learning by Teaching’ as I now know it’s called – dates way back (yes, even past my eighth grade). Part of why it stuck likely has to do with making fair use of available resources (i.e., students) to give teachers a little quiet time, but that’s not all of it.  


Learning – and Developing – by Teaching 

From planning our lesson to delivering it, teaching others compels us to analyze and dissect information in every way possible – until we know it inside out whether we want to or not. Assuming we did a good job, our students then further profit from this process. Getting the information from someone with a similar level of general understanding makes it more plausible that it’ll focus on the same areas and themes they find challenging – as well as enjoyable and relevant. Consequently, these teachers are more likely to explain it all in a more relatable way.  


For the most part, the method’s same benefits for k-12 and higher education also apply in the workplaceFurther, it touches on key challenges and issues that L&D managers grapple with and clears the way for meaningful learning. But to help companies implement it successfully and make sure all parties involved – the employee learning, the employee teaching, and the employer – get something out of ityou‘ll have to ensure some video features and functionalities are part of the solution you’re offering.  


From a Teacher’s Perspective  

As my extensive knowledge of the Roman-Carthagean conflict demonstrates, teaching others is a great way to learn something new. Hence, by asking employees to train their colleagues, whether a single topic or a full-blown course, we also give them a chance to master a skill or field of knowledge.  


Admittedly, often it won’t be an entirely new concept they’ll be asked to look into and share their findings, but rather something within their area of expertise. No problem at all! In that case, they get a chance to brush up, review recent developments, and explore corresponding methods and tools – the secret to true mastery. To boot, given how fast things change and new knowledge is accumulated these days, most would welcome an occasion to pause and catch up on their reading. And what better time than when you’re feeling acknowledged by your supervisors?    


But how will they teach it? They could write a report or an essay, which would undoubtedly feel like more liability and isn’t a great way to ensure engagement. Face-to-face is another option, but even if we ignore the WFH movement, teaching in person is limited to only a subset of employees – unless it’s broadcasted live. A third way is recorded videos ready to be watched on-demand by anyone in the company from anywhere. If you opt for live broadcast and video recordings – as we think you should – you’ll need to integrate user-friendly tools to make it viable. Preparing lesson plans and teaching is hard enough. That’s what we want teaching employees to concentrate on — no reason to burden them with technical annoyances and worries such as recording, uploading, webcasting, and editing. 


From a Learner’s Perspective 

There’s no doubt that today’s workforce is keen on personal development. As such, employees will usually appreciate the fact that their employers invest in L&D programs. Unfortunately, appreciation doesn’t warrant engagement. Whether it’s because they found it irrelevant or just plain old boring, employees don’t always make the most of training opportunities offered to them.     


According to the 70-20-10 model, around 20% of our on-the-job learning comes from social interactions, watching others work, mentoring, advice, and suchlike. Admittedly, that’s usually attributed to unplanned and haphazard situations. Nonetheless, by creating video lessons and courses taught by colleagues, we can recreate these opportune events, along with their proven effectivenessWe can also keep any chance of employees not taking part to the bare minimum.  


Take tutorials, for example. Demonstrating the work process step-by-step alongside the working environment (physical or digital) is arguably more straight-forward on video than real-life even. And if the teachers choose to focus on a particular case-study, then bundling together supporting background information and appropriate professional resources under a video playlist makes it much more intuitive and approachable for the student. 


Still, much like any other educational program, managers and employers will want to track and measure its performance so they can tweak, improve, and ax accordingly. One way to do that would be to survey employees. A more ambitious one would be to monitor improvement over time specific to skills and lessons taught. While both are valid and have their upsides, they also introduce bias and depend significantly on employees’ corporation and honesty. On the other hand, video analytics now analyze viewers’ engagement levels in real-time – just what educators are after. On-screen polls and quizzes can provide further insights. Better yet, we can get truly granular using Interactive features like hotspots and path experiences where viewers direct the content and contribute to its progress. 


From the Company’s Perspective  

If better ways to train employees isn’t enough, the method can also improve retention. Employee Inclusion boosts productivity by up to 4.6 and after all, feeling valued is one of the biggest rewards employers can give employees. And that’s not all. 


Learning by teaching is a sure way to ensure that time spent on personal development (and not working) focuses on scenarios and skills relevant to the workplace. By pure logic, no external lecturer could ever reach such a level of specificity and pertinence. Nor will it be as easy to adjust and adapt according to trends and changes. Without even stressing it as a requirement, we can trust teachers/employees to follow on their most recent experiences and impressions that took place on the job.  


Doing it by video is somewhat of a backdoor strategy to get employees to document processes and share knowledge with others. COVID-19 made it crystal clear that companies must prepare for extreme workforce changes, and preserving organizational memory is pivotal in that. Regardless of the pandemic, today’s cross-departmental culture and job-hopping millennials are reasons enough to invest in the safeguarding know-hows and methodologies. Having it all – or as much as we can – documented on video can be painless in the short-run and constructive in the long one.  To check that accessible to everyone in the company, it’s worth going the extra mile with captions and translations. 


Conclusion: Learning by Teaching by Video  

Video has been taking over as the most popular solution for companies’ L&D endeavors for some time now. This past year’s impact on how, where, and when we work has made it the most fitting solution too. Coupled with the growing availability of workplace learning platforms, videos – whatever shape or form – render geography immaterial, provide equal access to company resources, and can scale up and down quickly. Still, the uncertain business climate and the fierce war over talent leave employers no choice but to look for new ways to encourage and improve learning within their organization. Reversing the roles a little and letting employees appear on camera and not just as viewers is a great way to do that. 

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