Doing more with less has been the tagline attached to nearly every major business decision made for the past three years. As the unemployment rate continues to illustrate, this is most obvious when it comes to your workforce.
Companies are faced with tough decisions:
- How many people can your business afford to employ?
- What roles do you need to fulfill?
- What can you outsource?
- What can you eliminate?
Who and What Gets Cut?
The majority of businesses can only cut back front line, customer-facing employees so far. Next up on many comptrollers' radar are middle managers - they're not charged with the direction of the company, but they are responsible for delivering that message to your front line employees.
Middle managers make sure the message is understood and received, and the objectives are executed in alignment to the company's mission and image. They do a lot of training. To control costs, programs and budgets such as marketing typically get cut first, and next in line is training. So, how can you keep your employees sharp with all of these budget cuts? One way is to initiate a peer-to-peer training program.
It's Not Mentoring
While traditional mentor programs are extremely valuable, they differ from a peer-to-peer training program, where you will have employees who are in the same official role, but may have different degrees of experience in the industry, tenure in your company, and approaches to accomplishing the same task.
In the most effective peer-to-peer groups I've been involved in, here's what worked well and why:
- Structure is important
- Coworkers attacking a common problem from different points of view can help to open the eyes of those around them to alternative approaches that they may not have thought of on their own
- A non-threatening environment to propose new ideas, allowing for an open critique of the idea
- An opportunity to work out a reasoned argument as to why - or why not - a particular tactic would be effective
Consistency Is Key
As with any program, perhaps the most important component of a peer-to-peer training program is to maintain consistency. Not all of the group meetings will be productive, but the group needs to fight through these times to achieve the cooperation that only comes with enough time and effort.
Here are four tips to accomplish that:
- Have the group gather at consistent intervals - at the same time each week or month
- Don't expect miracles right away, but let the group storm its way to success
- Allow seemingly ineffective meetings - they are the beginnings of success
- Set up the program, and trust your employees to do the work