2023 L&D Trends: Cohort Learning

2023 L&D Trends: Cohort Learning
Summary: Peer-to-peer learning is an effective and efficient way to empower employees and cultivate a culture of learning to drive business performance results.

Cultivate Empowerment And Agency To Drive Learning

One of the critical Learning and Development trends we see as 2023 begins is peer-to-peer learning, which is becoming pivotal in upskilling and reskilling efforts within organizations. With peer-to-peer engagement, learning is no longer a must-do, burdensome requirement but an organically evolving learning experience among employees. Peer-to-peer learning has many benefits for both the learners and the organization.

What Is Peer-To-Peer Learning, And Why Is It Important?

Peer-to-peer learning is grounded in the constructivist adult learning theory, whereby people learn from each other in person in the virtual classroom, through a community of practice, and on the job. Peer-to-peer learning is meaningful because it underscores that employees bring valuable experiences and expertise. Those can be shared and leveraged within the organization to drive business performance results. Peer-to-peer learning is beneficial for both the learners and the organization.

Benefits Of Peer-To-Peer Learning

On the one hand, peer-to-peer learning gives rising leaders within each line of business the opportunity to create and curate online learning and supplement it with personalized mentoring and coaching for their peers. On the other hand, it encourages junior learners to feel more comfortable and psychologically safe learning from their coworkers. Peer-to-peer learning becomes fun and is no longer an intimidating experience, delivered by externally sourced subject matter experts who typically lack knowledge of the organization's context and culture. This type of learning brings numerous additional benefits: it is less costly in hard dollars for the organization, creates an organic, in-house, high-potential pipeline, drives upskilling faster, fosters employee engagement and belonging, supports diversity, equity and inclusion, and strengthens the organizational culture. Peer-to-peer learning is a win-win trend here to stay.

How To Develop A Successful Peer-To-Peer Learning Program

A tried and tested approach to developing peer-to-peer programs includes five essential steps: empowering a small group of lead mentors; identifying a cohort of learners; cultivating empowerment and agency, monitoring and measuring; and recognizing and celebrating.

Empower A Team Of Lead Mentors And Learners

To establish a pilot peer-to-peer learning program, you will need to select a practical and actionable skill that employees in your organization will need to master to deliver business performance results. For example, in a learning organization, delivering well-produced, web-based learning events is essential. Another critical skill is data storytelling. To discern which skill is most needed, you can triangulate the data from three sources: conducting a skills gap analysis in your organization, asking the employees which skill they feel they need, and aligning with the organizational performance plan and CEO agenda.

By reviewing current data from these three sources, you can select an essential skill most needed by the employees in your organization. Next, you will need to identify a small team of three to four employees with experience in the particular skill and empower them to serve as the lead mentors in the peer-to-peer program. It is recommended that these lead mentors are from different business units and geographies to ensure a diverse voice and representation in all the dimensions of diversity. Empower the mentors to recruit a cohort of peer learners to participate in the peer-to-peer learning program.

Design The Program

Next, in close collaboration with the lead mentors, you can share your broad vision of the program. For instance, why does your organization needs the skill? How does it impact organizational performance goals? By when are the new skills required? Spend some time discussing the big picture, including the "why" and the "what." It's recommended not to address the "how." Empower the peer mentors and learners to figure out how to structure and execute the program. Then, you step aside and let them design and run it.

Cultivate Empowerment And Agency

Your role as a champion of the peer-to-peer mentoring program is to foster and cultivate empowerment and agency amongst the lead mentors and the learners. Offer them psychological safety and top cover to come up with the content, approach, details, milestones, and timeline of the peer-to-peer program. Then, hold them accountable. This is an excellent opportunity for the lead mentors to exercise and deepen their leadership skills; they will need to make decisions and be held accountable for the results. It's also a great opportunity for the learners to bring their perspectives and feedback to pilot the peer-to-peer program as it develops. Together, the lead mentors and the learners will shape, design, deliver, and iterate the learning program.

Monitor And Measure

As a champion, you can assist by engaging with the lead mentors to monitor the progress of the program periodically, for example, weekly or bi-weekly. Their accountability entails monitoring, measuring, and reporting results. How is the cohort progressing? Who needs additional nudging? What are some of the biggest challenges they face, and how do they tackle them? These are some critical questions to ask the lead mentors. Also, you can engage the members of the peer-to-peer learning pilot and ask them for their impressions and feedback on the program. Encourage both the learners and the lead mentors to measure their progress and reflect on the results. As a champion, you will need to review the feedback and take action. You can remove any obstacles, where needed, to facilitate the successful delivery of the peer-to-peer pilot program.

Recognize And Celebrate

Finally, as the peer-to-peer pilot concludes, you will need to recognize, reward, and celebrate everyone involved. Use the opportunity to pause and celebrate everyone's efforts. Also, review how the pilot turned out and ask the lead mentors and the participants to share their experiences, highlighting the wins, challenges, and their biggest takeaways. It is recommended to involve the direct managers of both the lead mentors and learners. For example, invite them to celebrate the conclusion of the program. Assuming that the pilot was successful, you can explore if it would be beneficial to scale and expand it to more mentors and participants and drive business performance results together.


Peer-to-peer learning is an effective and efficient way to empower employees. It can create a culture of learning, empowerment, and accountability to drive business performance results. As a learning and development leader, you can champion peer-to-peer learning in your organization and work with all stakeholders to drive performance.