You have two employees that do X, and now you’re hiring a third. It only seems logical that one of the current employees would train the new one—right? This is a common practice in corporate America. Sometimes called “buddy training” or “peer-to-peer training” or sometimes with no name at all, just a seemingly accepted standard mode of operation.
The ugly truth is that this practice is expensive, irresponsible and ineffective. As logical as it may seem, when you look under the covers just a bit, this form of training is rife with problems.
Buddy training is expensive, irresponsible and ineffective.
1. Lacks structure
“Hey Sally, this is Bob. He’s going to be joining the team and I’d like you to show him how things work around here.”
The directive might not always be that informal, but the truth is that most peer-to-peer training has very little if any formal structure. It likely has no defined beginning or end. It has no organization or curriculum. No checklist to make sure Bob is given all of the information he needs to do his job.
Also, Joan could join the team next week and be trained by a different team member and have an entirely different experience—perhaps Joan’s trainer is much better at knowledge sharing. The end result is that Bob isn’t getting the consistent training he deserves.
2. Perpetuates errors
Is Sally a good trainer? Does her job description have anything to do with knowledge transfer or teaching? We can’t assume that if someone is good at a skill (e.g., accounting) that they will be a good accounting teacher. These are two completely different skill sets.
Plus, are we even sure that Sally knows her stuff? Maybe she has some bad habits and her training Bob will only perpetuate them. If you have some issues on the team, peer-to-peer training is a good way to multiply them.
3. Double the cost, half the fun
Each hour of training effectively costs the company two hours, Bob’s time and Sally’s time. Granted, Bob needs to be spending time training, but Sally is an accountant and her time is best spent doing accounting work.
On top of that, Sally has her own work to do and finding time to train Bob will impact her work, delay Bob’s training or both.
4. Not repeatable
Unless Bob writes down every word that Sally says, there is likely to be a lot of fallout with this method of training. Bob will miss things because people aren’t perfect, or because he’s missing a piece of the puzzle since, as we’ve established, Sally isn’t a professional trainer and she will make mistakes too. With informal peer-to-peer training, Bob doesn’t have materials to review to answer his questions. Instead he’ll have to ask Sally, and now we’re back to inefficient use of employee time and perpetuating bad habits.
5. Not measurable
I mentioned earlier that peer-to-peer training has no defined end. It often just simply dwindles away as the new employee ramps up. That means there’s also no assessment or knowledge retention check—how do we know Bob learned anything? No quizzes, no knowledge retention checks, no formal exams might lead to one giant waste of time.
So what’s the answer? eLearning. With self-study, self-paced online training you can avoid all of these issues. Structure and consistency are inherent to web-based training—everyone takes the same courses. The information can be reviewed for errors and people train for the way the job should be done, rather than the way one person happens to be doing it. It’s repeatable, available instantly, and easy to track for completion and results. And it produces consistent results for a fraction of the cost of traditional training methods.
Your turn now. Any experiences with buddy training you can share? Please leave them in the comments below.
And, as always, thank you for sharing this post!
Thomas Michael is the CEO of the Michael Management Corporation, the leading provider of award-winning online SAP training. He lives in New York City and is on a quest to make corporate training fun and effective again.