Why Employees Need Peer Coaching

peer-coaching-at-workOne of HR’s main priorities is to drive employee performance and growth. More often than not, they try to do this with the traditional learning and development resources: conferences, training sessions, webinars, and — oh yes — the infamous job shadowing and cross-training.

Although each of these traditional L&D opportunities have their place in growing an individual, it’s unlikely that these once- or twice-a-year activities will impact employees’ engagement, retention, or productivity.

But hey, it never hurts to keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result! (That was sarcasm.)

To truly improve an employee’s engagement and performance, we need to leverage a more effective learning and development strategy — peer coaching and feedback. (Don’t get me wrong, manager coaching is powerful too, but it’s only part of the puzzle.)

Here’s a breakdown as to why employees need peer coaching and feedback:

Employees Want Peer Coaching (And it Increases Engagement)

According to our recent study, peer coaching and coaching from managers ranked in employees’ top five preferred methods of learning and development. Of their top five, peer coaching had the greatest impact on employee engagement. Employees who preferred coaching from peers were 8 percentage points more engaged than those who didn’t prefer it as a form of learning and development. Furthermore, the employees that preferred more “traditional” methods, like cross training, were 6 percentage points less engaged.

Peer Coaching Makes Employees More Self-Aware

Peer coaching and feedback contributes to an employee’s metacognitive process of learning. Metacognition refers to one’s awareness of one’s own knowledge — what one does and doesn’t know — and ability to understand, control, and manipulate their cognitive processes. Essentially, the more aware employees are of what they say and do (or don’t say and do), the more they can actively influence their actions and behaviors, which is more likely to improve their performance.

Peers Can Better Gauge Performance and Developmental Needs

It’s common to think that managers have a Yoda-like wisdom when it comes to gauging an employee’s overall performance, but this is simply not the case. In fact, peers often have better insight into an employee’s work ethic and productivity, performance, and areas that could use improvement as they work closely with one another on a daily or even hourly basis. Creating a culture that fosters peer coaching encourages more accurate development.

Peers Understand Team Impact

Although managers direct a team, the peer level is where work gets accomplished.  Peers understand how an individual’s actions impact not only the project, but also the other team members. And on the flip side, employees are more likely to confide in peers when they encounter obstacles that stand in the way of their success. This team dynamic creates powerful and trusting relationship where feedback is more likely to be valued and appreciated.

Peer Coaching is More Instantaneous

When your culture supports anytime peer coaching, team members can influence each other to change a behavior or make improvements in real time, as opposed to a shortcoming being addressed at the next manager-employee performance conversation. (Say goodbye to the manager recency bias we’ve all experienced during the dreaded annual performance review.) This culture of instantaneous feedback can encourage faster development and growth to keep your employees and entire organization on the path to success.  

Peer Feedback Impacts Both Parties

When a peer provides feedback, it’s not without some level of self-reflection. Peer coaching requires employees to digest their recent interactions as a team (including both their peer’s contributions and their own), which leads to a greater awareness and reflection on where they need to improve as well. For example, providing feedback about another team member’s error may cause the providers to actively think about similar errors they’re making or made in the past, thereby increasing their own monitoring and censoring of their performance. 

When you consider these benefits above, it’s no surprise that engaged organizations are implementing peer coaching and feedback throughout their organization as a means of employee learning and development. As an employee engagement and performance advisor (and an ex-HR leader), I suggest you follow suit.

For tips and best practices on how to create a culture of peer coaching, download our free resource below!


New Ebook! Coaching Employees for High Performance

Published February 22, 2017 | Written By Megan Maslanka