How to Teach a Colleague a New Skill

Last Updated: 31 August 2022

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Imagine that you've arrived at work – coffee in one hand, snack in the other – and you're immediately told you're going to show a new colleague how to do something. Some might say you’ve drawn the short straw.

However, we here at Ausmed know this is a great opportunity for both you and your colleagues, whether they’re sent to you by management or they come to you on their own!

There are three main reasons this can be a positive:

  1. Teaching is a great way to set up an open and respectful line of communication with a new team member.

  2. Teaching helps to consolidate the information in your own brain.

  3. Teaching a peer helps to develop a culture of learning in your workplace.

This week, we’ll be explaining how to teach a colleague efficiently, effectively and with the most positive outcomes for both of you. Let’s get into it!

How do you teach a colleague a new skill?

Set a time limit

Don’t let the task – or the teaching – drag on. If you don’t set a limit, the task will expand to fit the time period you allow it. Given the fact that 55% of workers use peer-to-peer learning as their first point of call for learning new skills or correcting mistakes (Palmer et al, 2018), you could end up spending a lot of time teaching your colleagues – unless you set a time limit.

Additionally, mimicking the realistic time it would take to complete this task is a great way to condition them to plan and problem solve when completing it alone in the future.

A good rule of thumb is to add an extra 10 minutes to the time it would usually take you to complete the task at hand. Those extra 10 minutes are for explanations, questions, and a final short debrief.

Ask questions

To teach anything, you must know where the learner has come from. In this case, some good questions to ask your colleague include:

  • If you don’t know them very well: how long have they been working?

  • Have they watched someone else do this task before?

  • Do they feel comfortable doing this task?

  • Is this task or skill something they know about, have heard of, or don’t know about at all?

Perhaps the most important question you can ask, however, is: ‘how do you learn best?’ This doesn’t have to be a huge conversation: you can just ask, ‘Would it be most effective for you to watch me do this a few times, or shall I walk you through it while you take the reins?’

This will save you from having to repeat yourself too often, and will increase their confidence when it comes to doing it in the future – all because you approached the task from an effective angle in the first instance.

Communicate mindfully and empathetically

Think about the first time you were taught something by a colleague: you were probably fairly worried about seeming silly or out of your depth. Realistically, your colleague is probably feeling the same way.

Though your colleagues should be held accountable for their mistakes, the newer ones should also receive a little bit of grace. If it’s the first time they’re doing this task, loud encouragement and quiet correction is a great way to go.

You may be thinking that this is a wishy-washy step to add. However, this line of communication will be the foundation upon which your relationship with this new team member will grow. As such, you want them to be comfortable coming to you with questions and mistakes.

By showing them that you’re willing to help them learn, this will show other people on the team that you’re not only an effective teacher but also a natural leader (Brower, 2021).

Go through the whole task

Don’t forget to go through the boring stuff as well as the patient-centric section!

If waste needs to be relocated, include that in the tutorial. If they need to log certain things or make notes, let them navigate the system and fill in the notes while you dictate – it’ll help the information stick in their muscle memory.

Have a quick debrief

Do they have any questions? Would they be comfortable doing it again, with less hands-on guidance next time?

Additionally, do they have any feedback regarding how you showed them the task? This is a good opportunity for you to learn something, too.

How do you benefit from teaching a colleague a new skill?

First, it’s an opportunity to create a professional bond with a colleague. If they’re new, they’re probably nervous: you’re extending a hand to help them learn something while also establishing yourself as part of their new professional support system.

Second, it’s almost like an exercise for you. Similar to learning with Ebbinghaus’s Forgetting Curve theory, you’re walking yourself through information that you’ve previously learned. While your colleague is learning something new, you’re consolidating that information in your own mind.

Last, you’re showcasing the benefits of a workplace with a strong culture of learning. When everyone in your team is open to teaching and being taught, knowledge and practice gaps will immediately narrow. Ideally, small instances of teaching – such as the one you’ve just performed – will become an expected part of working in your team, and your colleagues will facilitate this with open, empathetic and effective communication.

Is there anything else to learn about effective workplace interactions?

Ausmed has published numerous articles about workplace relationships and communication. Some include:

And over on The Handover, we are specifically focused on learning and how it can integrate into your practice. Have a look at a few of our articles about workplace communication and learning:

Each week, The Handover publishes articles that sit at the intersection of learning and healthcare, and provide you with new ways of conceptualising and achieving your goals. To receive updates, subscribe to The Handover’s weekly newsletter.


Brower, T., 2021. ‘Empathy Is The Most Important Leadership Skill According To Research.’ Forbes Online. Accessed 31 August 2022 via

Palmer, K. & Blake, D., 2018. ‘How to Help Your Employees Learn from Each Other.' Harvard Business Review. Accessed 31 August 2022 via

Reeves, M., 2022. ‘Peer Learning: 6 Benefits To Collaboration in the Workplace.’ Together Mentoring Software. Accessed 31 August 2022 via

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