With an economic downturn hanging over us all, we spent several months speaking with researchers, academics, and practitioners about the most important actions leaders should be taking to shape culture as layoffs, hiring freezes, and budget cuts threaten to make it less of a priority. The result of those conversations is Charter’s new actionable playbook for leaders, Keeping Culture at the Center, supported by Culture Amp. Pro members are receiving early access to the playbook, which you can download here.

As we cover in the playbook, learning and development programs are often among the first to go when budgets start shrinking, but providing continuous learning opportunities is more important than ever as employees navigate new challenges, take on additional workloads, and accept stretch assignments. Peer development programs like buddy systems or “peer circles” group coworkers at the same level and experience, either in the same department or across different functions. For organizations facing budget shortfalls, they are a low- or no-cost way to develop connections across the organization, especially among new hires or younger employees.

“Peer mentoring is one of the most underutilized resources,” says Wendy Murphy, a professor of management and associate dean of the Undergraduate School at Babson College. Employees often favor mentoring relationships with more senior colleagues, but peers can actually be more useful for certain asks. “What you need senior mentors for are bigger strategic and cultural questions about the organization, how things get done, and what you need to develop. Whereas your peers, you can use them for much more tactical questions” like looking at your LinkedIn profile, cover letter, or resume.

To help employees build these peer mentoring relationships, considering the following steps:


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