In an ideal workplace and organization, although each employee and each department has their own role, the collective group is on the same page and can learn from each other’s’ skills, experiences, and strengths. Not only can this practice improve individual companies’ productivity and growth, streamline processes, and foster a company-wide learning culture, but it can also strengthen collaboration between organizations as well. This widely known, largely beneficial practice is better known as knowledge sharing.
Importance of Knowledge Sharing
Through knowledge sharing, colleagues can pass on information, skills, areas of expertise, experience and more to other colleagues.
This practice in an organization ensures that employees can become experts and can draw upon experiences and learning opportunities their colleagues encounter.
A system such as this saves both time and money and provides employees with the knowledge necessary to succeed at their job, equipped with both the basic training and with information that can help them excel. The experiences of employees are maximized to help guide employees in similar situations.
Whether it is practices best suited for a customer, or finessed techniques, or even more general skills, knowledge sharing ensures that the understanding and expertise amassed by one employee is put to use by another colleague.
Workplaces that encourage and enable knowledge sharing amongst employees increase productivity. When employees need to dig around to find old emails or files, they are losing precious time that could be spent actually completing tasks, whereas if there were a central place that stored useful tips and necessary documents, they only would have one place to check.
Productivity is increased in another way too: processes become smoother with knowledge sharing. The trial and error stage of one individual’s experience can create guidelines for similar processes in the future. The successes of one employee can be used to draw blueprint to ensure future success. An obvious advantage this presents is consistency; both employees and customers alike know they will receive consistent quality results. This is also advantageous when collaborating with other organizations.
Allows for Internal Mobility
Additionally, collective knowledge gives employees opportunities for internal mobility. Having everyone on the same page and up to date allows for smooth transitions within the company, and opportunities for growth, both of which contribute to overall employee satisfaction. Deloitte reports that internal talent mobility boosts employee engagement by as much as 30%, and collective knowledge makes this possible.
Fosters a Learning Culture
Another method of boosting employee engagement is creating a learning culture. Knowledge sharing, mentoring, and classes provide employees with not only the opportunities they need to learn, grow, and refine their skills, but also the feeling of such. This is irreplaceable and in turn, encourages employees to dedicate further time to develop their strengths and learn more. Higher productivity and efficiency is guaranteed as a result. Studies also show successes in knowledge retention when it is done through social learning, and in the workplace this holds true as well.
Boosts Collaboration with Other Organizations
Lastly, knowledge sharing allows for companies to share and communicate with other organizations, associations, and even stakeholders. When the whole company is on the same page as each other, the natural next step is communicating externally with similar companies. Even when two organizations have different roles and services to a customer, their collaboration and learning from each other is a valuable asset to themselves, each other, and of course the customer.
Now that we have established the importance and value in knowledge sharing, we need to examine what companies can actively implement to create a culture that encourages it.
How to Actively Implement Knowledge Sharing
Step 1: Right from the Start
As with any system, it is easier to build it ground-up than implement it into a company with a previously existing culture.
From day one and on, make it clear to that knowledge sharing is an essential aspect of the job to new hires and even potential prospects. Communicate the value of each employee’s contribution, not only with regards to skills, but also experience. Tacit knowledge, or that which is gained through personal experience, may be harder to express, but not if employees are made to feel that their professional and personal background are important contributions right from the start.
Another way to encourage this from the beginning is through assigning each hire a more veteran colleague to assist him or her. Not only is this practically beneficial and makes onboarding more efficient, but it also shows the new hire how the company values giving opportunities for development. Encouraging new employees to ask questions and give feedback will communicate the organization’s goals of a learning and knowledge management culture right off the bat.
Step 2: Make it easy
The best way to achieve a company-wide goal is to make it achievable and make it easy. Especially when hoping to collaborate with other teams and other organizations, the more accessible the knowledge share, the more willing employees will be to contribute. Whether it is an online platform, a specially-designed software, or a simpler solution, the technology should integrate the features and tools that are necessary and productive for the organization’s ideal knowledge management.
Given the different ages, services, and backgrounds of employees and organizations alike, it is important that the software is user-friendly and without a significant learning curve. If the opposite is true, employees may feel discouraged to contribute. Whether it is explicit knowledge, implicit, or tacit knowledge, the publishing, discussing, and communicating between teams and companies should be easy and uncomplicated, in order to increase participation.
Similarly, knowledge sharing does not have to be done only through online platforms. Depending on the content, it can be as simple as workshops, newsletters, or Q&A sessions.
Step 3: Incentivize
Although many of your employees may find it inherently rewarding, external motivation can also help boost knowledge sharing. Take care to publicize the contributions and give credit where it is due. If they write, review, or add to content, a simple act such as including their name shows appreciation of their efforts. Even simply praising them in private or in group settings encourages more contribution all around.
More elaborate methods of incentivization can include offering swag in exchange for involvement, having celebratory meals in honor and recognition of your biggest “sharers”, and even setting up a leaderboard where each employee or team’s contribution is tracked. Amongst others, these methods show employees that not only is knowledge sharing useful, productive, and accessible, it is rewarding and exciting.
Besides for practical steps and tips to achieving a knowledge sharing culture, the first step is recognizing its importance and value, and how transformative it can be for your company’s success.
After recognizing the importance and value of knowledge sharing, and implementation to make it part of the company culture, you will see firsthand how transformative it can be for your company’s success and growth.