Organizations that encourage and support knowledge sharing among employees can improve productivity, engagement, and organizational expertise. It can keep you one step ahead of your competitors and make your workforce more efficient.
What Is Meant By Knowledge Sharing?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) defines knowledge sharing as “formal, informal, and systematic methods to impart information to others that increases organizational effectiveness.”
In simpler terms, knowledge sharing is used to define ways that information is spread throughout an organization.
The NIH explains that the key factor in knowledge sharing is employees that find areas where the company can be more efficient. These employees find creative approaches to their company’s processes and procedures that boost efficiency. Employers empower workers by allowing employees to recommend changes that help their organization be more effective.
Essentially, knowledge sharing is how important know-how is shared across the organization. But knowledge sharing at scale is only effective when employees are empowered to share what they know. And leaders can empower employees in five ways.
This article will outline each in detail, but first, let’s look at the two types of organizational knowledge: codified and tacit.
Codified organizational knowledge
Codified knowledge is directly stated information, such as policies, onboarding checklists, procurement processes, best practices for different activities, and other explicitly stated information. This kind of knowledge can be easily passed along to others.
Tacit knowledge (or informal knowledge)
On the other hand, tacit knowledge is not formally documented but rather on-the-job learning that employees garner and pass along. For example, a more experienced employee may communicate with a new hire a shortcut to use that gets a lengthy procedure done faster.
What Are The Benefits Of Knowledge Sharing In An Organization?
Knowledge sharing is essential in an organization to keep things running efficiently. The practice of sharing knowledge also guides employees to understand how things are done and their responsibilities in the company.
Here are the critical benefits of knowledge sharing within an organization.
Large companies can keep key information easily accessible and distributed across the workforce
Sometimes employees will need to be reminded about essential information to accomplish a task. Rather than waiting on a manager or supervisor to share the information, companies can have it easily accessible, for example, a code of conduct or task guidebook distributed among employees.
Organizations maintain a competitive advantage
Staying competitive is key in any industry. Passing along information among employees can give an organization an edge over other companies in the same space. Employees who have unique expertise or training can share that knowledge through mentoring (more on this below). It offers other employees access to the same level of knowledge as the expert. This superior knowledge gives your teams a competitive advantage.
Encourages collaboration and feedback among employees
Knowledge sharing creates a coaching culture within an organization. In this setting, employees are encouraged to share their strengths rather than guard it in an effort to be superior to others in the organization.
More connected workforce and supportive culture
When employees feel valued for their knowledge, it can cultivate a more inclusive work culture. The key is encouraging and acknowledging the sharing of knowledge among employees to benefit the company. This does not have to be a time-consuming process and can be accomplished through activities like flash mentoring. These are brief meetings where mentees can garner knowledge from a mentor without a long-term mentorship commitment.
Reduces onboarding time and training costs
Onboarding can take a lot of time and effort, but a knowledge-sharing environment can reduce the cost. Rather than having one onboarding buddy, all employees should be motivated and encouraged to guide new hires. This can keep training costs low as employees will actively share what they learn with others. It eliminates the need for formal courses. Instead, experienced employees can share what they’ve learned with their teams.
Activities To Encourage Knowledge Sharing Across Your Organization
To create a culture of knowledge sharing in an organization, here are five different steps you can take:
1. Encourage colleagues to form peer learning groups where they share their strengths and skills with one another
To create a knowledge-sharing culture at your workplace, you’ll need to build an open and trusting environment that values learning as a group. It will take some time to do this, so be patient.
Start by encouraging peers to form learning groups and to share and learn from each other. For example, you can reward those who share their knowledge with peers. This type of acknowledgment will reinforce the importance of knowledge sharing.
2. Create knowledge sharing wikis where tacit knowledge can be documented
It can improve productivity if employees can access tacit knowledge easily.
This is vital knowledge shared among employees but is not considered formal policies or procedures. Many teams can be more efficient if you create a space or wiki where tacit knowledge can be shared.
Documenting this valuable information also means it can be there for other employees to build on.
3. Form mentoring relationships between leaders and junior employees
Enabling mentoring relationships to form in your organization is a crucial way of knowledge-sharing and should be encouraged. If your organization does not already have a formal mentoring program, start one.
Through mentoring, leaders can pass along what they’ve learned, and junior employees can benefit from their wisdom and experience.
4. Onboarding buddy programs
Focus on guiding new hires through onboarding buddy programs that connect them to employees in the organization who can help them learn the ropes.
A buddy is often an employee who would be considered a peer but has been at the organization longer. These employees can share both coded and tacit knowledge that can assist the new hire get up to speed quickly.
Having an onboarding buddy will also demonstrate the value your organization places on knowledge sharing at all levels. Creating buddy programs to improve the onboarding process will cultivate a culture of knowledge-sharing among current and new employees.
5. Encourage employees to create ERGs
Employee resource groups or ERGs are valuable places to find connections, belonging, and information. They are usually started by employees looking to connect with others from a similar background or experience.
Leadership can encourage and support ERGs by advocating for them and ensuring they have the resources they need for employee growth. These groups can also help employees develop a career path that fits their goals and capabilities.
Knowledge Sharing Within Your Organization
Encouraging and promoting knowledge-sharing at your company can improve organizational culture and productivity.
Be intentional in your efforts to cultivate knowledge sharing among all levels of employees. By doing so, you’ll be setting your company up to be more collaborative and supportive–rather than siloed and isolating.
Making knowledge sharing a part of company culture starts with leaders. They need to show up and connect with more junior employees. They’ll share their tips and advice to help them grow their career and then, in turn, those employees will do the same with one another.
This is mentorship–to learn more about introducing mentorship into your organization connect with us. We at Together are experts in helping organizations like Heineken, Airbnb, Randstad and other large companies run effective mentoring programs using our software. Check out our guides on starting formal mentoring or peer learning programs to learn more about enabling knowledge sharing in your teams.