In any company, each employee comes with their own baggage of knowledge and skills acquired either from their education or previous experience. However, as each business is unique, the knowledge it generates is equally unique. It is critical to establish an open and effective knowledge-sharing culture within the company so that everyone knows everything they need to achieve success.
The employees find internal knowledge important, too. In a survey, 54% of workers considered unique company information to be more important than skills or knowledge they acquired elsewhere. Therefore, the implementation and maintenance of a healthy knowledge-sharing environment should be among the top priorities within the company.
How to promote knowledge sharing in the workplace?
When you embark on a journey of setting up effective knowledge-sharing procedures and flows, you might notice that employees and, sometimes, entire departments are not too willing to share what they know with others. This phenomenon, known as “knowledge hoarding”, is often caused by concerns of unique knowledge being “stolen” by others.
Thus, it is important to establish a culture that encourages knowledge sharing between company employees and, at the same time, recognizes their achievements and innovations.
1. Emphasize the importance of knowledge sharing
Your first step towards creating a healthy knowledge-sharing culture may be implementing and communicating the company’s policies, which encourage employees to share what they know. In such policies, stress that the company welcomes both knowledge-sharing and learning initiatives of its employees:
- Anyone who has knowledge that may benefit others and the common goal, in general, should feel free to share it.
- People who feel that they lack knowledge or experience in a certain field should not be embarrassed to ask for help.
This way, you can prevent knowledge hoarding and make the employees confident that they still get the credit for the unique knowledge they shared. At the same time, those who wish to learn something new or need assistance will not hesitate to reach out to their colleagues.
2. Create and maintain a knowledge sharing plan
Some knowledge sharing may happen spontaneously, but it’s always better to have a plan that can assist your employees in their knowledge exchange activities. It is a complex, multi-layer process, which needs careful preparation:
- Lay down the guidelines for knowledge creation, storage, and sharing, specifying the resources and formats in which your company should store its wealth of internal knowledge.
- Schedule regular meetings at various levels - from all-company town halls to project team catch-ups to allow people to both share anything new that they learned and ask for assistance.
- Implement an onboarding procedure for new employees, which includes access to internal knowledge sources and mentorship.
- Set up and maintain a system of internal information resources of different kinds - a knowledge base (here are some good examples), professional training sessions, a knowledge exchange portal.
- Adopt a system of knowledge-sharing metrics to monitor the effectiveness of your measures.
3. Implement a mentorship program
Mentorship is among the most efficient methods of knowledge transfer within the company. No matter how educated and professional a new employee is, they are not familiar with procedures and workflows within this particular company. And if the new employee comes to a junior position, they may be totally overwhelmed. For that reason, mentorship is critical to employee learning.
In addition, the remote work model, with its huge advantages, does not contribute to optimal knowledge sharing. With no face-to-face communication, new employees may find themselves in a vacuum, not knowing whom to ask for guidance.
Of course, you can leave newcomers to learn from their errors, but chances are that many of them would quit soon and those who stay will take much longer to reach their “cruising altitude” and become productive. Mentorship, on the other hand, is a great way to present the company to the new employees and make them feel comfortable. For companies working remotely, mentorship may be the perfect onboarding solution, as newcomers will feel supported from their very first day.
For mentors, such knowledge-sharing activities are beneficial, too. By being an onboarding buddy to new employees, mentors boost their own teaching and communication skills. Mentorship can also be a launchpad of a new career role with the mentor’s skills proved by the success of their mentees.
4. Provide a variety of communication tools and channels
In 2022, all workflows depend on effective tools, and knowledge sharing is no exception. If you are planning to set up a truly working system of knowledge exchange, you will need tools for various tasks and purposes:
- Collaboration tools, such as Google Drive or OneDrive. Collaboration tools provide common storage of the company files and support co-editing.
- Communication tools, such as Slack or Webex. The tool you choose should support direct and group chats, voice and video calls, screen sharing, file upload. An effective communication tool facilitates knowledge sharing greatly.
- Agile project management tools, such as Trello or Jira. These tools allow not only assigning tasks to team members but also creating various training materials from content in multiple supported formats. Both of these options provide vibrant app marketplaces that give you the ability to protect your work with automatic backups or extend functionality in various ways.
- Knowledge base tools, such as Atlassian Confluence or Document360. In knowledge sharing, such resources play the self-service role allowing people to browse at their comfortable pace.
5. Recognize and incentivize knowledge sharing
Remember, one of the fears that people have of knowledge sharing is the fear of knowledge being “stolen” and its owner left unrecognized. To overcome it, establish a culture of incentivizing employees for making their knowledge available to others:
- Introduce gamification by offering badges, points, or other internal “currency” to those who are the most active in sharing their knowledge.
- Recognize mentors in company-wide releases and newsletters.
- Offer trainer or instructor opportunities to mentors.
6. Encourage constructive feedback
Getting feedback is important not only in communication with your customers but with your employees, too. If your goal is establishing and maintaining a strong knowledge-sharing culture and an overall healthy working climate in your workspace, give your employees an opportunity to provide their feedback.
The best teams in the world might have conflicts and frictions. In the conditions of stress - an approaching deadline, project issues, personal problems - such conflicts may ignite, and the consequences may be destructive.
To prevent such disasters, allow your employees to say how they feel about working in the team, what they like, and, especially, what they don’t like. However, just like in customer relations, treat your employees with understanding and empathy, so that they are not afraid of speaking up.
How can you gather feedback from employees? There is more than one way:
- Surveys. Ask the employees to rate how they like working in the company and what they think can be improved.
- One-on-one meetings. Managers and team leads should hold regular meetings with team members to find out how comfortable they are in the workspace.
- Emails or suggestion boxes. Give your employees an opportunity to initiate feedback. When they feel the need to share their thoughts, they should be able to do so.
Knowledge shared is knowledge squared
Contrary to many other things, shared knowledge does not become smaller. Instead, by sharing, we increase the amount of knowledge we have. This is especially true in working conditions, where knowledge is often the main ingredient of success.
By encouraging knowledge sharing, you are creating a healthy working environment based on trust and confidence, which leads to high employee satisfaction, dedication, and loyalty.