In the past, knowledge sharing appeared to be a primary concern when an employee was serving their notice. These days, it’s been recognised that knowledge sharing is vital all year around. It can’t be a priority only when an employee handed in their resignation. Just how do you create a knowledge sharing culture in your organisation today?
What is knowledge sharing?
Knowledge sharing needs to move beyond the mandated and formal way of exchanging information amongst teams or individuals. For too long, knowledge has been viewed as power and subsequently been without from colleagues. Holding back of information may not have been based on malicious intentions. The employee may consider the information as confidential or may not even know that others don’t have the same access to information.
Organisations are thus facing the challenging of making knowledge sharing an integral “process of transferring or disseminating knowledge from one person to another person or group.”
Over 20 years ago, Davenport and Prusak already highlighted the route to creating a knowledge sharing culture in their book “Working Knowledge: How Organizations Manage what They Know”: “The short answer, and the best one, is: hire smart people and let them talk to one another. Unfortunately, the second part of this advice is the more difficult to put into practice.”
Create a learning and knowledge sharing mindset
Organisations can start today and build the right environment for a learning mindset. Employees need room to speak up, experiment with their ideas and develop thoughts and concepts further. Companies in return can listen more to the feedback their employees are sharing with them. Employees often know (best) where a process has a bottle neck or how to enhance the company’s products and services. Listening to these suggestions recognises the voice their employees have, encouraging them to speak up and share more in the future.
Companies can encourage employees to share their insights and knowledge on 3 levels:
While many knowledge sharing activities take place face-to-face, there are plenty of opportunities for subject matter experts to utilise technology and share across borders. Interactive sessions, for example games, create excitement around learning and knowledge sharing, which then can foster collaboration, improve communication amongst team members and strengthen the actual team.
It can be debated whether organisations should incentivise knowledge sharing. Providing financial rewards may set the wrong message. It’s feared that employees may withhold information on purpose and only release it against a “ransom”. This sounds counter-intuitive to working together as one team.
In contrast, other companies make knowledge sharing part of the job. Such companies recognise and reward the behaviours that support a knowledge-focused culture on an individual or team level as part of their continuous performance process. In addition, these companies evaluate the quality of the contributions made by the individual or team. For them, it’s not just about sharing data but also the value of the information shared.
35 ideas for knowledge sharing activities
Many may be surprised to read about the numerous ways knowledge can be shared. Like individuals having a preferred learning style, some knowledge sharing activities may be more appropriate depending on the objective.
Ideas for knowledge sharing activities include:
- Onboarding/induction training
- Case studies
- Company library
- Cross-functional discussions
- Team meetings
- Department meetings
- Lunch and learn sessions
- Job shadowing
- Job rotation
- Process descriptions
- Process maps
- Task force
- Project close out reports and lessons learnt
- Community spotlights
- Innovation zones/labs
- Knowledge sharing events
- Online forums
- Technical blogs
- Subject matter expert lectures
- Six Sigma councils
- Video demonstrations
- Master classes
- Communities of practice/interest
- How to guides
- Knowledge repository
Reap the benefits
Organisations focused on collaboration have realised the importance of open communication and regard it as essential to continuously enhancing their own processes, products and services. They invest and train employees on how to best share knowledge. After all, they’ll be looking for quality contributions.
With 49% of employees in the UK being mismatch to their current job. Sadly, they don’t feel supported by their company to obtain the appropriate skills.
Knowledge sharing increases the capability within a team and, as such, can bridge the current disparities between job and incumbent. More importantly, when knowledge sharing becomes an integral part of an organisation’s learning and development strategy, companies are 58% more likely to build the skills to meet future demand.
This should be appealing to every business, in particular small companies. Employees wear multiple hats in start ups and smaller companies on a regular basis. Pro-active knowledge sharing reduces dependencies on one person. Even in medium-sized organisations or large corporations, the number of key individuals with no backup can be trimmed down. There are no excuses for allowing key person dependency risks.
Employees can experience the benefits and synergies of knowledge sharing almost immediately. The more they put in, the more they get out. Once the dialogue is started, employees recognise how their knowledge about internal procedures, products or industry developments increases. This, in return, leads to new ideas and ways of working. As Josh Bershin found, it may result in 37% greater employee productivity and 26% greater ability to deliver “quality products”.
More importantly, knowledge sharing has shown to have a positive effect on employment engagement. Gallup found only 14% of employees engaged in the MENA region. In comparison, the US and Canada have with 31% the highest engagement scores worldwide. Employees who can share their insights and help their colleagues feel more motivated and contribute more to the organisation. As knowledge sharing isn’t restricted to the company limits, individuals may take it to external platforms or industry events, contributing to a higher level. Not only can the company gain more presence, the individual also benefits from increased exposure.
Knowledge sharing becomes the competitive advantage for organisations.
Are your staff talking to each other? If they left tomorrow, how would your business operations continue? Contact us today and learn how we can help you capture your staff’s expertise before they walk out of the door – with it!