The collective knowledge possessed by your team members is one of your company’s most valuable assets.
It’s what enables your individual employees to do their job well.
It’s what ensures your overall operations run smoothly and effectively.
Overall, it’s what makes your organization your organization — and what allows you to provide value to your customers in the way you do.
Of course, your team’s collective knowledge can only become collective if your employees actively and consistently share it with one another.
In this article, we’ll be looking at the key things you’ll need to do to encourage knowledge sharing, and eventually make it second nature for your employees.
Let’s first discuss the reasons knowledge sharing is so vital to your team’s success.
Creating and maintaining organizational alignment, in itself, is beneficial to your business.
And it simply can’t happen without solid knowledge sharing processes in place.
Really, it’s what knowledge sharing is all about: Keeping team members on the same page at all times. Thinking “big picture”, strategic knowledge sharing helps employees stay in-tune with company values and the like. On a more operational level, knowledge sharing enables team members to stay up-to-date with progress made on a given project or initiative.
(Knowledge sharing can also allow individual employees to keep track of their performance expectations — another core part of alignment.)
To be clear:
Knowledge must be able to flow freely throughout your organization for your team to continue moving in the right direction as a cohesive whole.
Knowledge sharing allows your teams to become more productive — that is, more efficient and effective in their on-the-ground processes.
In terms of efficiency, developing streamlined knowledge sharing processes saves your employee a ton of time. This just makes sense: The less time they need to spend finding the information they need, the quicker they can actually put it to good use.
Knowledge sharing can also allow your employees to become more effective, as they’ll have access to more comprehensive and helpful information than ever before.
(As we’ll discuss, it’s just as important to be strategic when creating knowledge assets as when sharing them.)
Effective knowledge sharing facilitates knowledge retention on both an individual and team-wide level.
Individually, strategic knowledge sharing involves delivering information in the most digestible and understandable way possible. This, inherently, will help team members better understand and retain processes, best practices, and more over time.
What’s more, the act of creating knowledge assets will further solidify your team members’ understanding of said knowledge, as well.
Knowledge retention also refers to the idea of retaining the knowledge possessed by your employees even after they leave your organization. On the flip side, if your employees keep their knowledge to themselves, you’ll lose it the second they walk out the door.
This goes along with everything we’ve said so far:
The more knowledge being shared throughout your organization, the more your employees will be able to learn.
First of all, your employees will have countless opportunities to learn more when collaborating with other teammates. As knowledge sharing becomes a more routine practice, ideas, advice, and other helpful info will flow freely throughout the organization in real-time.
Knowledge sharing can also aid your more structured professional development efforts, as well. With so much knowledge to draw from, you’ll be able to create comprehensive, engaging learning opportunities that will help your employees become even more productive in the future.
To summarize all of the above, strategic knowledge sharing empowers your employees to become more autonomous in their workplace efforts.
This, in turn, leads to increased job satisfaction across the board. The more control your employees have over their day-to-day operations and their overall career development, the happier they’ll be to stick with your company for the long haul.
Conversely, some of the main reasons good employees leave include a lack of alignment, engagement, and professional development opportunities. So, it’s not just that strategic knowledge sharing increases job satisfaction and employee retention — it’s actually necessary to ensure both in the first place.
Alright, so we understand why it’s so important to facilitate knowledge sharing throughout your organization.
Now, let’s dive into the key things you’ll need to do to make it happen.
First and foremost, knowledge sharing and continuous organizational learning need to become a core focus for your organization.
The ultimate goal, here, is for learning and knowledge sharing to become less an act, and more a way of being for your company.
There are three main things to keep in mind when developing a culture of knowledge sharing.
As we said earlier, effective knowledge sharing can help team members stay focused on the company’s “big picture” goals over time.
But, this alignment must exist in the first place in order to get your knowledge sharing initiatives up and running. That way, it will be easier for your team members to understand how improving their knowledge sharing capabilities will bring them closer to their goals — and to the goals of the organization, as well.
(Conversely, if your employees don’t understand the impact knowledge sharing will have on their efforts, they’ll be less likely to adopt it in practice.)
In an ideal situation, all of your team members would be onboard with the idea of continuous learning, teaching, and organization-wide professional development.
Realistically, this may not be the case for your organization — and it often has to do with the lack of a growth mindset amongst your team members.
Unfortunately, teams with a fixed mindset don’t know what they’re capable of in the first place. If they do, they might not truly understand the importance of what they know and/or what they can do. And they certainly don’t understand what good it would do to share this information with others.
In any case, a team full of fixed-minded individuals just isn’t conducive to a successful knowledge sharing initiative. That said, it’s crucial that you develop a growth mindset within your employees and throughout your company.
To be sure, making this shift will require more than just flipping a switch. Really, strengthening your team’s growth mindset is an ongoing, ever-evolving process by nature.
Acknowledging the value of the skills and knowledge they possess
Showing practical ways their team members could benefit from this knowledge
Illustrating similar ways the individual employee can benefit from their
Knowledge hoarding is an all-too-common problem in the workplace — and it often happens due to a lack of trust.
Unfortunately, many employees believe that sharing their knowledge and abilities too freely will put them at risk.
Basically, they think others will take credit for their ideas, or otherwise use the knowledge they’d been given to make themselves look good. Similarly, many employees have a fear of being replaced or let go once their knowledge is “out there” for the taking.
Your job, then, is to allay these unfounded worries — and to prove to your employees that their knowledge sharing efforts will only lead to good things for them, career-wise.
We’ll revisit how to do this in more detail later on. For now, just know that transparency and mutual trust are essential to your knowledge sharing efforts (as well as to your overall communication initiatives, too).
To be blunt:
If your employees aren’t fully onboard with your knowledge sharing initiatives on a fundamental level, none of what we’re about to discuss will matter.
“Coworker interactions can improve the long, lower tail of under-performers — provided such interactions are both thoughtful and intentional." - Harvard Business Review
Get your team members to buy in first — and set the stage for a prosperous, collaborative future for your organization.
Once your employees are onboard with the concept of knowledge sharing, you need to enable them to actually share the knowledge they possess effectively and efficiently.
To start with, you’ll need to provide channels, platforms — and even physical areas — for your employees to routinely share knowledge on or in. If you don’t yet have a variety of communication tools in your tech stack, this is likely where you’ll want to get started.
(This is especially true for remote teams that may not be able to engage face-to-face on a regular basis — and that quite often operate in isolation from one another.)
Pingboard helps teammates stay connected regardless of where they’re working.
It’s also important to schedule time for your team to regularly share knowledge, too. From quick check-ins and weekly meetings to ongoing initiatives (e.g., communities of practice), knowledge sharing opportunities need to be built into your team’s schedules — and not seen as something your team does “if there’s time”.
Now, it’s definitely important for your teammates to be able to communicate and share knowledge in real-time. But you also need to enable them to create knowledge assets to be shared and accessed over time, as well.
To this end, emerging tools and technology again come into play. With the right content creation tools, your employees will always be able to translate the knowledge they possess in their heads into engaging and informative knowledge assets.
You want your team members to be able to create a variety of content types, depending on the nature and purpose of the knowledge in focus. In some cases, text-based articles may be most effective, while video may be more appropriate at other times. Either way, using the right format is crucial to optimize the sharing of knowledge throughout your organization.
And, again, your employees need to have ample time to create these knowledge assets as needed. If they’re tasked with fitting it in “when they can”, they either won’t do a very good job when creating the knowledge content — or they simply won’t do it at all.
As we said above, knowledge sharing involves making existing knowledge assets accessible to all team members at all times — even if the “sharing” isn’t happening in real-time.
This is why creating a single source of truth is so vital.
For one, having a single source of truth (SSOT) allows you to organize your knowledge content logically and intuitively. This ensures your team members can always find the information they’re looking for — and can also dig deeper into related knowledge content as needed.
(Without a SSOT, knowledge assets can easily get lost within your team’s email inboxes, Slack threads, and other digital channels. Siloed knowledge leads to siloed communication — and siloed operations, altogether.)
Secondly, creating a SSOT ensures that your team members will always have access to the most up-to-date version of your knowledge assets. Instead of having to comb through their inboxes and message threads for updated files, your team members will know exactly where to look at any given moment.
(You’ll also want to be able to access past versions of your knowledge assets for the sake of accuracy and continuity.)
So, what does this “single source of truth” look like?
If you’re just getting your knowledge sharing efforts off the ground, you might want to start with a wiki-style database of internal knowledge. The “no-frills” nature of wiki-style databases and tools allows you to focus on the core principles of knowledge sharing and knowledge management — and to prepare your team for the more advanced stages of your knowledge sharing initiative.
If you’re looking to go “all-in” on knowledge sharing, an internal knowledge base should serve as your single source of truth.
Modern knowledge base tools include the basic features offered by wiki tools, and much more.
A few examples:
Access controls ensure only certain team members can access or change certain knowledge content
Multimedia capabilities allow knowledge to be shared and communicated in a variety of ways to optimize learning
Intuitive and comprehensive search functionality makes it easy for learners to find the information they need in a snap
Again, knowledge sharing involves making existing knowledge assets accessible to all team members, at all times. The first step in doing so is creating a single digital space to house any and all knowledge that flows through your organization.
On the whole, each of your team members should play an active role in your knowledge sharing efforts.
That is, they should always be looking for ways to share what they know to help and empower their colleagues. Moreover, they should always be on the lookout for opportunities to receive and learn from the knowledge of those around them.
In that regard, your team members will continuously play the role of active teacher and active learner from here on out. As we said earlier, knowledge sharing isn’t something you “do”, but more of a “way of being” for your organization to live by.
But there will also be times where you’ll be more intentional or focused in your knowledge sharing efforts. For example, if your team or a set of employees are falling short in a given area, you’d want to create more specific initiatives and opportunities for them to learn and grow as needed.
These initiatives can take many forms — each requiring your team members to play specific roles in the process.
Training sessions typically involve experts sharing knowledge with learners in a more structured, instructional manner.
Communities of practice have — from knowledge champion to practice leader, and more — to ensure the community achieves its learning goals.
Defining roles is critical during these more intentional knowledge sharing initiatives.
From the get-go, all involved parties will know what’s expected of them and what they’re responsible for throughout the initiative. In turn, this alignment will all but ensure your team’s efforts lead to growth for your learners, teachers, and all in-between.
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As we’ve shown, knowledge sharing occurs in a variety of ways — and involves a number of workflow processes.
To quickly recap, knowledge sharing may involve any or all of the following steps:
Demonstration of knowledge
Improvement of documented knowledge
Now, your team probably does all of this as a matter of course — at least to a certain degree. Realistically, though, their approach to sharing knowledge isn’t all that strategic or systematic.
And it’s not helping.
To ensure the success of your knowledge sharing efforts, you need to standardize the processes mentioned above. This will allow your team members to optimize their approach to each knowledge sharing “event” they encounter — and to be consistent in their approach time after time.
Some of the key points to define when creating these standard operating procedures include:
What knowledge is needed, or needed to be shared
Who is involved in the knowledge sharing process, and how
How knowledge is to be shared and received
How successful transmission of knowledge will be confirmed
What can be done if knowledge isn’t transmitted successfully
Note that it’s not necessarily about creating rigid or intensive processes for your team members to go through whenever they share a piece of knowledge. Rather, the idea is for your team members to be more conscious and intentional in their knowledge sharing efforts — and to make the most out of every knowledge sharing opportunity that comes their way.
So far, we’ve focused on the steps to take to enable effective knowledge sharing throughout your organization.
Once these structures and workflows are in place, your focus will shift toward acknowledging your team’s efforts — and encouraging them to stay the course.
Overall, you’ll want to ensure your team sees how their efforts are paying off — both for them as individual employees, and for your organization as a whole. Here, you’ll be tying their knowledge sharing efforts to OKRs, KPIs, and other performance-related data. Similarly, you can point to your employees’ and teams’ qualitative goals — and the role that knowledge sharing played in your team’s ability to achieve them.
While this acknowledgement will (hopefully) be intrinsically rewarding for your employees, you may also need to provide extrinsic rewards to incentivize further knowledge sharing efforts. Depending on the achievement, these rewards can range from small freebies to financial compensation for those who have taken charge of your team’s knowledge sharing efforts.
If your team members don’t see the impact their knowledge sharing efforts are having, they’ll have no reason to keep doing it.
By recognizing and celebrating their efforts, you’ll give them every reason to continue adopting knowledge sharing into their overall processes.
Pingboard makes it easy for teammates to recognize, acknowledge, and celebrate their colleagues’ accomplishments. Click here to learn more about our Peer-to-Peer Recognition tool, and get started for free.