How to support knowledge sharing within a company?
Sharing knowledge brings a number of tangible benefits to an organization, but the implementation of an effective knowledge management strategy is not always as simple as it may seem. It is not only necessary to create an appropriate system infrastructure, but also to change the organizational culture – to introduce proper communication, a well designed motivation system, and to overcome the possible reluctance of employees to share knowledge. Without a precise plan, the chances of success are slim. What to remember and what mistakes to avoid when creating optimal conditions for sharing knowledge in a company?
What is worth remembering about knowledge sharing?
Research and surveys carried out among employees clearly show that, nowadays, wide opportunities for development and knowledge sharing play an extremely important role and can constitute a great competitive advantage. However, there are a few significant issues which need to be taken care of. What are they?
1. Training must be attractive!
The implementation of an effective knowledge management strategy requires an attractive form. Regardless of whether it is standard training or an on-boarding process, designing a proper form is crucial in order to maximize employee potential.
For this purpose, training materials should not only be presented in an interesting form, but also utilize less common but more effective methods. Mentoring programs or job shadowing could serve as examples here. The possibility of conducting regular meetings with a mentor or tracking the work performed by an employee of a particular department for one or two days brings much greater benefits than numerous standard training courses.
The continuous improvement of training processes, methods and materials is also essential for success, so it is extremely important to constantly collect feedback and draw appropriate conclusions.
2. Take advantage of modern technologies
Knowledge can be shared in many different ways and using various methods. However, in order to make this process as efficient as possible, and to automate it to a large extent, it is worth using appropriate technologies.
An LMS (Learning Management System) is an excellent example of such a solution. It allows companies to independently manage training content, monitor progress in real time, and gather all educational materials in one place. One should also think about an efficient communication platform which allows employees to freely exchange opinions and experiences, ask questions, or present solutions to specific problems. This is especially important in the context of companies operating in several different locations, where organizing face-to-face meetings is difficult or even impossible.
3. Customize your office space
Although every year professional life moves more and more to the online world, work in many organizations is still done primarily in the office. However, office space is often full of physical barriers which make it difficult to share knowledge. Closed offices, boxed offices, or limited common spaces definitely do not serve that purpose. It is important to take care of these limitations as soon as possible, as well as to create cozy conference rooms or quiet spaces conducive to creative conversations. Boards, flip-charts and other accessories facilitating communication and the transfer of knowledge can also be useful.
4. Use all available methods of knowledge-sharing
Acquiring new knowledge can take place in many different ways and using different methods – not only in regular meetings, group discussions, or through training materials available on the company’s platform. The key to success is offering employees such opportunities and tools which utilize their potential the most. Not every employee is bold enough to talk about their experiences in front of the entire company, and not everyone feels comfortable when asked to prepare a precise procedure step by step.
5. Provide proper motivation
Excessive duties, overtime, or employees’ reluctance to share knowledge – there are many obstacles to changing organizational culture. Redefining it is not a simple matter and it certainly does not happen overnight. One way to accelerate the desired changes is undoubtedly a well designed incentive system. Its implementation does not have to involve large financial efforts – good results are achieved by an official thank you or by mentioning employee contribution at a meeting or a company forum. Corporate gadgets are also useful for achieving this goal, since they are usually abundant in large companies. Additionally, motivation can also be increased through implementing a financial bonus system for employees who were most active in the field of knowledge sharing in a given period.
6. Set a good example
A good example should come from above, therefore it is imperative to involve the management of the company in the whole process of knowledge sharing and the promotion of its culture. Posting on the company blog, advising on career development, presenting and promoting successes, and discussing failures are activities that should effectively encourage others to take similar actions. Obviously, it is also necessary to ensure that teams have the necessary time to share knowledge and use the training opportunities offered. Otherwise, all efforts, even those carefully planned, will fail.
7. Formalize the process
Formalizing the acquisition and sharing of knowledge is an effective way to manage knowledge in an organization. Employees need to be aware of their development opportunities and of how they can get involved in knowledge sharing. Therefore, the formalization of the process allows companies to improve the efficiency of the operations and, at the same time, reduces the risk of losing valuable know-how to a minimum.
What mistakes to avoid?
Through changing the organizational culture in the company and introducing more or less radical changes in the system infrastructure, it is very easy to make counterproductive mistakes. What particular errors are we talking about?
Technology alone cannot solve the problem
Even the best solution on the market, lined with artificial intelligence and using elements of augmented reality, will not achieve the goal if this investment is not accompanied by a number of necessary changes. The needs of the organization should therefore be carefully analyzed while the implementation of a knowledge management system should be meticulously planned out. Such a platform can definitely be a catalyst for positive changes, but it should not be seen as a solution to the problem in itself.
Don’t ignore the end user
Planning changes in knowledge management in isolation from the actual practices in the company or completely ignoring the needs reported by individual teams are common problems. When planning any implementation, it is necessary to take into account the existing processes, analyze their imperfections, and consider the needs of future users. By creating work groups and involving employees of various levels in the planning process, one can significantly improve the effectiveness of the implemented tool or strategy, and, at the same time, minimize the risk that this change will be met with reluctance.
Don’t ignore the data you have
Creating a knowledge sharing platform able to inspire interest among employees should include the acknowledgment of their existing needs. A common mistake in this field occurs when management attempts to identify those needs independently, in isolation from the data already possessed. In fact, it is enough to analyze the questions directed to the support departments or contact centers and to identify potential competency gaps in this way. Similar effects can be obtained from the analysis of queries entered by employees into the company’s search engine or FAQ. By ignoring the data and guessing what the real needs of employees are, organizations expose themselves to a big and unnecessary risk of failure.
It cannot be denied that people, their attitudes, and needs are the most important in the process of sharing knowledge. Therefore, the key to success is achieved through open communication, knowledge management integrated into overall strategy, and proper motivation.