Knowledge sharing is considered particularly important in any company. It can bring a number of benefits – increasing productivity, improving the know-how of the staff, or increasing employee retention. However, tools and processes aimed at actually retaining information in the company are often not implemented. Perhaps this is due to the lack of knowledge of proper solutions. Below is a series of tips which will help improve knowledge sharing processes in your organization.
This article will explain the following:
- Why is knowledge sharing worth implementing in the company?
- What processes can affect employees in this respect?
- What are the best practices and tools that will help you build a culture of sharing and retaining knowledge?
Sharing knowledge – why is it worth it
According to Professor Gilbert Probst, knowledge sharing can be defined as the sum of all initiatives and tools which support the following processes: locating, acquiring, developing, sharing, disseminating, measuring, and defining appropriate knowledge resources in the company . This term was introduced into the English language by professor David Zweig from the University of Toronto, who studied this area during his career . He argues that knowledge sharing is a solution to most of the problems faced by employees  and that it can bring a number of benefits to the company. The benefits can be as follows:
Employees have more time to perform their duties
According to the data of the McKinsey Global Institute, a statistical employee spends over 20% of his or her time trying to locate a person who can help them solve problems .
Employee commitment is improved
The constant improvement of competences is directly connected with the sense of development and is perceived as an investment of the company in employees. This, in turn, causes a number of positive emotions, including loyalty to the employer and commitment to work.
It has a positive effect on the atmosphere
Supporting employees in their development translates into their satisfaction, and the exchange of knowledge helps create a better atmosphere in the workplace.
It allows employees to build relationships and socialize
Joint effort and mutual interactions allow employees to create a network of contacts based on commitment. It is a great way to socialize while pursuing strategic corporate goals.
Depending on the industry branch, additional benefits can include the following:
- promoting innovation by encouraging creativity and sharing ideas;
- improving customer service;
- increasing income by introducing products and services faster;
- optimizing employee rotation due to the recognition of employee knowledge;
- retaining the most valuable members of staff;
- shortening processes by eliminating unnecessary steps and, consequently, reducing operation costs .
The role of knowledge sharing tools in the workplace
The preservation of knowledge in the organization is often treated as an important aspect, but it is actually implemented to a small extent. This is due to the fact that an appropriate framework for necessary processes is often absent.
Knowledge sharing consists of many elements which include
- recruitment of experienced employees willing to share information;
- appropriate HR processes promoting the desired behavior among the staff;
- transparent processes;
- communication and proper feedback;
- managerial attitudes encouraging knowledge exchange;
- motivation to and support of competencies development;
- knowledge sharing culture.
With such a complex issue, appropriate systematization is, in principle, essential for effective management. Apart from clear data which helps to diagnose vulnerable areas, it can bring a number of additional benefits. For instance, research by the McKinsey Global Institute shows that the introduction of knowledge management tools reduces the time needed to search for relevant information by 35% .
Sharing knowledge – best practices
In each of the above areas, it is possible to implement processes which actively encourage knowledge sharing.
In recruitment activities, it is crucial to formulate an appropriate strategy aimed at attracting talented people, with particular emphasis on diversity. It is possible to conduct competency tests and verify soft skills.
The communication aspect is also worth taking care of. It is important to create information flow procedures, to organize periodic meetings, and to document the staff know-how (especially their successes). This allows companies to create an internal knowledge base and retain essential solutions within the company. Additionally, managers should be expected to create situations favorable to knowledge sharing, e.g. ones which clearly define the requirements for employees.
In terms of motivation, HR processes are helpful, namely rewarding and acknowledging activities aimed at acquiring and sharing knowledge. This includes, for example, supporting and financing courses or postgraduate education. Promotion-related initiatives may also include activities aimed at improving staff competencies such as participation in internal or external industry events.
In order to create a proper corporate culture, it is necessary to reduce competition in favor of cooperation, as well as to encourage self-development and provide opportunities for idea exchange.
The above-mentioned examples can be translated into specific activities within the organization. They include the following:
Tech talks / meet-ups
These are internal meetings or series of meetings in which experienced employees share knowledge from a particular, specialized area. They can also provide great opportunities to socialize because the events should end with a Q&A and/or a discussion.
The next step in building a knowledge sharing culture is organizing a knowledge week. During the event, workshops, lectures, and debates are held. It is a great opportunity to take a broader look at topics crucial for the company.
External training courses
The obvious, but often expensive solution is conducting a training course or series of courses in knowledge sharing. Unfortunately, only its participants will have the necessary know-how, while people who later join the company will not be the beneficiaries of such a course.
Creating a training budget significantly helps develop a knowledge sharing culture. The individual costs and budget plans may differ, but a clearly determined budget encourages the acquisition of new competences and contributes to the development of knowledge in the company.
Joint implementation of projects
Creating projects for joint team cooperation is conducive to sharing knowledge, skills, and ideas. Additionally, it builds commitment, brings employees closer and translates into a positive atmosphere in the workplace.
Discussion as an element of promotion
The solution was implemented in EPAM System Poland. Urszula Pawlik, HR Business Partner, explains the procedure in the following words: “One of the elements of our promotion process is a discussion between the employee who is applying for a promotion and the experts. In fact, it is a kind of expert debate in which everyone is a beneficiary. Experts come from at least 3 countries, therefore the meeting itself takes the form of an on-line discussion. In addition, experts are volunteers who, through asked questions, gain knowledge about projects or solutions that take place in other locations. The candidate builds his or her network of contacts or meets people from other countries. This is a very interesting moment to exchange knowledge and experiences.” It is an interesting practice that helps create the desired workplace culture.
Types of HR knowledge sharing tools
Diverse initiatives significantly contribute to the creation of a workplace in which conscious and effective knowledge management is a natural element. It is a worthwhile approach and thus contributes to a positive employee experience. It helps them get to know the organization and see what attitudes are rewarded and appreciated.
However, the basics should still be taken into account, i.e. tools for knowledge sharing or supporting these processes. Among them, three categories are worth mentioning:
Knowledge management systems
Learning management systems (LMS) take the primary position in knowledge management. E-learning platforms allow employees, above all, to acquire new competences. Furthermore, they provide efficient control and verification of the pace and quality of education (confirmed by test results and certificates). E-learning is especially valuable in dispersed organizations and companies functioning through remote or hybrid work. Using an LMS creates knowledge bases which collect all materials within the organization, and – what is equally important – allow users to intuitively navigate through the catalog of materials. Thus, in addition to acquiring new competences, employees are used not only to keeping materials, but making them available to others.
Instant messaging is an equally important tool which allows staff to have an ongoing exchange of thoughts, bring people with common interests together, and provide information on a given topic. Messaging apps may include thematic or dedicated channels for free flow of ideas or systematic improvement of implemented solutions. Consequently, these types of tools contribute significantly to building a proper organizational culture.
Creating a space where the organization and its principles are described is extremely helpful, especially for employees joining the organization. Additionally, the intranet often replaces the knowledge base, though it is a much less practical solution and the information isn’t as easily accessible as in an LMS. It also allows companies to create a collaborative space supporting the exchange of ideas.
5 examples of the best knowledge sharing tools
Slack – an internal messenger which connects the right people, information, and tools to get the job done. Its functionalities include creating custom channels, viewing history, and organizing video meet-ups.
Samelane – a Learning Management System (LMS) that allows companies to gather all training courses in one place. It has the ability to create courses, it automates knowledge management, and tracks employee progress through extensive analytical modules.
Confluence – a system offering space for cooperation allowing users to share knowledge and information.
Readme – a tool dedicated to programmers allowing them to easily create documentation and monitor interfaces. It can be used to describe mechanisms or share sources during ongoing work.
Mentoring – it is not a digitalized tool, but it has to be mentioned with regard to knowledge sharing. It is based on a long-term relationship between a less experienced and a much more experienced colleague. Mentoring can take the form of either an informal relationship or a formal program.