Knowledge is power, especially when it’s shared.
Sharing knowledge can bring endless benefits to the company. It creates a culture of trust and collaboration among team members.
It also enhances their productivity and engagement, preserves knowledge when employees decide to pursue their career elsewhere, and enables everyone to access important information.
Read on and discover five steps that will help you create a knowledge-sharing culture in your company and show you how powerful such culture can be when it comes to boosting your company’s performance.
Help Employees See the Benefits of Knowledge Sharing
Many companies encourage team members to share their internal knowledge.
This comes as no surprise, since research has shown that knowledge sharing increases innovation, creativity, and productivity throughout the company. This is actually something most businesses agree on.
But while knowledge sharing sounds very nice on paper, it has proven to be easier said than done in practice as many team members are reluctant to share their expertise with others.
That’s why it’s vital to explain to your employees the benefits of sharing knowledge and stress the significance of such practice if you want to run a successful business and have productive employees.
But instead of simply asking your employees to share more, you should strive to create a culture where team members can’t wait to do so.
You can start by explaining to your employees that their work will be much easier if there is a constant flow of information at the workplace.
They will no longer have to go around the office, asking their coworkers for help with their assignments.
If knowledge is shared consistently and regularly, employees will have all the information they need to do quality work at their disposal.
Here are some other benefits of knowledge sharing that will help the company, as well as its employees, thrive every day:
- Improves collaboration among team members
- Reduces mistakes to a minimum
- Enhances productivity and boosts motivation
- Minimizes the company’s knowledge loss
Knowledge sharing can also save employees a lot of time and effort. Many people in the company possess specific knowledge of best practices to perform different assignments.
That level of expertise is often reached by trial and error, and by continually trying to find new solutions for the same problems. While that has probably been very time-consuming for them, they can save other team members a lot of precious time by sharing their insights.
In such a give-and-get environment, where sharing is a value, employees feel safe in the knowledge that they have helping hands by their side that will assist them in tackling every problem they may encounter.
And, in turn, they will do the same for others.
To conclude, if you explain to your employees in detail why it’s important to foster an atmosphere in which knowledge is selflessly shared, they will see the benefits of such a practice.
As a result, they will be eager to share their own wisdom and expertise.
Set an Example for Knowledge Sharing
When it comes to creating a strong culture of knowledge sharing, everyone in a leadership position should also do their part conveying its importance.
After all, they are the ones the employees look up to. And if they promote sharing knowledge without practicing what they preach, the employees most likely won’t follow their lead. And that is more common than you think.
By emphasizing the importance of passing on the knowledge to others and following through with their actions, senior stakeholders will model the behavior they want to see in employees.
There are many ways that this can be done, and we’ll name just a few.
For example, leaders can share their success and failure stories with other team members.
While this can be inspiring for the employees, we’re more interested in the strong effect this can have on fostering a work environment where people share their experiences freely.
By seeing senior stakeholders openly express their thoughts and ideas and welcoming those of their team members, employees will also be encouraged to share their work-related accomplishments and setbacks with others.
This not only creates a culture in which sharing knowledge is welcome and appreciated but in which everyone can learn from the experiences of others.
Also, leaders can further foster the culture of sharing by publishing a vlog or a newsletter once a week or a month. There, they can share their insights, describe best practices, or answer employee questions.
Take Brad Rencher, general manager of Adobe’s Marketing Cloud, as an example.
He wanted to share valuable information about the company, but the traditional methods of communication weren’t bringing in the desired results.
While the conference calls and emails were great for getting the work done, he felt they were insufficient for communicating the company’s vision to the employees.
That’s why he started to create weekly vlogs where he shared his expertise and strategies, as well as interviews with other Adobe leaders.
By taking the time and effort to connect with his employees and pass on some valuable knowledge, Rechner is basically inviting others to, regardless of their tenure or rank, contribute to a culture of sharing.
If someone in a high position in the company shares their expertise with their lower-ranking employees, there is a big chance that the company will foster a healthy culture where ideas, thoughts, and knowledge are shared among all team members.
Incentivize Employees to Share Knowledge
Once you've explained all the benefits of sharing knowledge, and leaders have started to lead by example, it's time to encourage team members to get involved themselves.
And the best way you could do that is to reward those employees who are doing their part in sharing that internal knowledge with others.
As sharing knowledge doesn't come naturally to everyone, an excellent way to encourage employees to pass on their skills, insights, and innovations is to offer incentives.
For example, you can offer bonuses to the experienced employees that are willing to share their best practices or valuable content and include it in the company knowledge base.
That will ensure that your company knowledge base grows exponentially and that your top experts regularly contribute to it.
A similar example comes from NASA, which motivates its experienced employees to mentor junior ones.
As their bonuses and promotions are linked to how well they pass on their knowledge to the newest additions to the team, they are highly motivated to be good teachers and mentors.
Of course, not all team members will have the time or expertise to contribute to the internal library or be mentors to the new hires, but that doesn't mean they don't have the knowledge to share.
You can motivate them to participate in exchanging their experiences, best practices, and strategies by offering them gift cards, dedicated parking space for a month, or some cool company swag.
For example, Zappos rewards particularly helpful employees (Masters of Wow) with access to the parking space nearest to their office entrance for a month.
Also, if you want to do a good deed and encourage employees to engage in knowledge sharing in one fell swoop, you can opt for donating to charity.
Show that your company culture is all about giving and sharing and invite your employees to pass on what they know to others.
And in return, you will donate a certain amount of money to a charity of their choice.
By doing so, you will make a significant step forward in creating a positive work culture where sharing with others is a value that is highly appreciated.
Remember, it's not always the tangible rewards that bring the best results.
Giving recognition to employees at a team meeting, publicly acknowledging their efforts, or thanking them in a monthly company newsletter, can motivate them even more.
In today's business world, high-performing companies have mastered the sharing of knowledge at all levels of the organization.
Nevertheless, it often happens that employees, for various reasons, are reluctant to share their knowledge with others.
So, let’s enumerate some possible reasons why employees aren't open with their knowledge and explain each one in a little more detail:
- they say they don’t have the time to educate others
- they are unsure of their knowledge
- they are afraid of being replaced
As you can see, many say they don't have the time or are too busy to transfer their expertise to others. While this is true in many cases, the real reasons are often deeper and should be sought elsewhere.
If leaders and managers don't create a culture where knowledge sharing is a priority, employees will focus on other tasks.
They won't have time to devote to teaching others when it's made clear to them that other things are more important.
Secondly, employees may be reluctant to share their insights if they are not confident about the quality of their knowledge. They may fear that they will give others incorrect or irrelevant information and try to avoid the discomfort by not engaging in the process at all.
While they may indeed have knowledge gaps, there are always things that they are good at. And if they are afraid they will say the wrong thing or make a mistake, that can be a strong indicator that your company's culture may not be as open and encouraging as you think.
Finally, one of the most common reasons employees are reluctant to share knowledge is the fear of being replaced.
We've all been in this situation. We are afraid that if we tell others what we know, our job will be in jeopardy, and the company will easily replace us with somebody else.
This often happens in highly competitive companies such as marketing agencies, where young creative forces constantly come to the company, and existing employees feel threatened.
In this case, it's also essential to create a culture in which learning is not a one-way process but a two-way street. Everyone can benefit from sharing knowledge and ideas, juniors and seniors alike.
As you can see, before motivating your employees to share knowledge, you'll most likely need to break down their psychological barriers.
But it's worth putting in the effort knowing that the result is an engaging culture where the knowledge is passed on freely and consistently.
Let Technology Help You
As knowledge sharing is an excellent way to enhance your company's performance, it would be a good idea to use the power of technology to store all your knowledge in one place.
In companies, employees come and go.
When they leave, they take their wisdom, expertise, and insights with them, especially if they leave without notice, before they get a chance to transfer their knowledge to other employees.
On the other hand, if knowledge is shared only through verbal communication, mistakes are bound to happen due to too many people misinterpreting information. And this can lead to loss of productivity and bigger problems down the line.
In other words, when we share what we know with other employees without putting it in writing, chances are that they will misunderstand at least one part of our conversation.
If they go and share what we've discussed with other team members, our knowledge-sharing process will start to resemble a game of broken telephone.
That is why it is essential to encourage employees to create their workflows, document all crucial processes, gather all this knowledge, and store it in one place.
One of the great ways to preserve company knowledge is to save it in a quality knowledge base such as the documentation software Archbee.
A knowledge base like this enables your employees to access documents, procedures, and strategies they need to do their job. At the same time, it ensures that crucial knowledge doesn’t get lost when employees decide to find another job.
In other words, it serves as an extension of your knowledge-sharing culture.
People had to put in the effort to create it, make a note of it, and do their best to convey information clearly and systematically while having other employees that will benefit from it in mind. And this is the culture that every company strives to achieve.
In this article, we tried to show you that knowledge sharing can be a powerful way to create a culture of cooperation, team spirit, and trust.
We showed you five ways you can create such a culture and facilitate passing on expertise, wisdom, workflows, and best practices among team members.
The leaders also play a significant role in the process of sharing knowledge, ideas, and thoughts. So if you want that knowledge sharing becomes a part of your workplace culture, everyone needs to do their part.
Hopefully, this article will inspire you and show you the ropes on how to build such a culture for your company.