Knowledge sharing presents fantastic opportunities for forward-thinking organizations to develop new capabilities and competitive advantages. In fact, with the right approach, businesses can drive their progress, efficiency and performance. However, in order to unlock these benefits, it’s essential the right knowledge sharing culture is developed to encourage internal co-operation and maximize the value of knowledge sharing assets.
Knowledge sharing is playing an increasingly significant role in the ongoing success of multiple organizations, and helping companies tap into what they already know to optimize how they work, what they do and the future-facing decisions they make. It’s often the internal knowledge within a business that differentiates the successful from the failures, and this highlights just how important knowledge sharing is to developing and maintaining a strong commercial position.
But just what is knowledge sharing? How does it work? And why is developing the right culture for it so critical for success?
Read on to find out the answer to all these questions and more…
So let’s quickly start with the basics, put simply, knowledge sharing is all about creating the systems and culture that facilitate the quick and easy sharing of information in a business. This information is often stored in the heads of employees and used on a daily basis, but as a result, it’s not overly easy to access and it makes getting an overview on what the company knows very difficult. Knowledge sharing is designed to help rectify this problem by capturing critical information, storing it in the right place and ensuring it’s accessible to the right people, at the right time. This helps up-skill the workforce, protect the business from critical knowledge losses and help improve key decision making for the good of all parties.
The systems often involved in knowledge sharing typically help create structure and give employees a better appreciation for what it actually is, and what it can do. In most instances, key knowledge sharing systems take the form of software like knowledge bases, and are designed specifically to help record, store and manage key information to ensure it’s accessible by the right people, when it’s need most.
Knowledge sharing culture focuses more on the attitude of those sharing the information. For knowledge sharing to be successful, it’s critical the culture is aligned and people understand and appreciate how the information will be used. Knowledge sharing culture is about ensuring there are ample opportunities to share information, that it won’t be abused and that there is a mutual understanding for what information is valuable and why.
By capturing the key information that helps the business serve its customers, knowledge sharing ensures that internal information is being used to its full potential. In many instances, workers operate in silos, and so what they know often stays within a very small circle. This means the value derived from the information is limited. But, with a knowledge sharing strategy, employees are able to share what they know in a system that can be widely accessed internally.
Something as simple as how a process works, or what to do in a company-specific contingency situation can deliver massive value in the right circumstances. This information is often highly detailed and can’t be found elsewhere, as such it needs to be directly captured from the individuals best placed to advise.
Knowledge sharing offers amazing potential for organizations who embrace the opportunity and optimize the value of the data they collect. However, in order to bring this ambition to life, they must first achieve employee buy-in. It’s critical employees not only understand why knowledge sharing is important to the business, but also that they see the value at an individual level too.
Employees must actively gain something from knowledge sharing efforts and this is where culture in the business is key.
The attitude towards knowledge sharing in the organization will lay the foundations for the culture. If regular appreciation and acknowledgment is shown to those that share and there are clear benefits, then it’s likely the culture will be beneficial to all involved. Individuals will have a positive view of the opportunity and be eager to contribute.
Culture also extends to how the knowledge is captured too. If opportunities to share knowledge are not created by the organization, it’s likely key employees will struggle to find the time to get involved. As such, there needs to be investment in the area and time carved out for high-value individuals to allow them to deliver optimal value. Without this time, it’s likely their contribution will be limited as they will not have the chance to offer the information that will deliver the most value.
If employees within the organization won’t buy into knowledge sharing, then it’s likely the information captured will mostly be superficial and not reflect the true value of internal knowledge. As such it’s essential that they’re regularly engaged and the information captured is used in a way that helps them in their everyday lives. If it’s perceived to be a waste of time, unrewarding or just difficult and time-consuming, then knowledge sharing will fail.
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The best knowledge sharing cultures are natural and unenforced. If workers can be incentivized to share what they know and learn as they develop, it’s possible to build a progressive resource that evolves alongside the workforce. This is a significant opportunity for both organizations and individuals to develop and grow.
While knowledge sharing can be beneficial for all, it’s common for some employees to be skeptical as there is a justifiable fear among workers that it reduces their unique value to the company and weakens their future negotiating position. The fear of being replaced by a cheaper individual is very real indeed – and in many organizations a reality. As such, workers must feel like knowledge sharing is working for them and that they’re not just giving away key information to train their replacement.
To ensure these fears don’t dictate the success of your knowledge sharing efforts, it’s critical employees are reassured on how the information they share will be used and that they’re seeing personal benefits from sharing. It’s essential all information captured is treated with respect and not used to strengthen the companies’ position against employees. Abuse of information captured will quickly destabilize a positive culture and undermine future knowledge sharing efforts. A successful long-term knowledge sharing culture respects all parties involved and is mutually beneficial for all.
With the right knowledge sharing culture, carefully developed across the business, a perpetually updating resource that empowers employees to up-skill where it matters most can be created. This will help them to not only deliver more to customers, but enhance company productivity, efficiency and capabilities too. Making the most of internal information in the business is critical to optimizing performance and has the potential to have a significant impact on the bottom line. But this is only possible, if the right culture is created, empowering employees to share what they know in an environment that gives them every opportunity to contribute and benefit in equal measure.