Knowledge sharing—the exchange of information across an organization—has never been technically easier thanks to software development, digital communication tools and the internet. Yet, the more information there is the less workers are generally inclined to share it with one another. That means business leaders must strive to streamline, even incentivize, the collaborative exchange of expertise.
Ultimately, knowledge sharing promotes the healthy, sustainable growth of modern businesses, regardless of industry. Here are a few ways prioritizing knowledge sharing can help keep any organization successful and thriving.
Knowledge sharing leads to organizational transparency, and that’s good for business
Multiple reports have shown that transparency in business—both external and internal—is at a premium these days. Customers prefer companies that are straight with them, and workers count internal transparency among the most important factors when considering a new job.
Baking radical honesty into the way you do business is the first step toward building an organization at which employees’ first impulse is to share their own expertise with colleagues. When your company’s ecosystem supports the free flow of information, you’re not only making it easier for your employees to do their jobs well, you’re also reaping dividends when it comes to attracting the best talent.
A knowledge sharing culture puts collaboration and people first
Knowledge sharing isn’t just about creating a knowledge base or setting up a few internal wikis. In fact, the most valuable knowledge is tacit—experiential and intuitive know-how that includes cultural beliefs, values and attitudes—not explicit. And tacit knowledge is much harder to store within a knowledge management system or database.
As a result, a growing emphasis has been placed on a “switchboard”-style of knowledge sharing, which requires the willingness of teammates to help each other out. But if teams are working in silos, then their access to knowledge is going to be curtailed no matter the knowledge management tools at their disposal, making it harder for an organization to achieve peak performance.
A knowledge sharing culture ultimately requires a positive work environment in which employees are encouraged to collaborate, work cross-functionally and genuinely get to know one another. That environment creates engaged teams that yield concrete returns. A recent Gallup study found that organizations with highly engaged employees outperform competitors with less engaged workers by a vast margin of 147%.
To cultivate a healthy collaboration culture:
- Leadership needs to lead by example, making themselves accessible to employees at routine intervals.
- Encourage regular feedback cycles among employees, management and departments.
- Prioritize psychological safety to ensure that employees feel comfortable sharing expertise with one another without fear of competition or job instability. It also ensures that employees are open about what they don’t know.
Knowledge management tools connect people and store information
Let’s say you need to learn how to make a soufflé. Would you want to read a recipe you found online, or would you prefer to have a five-star French chef come over to your house for free and walk you through it?
Research has found that practicing a skill is a more effective technique than simple theoretical learning. So while a best practices document might be a good thing to have on hand, knowledge sharing is most effectively done among colleagues rather than between one worker and a wiki that might be out of date or missing crucial tacit knowledge that’s difficult to store in a database.
So to keep people engaged, any knowledge management tool you invest in, whether it’s a document management system or collaboration platform, needs to be designed around a people-first philosophy.
Knowledge sharing helps retain institutional knowledge
If you’ve ever lost an instrumental team member at work, you know all too well how hard it can be on a team’s productivity. It not only affects the team’s ability to perform, it also depletes the years of experience and knowledge that the team could draw from.
A healthy knowledge sharing culture is, in a way, employee retention insurance. When workers are allowed to hoard their expertise, the company is setting up a culture in which people can take what they can from their time there and leave, crippling the organization in the process.
By contrast, a company with knowledge management tools and a pro-sharing culture makes for happier, more loyal employees, and ensures that teams can withstand a teammate’s departure.
Knowledge sharing increases overall productivity
Studies worldwide have shown that knowledge sharing initiatives, encouraged by a culture of learning and collaboration, can naturally boost overall employee productivity. When employees can tap into a knowledge sharing culture, they are less likely to encounter bottlenecks and are more likely to productively collaborate and think innovatively. This can all lead to the creation of new customer solutions or product offerings, keeping your organization competitive and successful.
Put simply, a transparent, pro-knowledge sharing organization is self-tending: It multiplies opportunities for growth while creating ownership and engagement in employees. And who wouldn’t want to invest in a culture strategy that pays for itself?